Ellen Junn named president of Stanislaus State, fifth woman in a row picked to lead a Cal State campus

Ellen N. Junn will become the new president of Stanislaus State University on June 30.
(California State University)

California State University trustees named Ellen N. Junn as the new president of Cal State Stanislaus, marking the fifth time in a row that a woman has been appointed to lead a campus in the largest university system in the nation.

Junn, currently the provost and vice president of academic affairs at Cal State Dominguez Hills, will succeed Joseph F. Sheley when he retires June 30.

Once Junn takes office, there will be 11 women serving as Cal State presidents, more than at any time in the system’s history.

Her appointment will also increase the number of Asian American presidents to four.


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The appointment reflects Chancellor Timothy P. White’s push for more diversity in hiring throughout the Cal State system, which educates about 460,000 students at 23 campuses.

Junn “is widely published and has written professional journal articles on topics such as supporting the success of underserved students, the importance of university-community engagement and strategies for supporting non-tenure-track faculty -- especially women and minorities,” White noted Wednesday when he introduced her to the board of trustees during its meeting in Long Beach.

Junn, 58, is the fifth female Cal State president named this year. Mary A. Papazian and Judy K. Sakaki were selected in January to head the system’s San Jose State and Sonoma State campuses, respectively, and Gayle E. Hutchinson and Erika D. Beck were named in March to lead Chico State and Cal State Channel Islands.


In recent years, Cal State has come under criticism for a gender imbalance in top leadership roles. White said that since he became chancellor in 2012, a number of retirements have offered him the opportunity to recruit and reshape the system’s leadership to make it more diverse.

The appointments already have had a ripple effect by encouraging more women to apply for leadership positions. That, in turn, has created a larger pool of women who are qualified for top jobs at Cal State and elsewhere.

“I think success breeds success,” White said.

Education experts applauded Junn’s appointment and noted how far the Cal State system has come, especially compared with the rest of the country. Although more than 57% of students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities are women, they account for only 26% of college presidents, according to the American Council on Education.


Cal State is an “incubator” for higher education leadership, said council President Molly Corbett Broad. “The rest of us can learn a lot from watching how California does it.”

Broad added that in recent years, women have taken the helm at schools such as Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania and Brown University. At Penn and Brown, in fact, two women presidents were appointed in a row.

“I think this is one of the most important yardsticks for the future – when we see women following women into these important jobs,” Broad said.

Cal State officials on Wednesday praised Junn for her long-term commitment to public education and the Cal State system.


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She began her career as an assistant psychology professor at Cal State San Bernardino. Over the last 25 years, she has also taught and held numerous leadership positions at the Dominguez Hills, San Jose State, Fresno and Fullerton campuses.

At Dominguez Hills, she oversees more than 835 faculty members and is responsible for academic policy. At other campuses, she was recognized for establishing initiatives such as the African American Student Success and Hispanic Student Success task forces at San Jose State and the Women’s Campus Connection and the Asian Faculty and Staff Assn. at Cal State Fresno.

Cal State Trustee Hugo N. Morales, chairman of the selection committee, said Junn’s “visionary” leadership and experience at multiple campuses made her an ideal candidate.


“She has a long history of always putting students first, and has expertise in working to increase academic achievement among students from underserved communities,” Morales said.

Junn said she was eager to lead Cal State Stanislaus, which serves more than 9,000 students and operates in both Turlock and Stockton.

“I look forward to coming back to the Central Valley and am honored to have the opportunity,” she said in a statement. “Under the leadership of President Sheley, Stanislaus State has become an academic powerhouse in the Central Valley.”

Junn will be the second female president in Stanislaus State’s 59-year history. Her salary was set at $283,662, the same as her predecessor. She will also receive a $50,000 housing allowance and a $1,000 monthly car allowance.


She holds a bachelor’s degree in experimental and cognitive psychology from the University of Michigan and earned her master’s degree and doctorate in cognitive and development psychology at Princeton University.


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This story has been updated with additional comments from Cal State chancellor Timothy P. White and the American Council on Education.

This story was originally published at 12:09 p.m.