Dianne F. Harrison named president of Cal State Northridge


Dianne F. Harrison, a veteran educator in Florida and California, has been named the new president of Cal State Northridge.

Harrison will succeed Jolene Koester, who retired in December after 11 years in the post. Northridge provost Harold Hellenbrand has been serving as interim president.

Since 2006, Harrison has been president of Cal State Monterey Bay, a campus of about 5,000 students located on the former Ft. Ord Army Base in Seaside. At Northridge, she will take the reins of one of the nation’s largest public universities, with 34,000 students and a budget of more than $300 million.

The campus is the only public four-year university in the San Fernando Valley and is home to the $125-million Valley Performing Arts Center, a long-held dream for a campus that took years to rebound from the destruction caused by the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

“I am excited and honored to be selected as president of another fine institution within the California State University system and look forward to working together with the entire campus community on the many opportunities for the future,” Harrison said in a statement after Thursday’s announcement.

Her selection caps a three-month search by the Board of Trustees during which Cal State leaders have faced scrutiny over executive pay and tuition increases, and as all 23 campuses have been forced to deal with reduced enrollment and fewer classes in the face of $750 million in state funding cuts.

If the state falls short on revenue, an additional $200 million could be cut next year. To deal with that possibility, the Cal State system will freeze most new admissions in spring 2013 and could turn away 25,000 students the following fall.

Harrison, 61, spent 30 years at Florida State University, serving in various capacities including faculty member, dean of social work and vice president for academic quality and external programs. She earned degrees in American studies and social work from the University of Alabama and holds a PhD in social work from Washington University in St. Louis.

Her research expertise includes HIV prevention among women and minorities and leadership in higher education.

“Dr. Harrison brings an outstanding portfolio of administrative experience, academic credential and student-focused approach to her new position as president of Cal State Northridge,” said Trustee A. Robert Linscheid, who was chairman of the presidential search committee. “She has an impressive record of accomplishments, a commitment to scholarship and will provide strong leadership as the campus moves forward.”

Harrison is expected to assume the post in June. Her salary will be set by the board at a future meeting. She earns a base salary of $270,315 at Monterey Bay, with housing provided. Koester made $295,000 at Northridge, also with housing provided.