CSUF President Virjee offers a ‘Welcome Back Mashup’
By Fram VirjeeCSUF president
In what is becoming a beginning-of-the-semester tradition, I created a blend (or what the kids call a “mashup”) of the two “Welcome Back” emails I sent to campus this week. One email was to all faculty and staff, and the other to all students, but both carry analogous themes, share similar anecdotes, and have the same six words in the subject line: The Greatest Job in the World.
So, with the anticipated indulgence of those who already received one of the emails, and the (overly?) ambitious hope that blending them creates a message greater than the sum of its previously separate parts, below, I am pleased to share what I guess I’m calling my “Welcome Back Mashup:”
Dear Titan Family:
Like all of our more than 41,000 students, I, too, am evaluated throughout the academic year. I may not get a report card mailed home (my parents have been through enough), but I do have an annual review process during which my progress and opportunities for growth are evaluated.
And like most of our more than 4,000 educators, that review process begins with a self-evaluation. A few weeks ago, I faced this task for the first time as your president (yes, I am still a freshman with only eight months under my belt), and truth be told, I was nervous.
“How in the world,” I wondered, “can I possibly communicate all the triumphs and joys, the achievements and accolades, the lives transformed and communities lifted, and yes, even the heartache and challenges that we, as a Titan Family, experienced over the last eight months? How in the world can I possibly articulate the hope I have in my heart for every student arriving on our campus this week?”
Tired of being mocked by the blinking cursor of the blank page, I did what I have been doing for exactly 33 years as of August 17: I leaned on my most trusted adviser, who also happens to be my college sweetheart (yes, students, that person smiling at you from across the Quad could very well be the love of your life). As she often does, Jules effortlessly pointed me in the right direction without uttering a single syllable.
Instead, she winked and gave me a “KISS.” I smiled, knowing exactly what that cheeky – corny pun intended — kiss meant: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Armed with this pearl of wisdom (and sustained by a peck on the check from the love of my life), I promptly kicked that blinking cursor to the curb by typing the following six words in all caps:
“THE GREATEST JOB IN THE WORLD”
And with that lofty heading typed, the foundation of my very first self-evaluation as your president flowed onto the page, beginning something like this:
Working as the executive vice chancellor and general counsel at the CSU’s Chancellor’s Office (CO) was the greatest job I ever had – and that includes a stint working summers as a grease monkey with a posse of my best high school buddies. Like those amazing dog days and nights wearing the Texaco Star, working at the CO came at a crossroads in life, one of those magical moments in time when lifelong friends are made and futures are formed. However, unlike blasting your buddy with a face-full of pressurized air or bowling with used tires, the CO challenged me with meaningful work that transformed my life as much as it aimed to transform the lives of the students I had the honor of serving.
But as fulfilling as all that was, during my four years at the CO, I often lamented the fact that our students, while central to everything we did, were physically absent from our offices — their infectious energy vacant from our boardrooms and their vibrant voices muted by the miles between us.
Still, it was the greatest job I ever had …
Until Jan. 2, 2018, when I arrived at Cal State Fullerton, and suddenly (and with profound impact) the students I had been serving for years were all around me. Nervous and giddy, exhilarated by both the kinetic energy of the present and the unbounding promise of the future, they were everything I imagined and so much more.
Obviously, self-evaluations are rarely, if ever, shared in the Orange County Register, but I proudly do so here because it publicly underscores what the faculty and staff of Cal State Fullerton stand for and dedicate their lives to: our diverse, innovative and inspiring students. All of our teaching and research is to support our students in leveraging the power of that kinetic energy to achieve their academic goals; all of our support services are designed to inspire our students to tap into that unbounding promise of their future; and really everything we do is because our students are everything we imagined and so much more.
So students, from today to commencement day, I, along with every member of our faculty and staff, vow to empower you to pursue and achieve your academic goals so that someday, you, too, will find your very own “greatest job in the world.”
For me, that makes this the greatest job in the world, our campus the greatest place in the world to be doing it, and all of you the greatest people in the world to be doing it for and with. Welcome home, Titan Family, and Happy New Academic Year.
Cal State Fullerton President Fram Virjee is scheduled to deliver his first CSUF convocation address Sept. 6. The student-focused theme for the 1 p.m. event in the Titan Gym is “The Day You Become a Titan.”