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From the Desk of Dr. Karen Haynes

It's On -- CSUSM Holds Commencement, Celebrates

May 30, 2014

Top: Helicopter dropping fire retardant near campus. Bottom Left: President Haynes with students moving out of student Housing. Bottom Right: Top President Haynes and Chief of Police Robert McManus, Bottom: President Haynes with a student.The days leading up to commencement are often a whirlwind of activity and celebrations. Graduation parties are being planned, caps and gowns are being picked up, and the university is making its final preparations to mark the achievements of students. That was certainly the case at Cal State San Marcos … until the fires.

As the final chairs were being put in place on Mangrum Field, and the commencement stage was being set, CSUSM was evacuated. The Cocos fires were encroaching, burning through the hillside and toward campus. We thankfully got all staff, students and administration off campus as the fires grew closer. Our emergency response team quickly gathered and set up a command post to monitor the situation. It was Wednesday, late afternoon.

By that night, the fires looked to be getting worse, and the very difficult decision was made to cancel commencement.  And even though we understood the enormity of such a decision, of the impact it would have on students, many of whom would be the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree, their safety, and the safety of our staff was paramount.  But with true CSUSM resiliency and our University First spirit, we were able to get the commencement ceremonies rescheduled — and only a week later. Our campus and surrounding communities were out of danger.

President Karen Haynes on stage at Commencement.So it was with great pride that I took the stage on the morning of May 24 to welcome CSUSM students and their families to our 23rd commencement ceremonies. And while the sky may have been overcast and grey, the mood was bright and joyous as graduates crossed the stage and received their degrees.

Right: CSU Chancellor Tim White, Left: CSU Student and Trustee Cipriano VargasSunday morning, May 25, California State University Chancellor Tim White joined us and offered some brief remarks along with acknowledging our student Trustee, Cipriano Vargas. Cipriano was selected by Governor Brown to serve on the California State University Board of Trustees, and he graduated Sunday with his bachelor’s degree. Like 52 percent of the 2600 students who made up our Class of 2014, Cipriano was the first in his family to earn a four-year degree.

Over the course of two days and four college ceremonies, 91% of those students scheduled to walk the previous weekend made their way to the stage, hugging deans, high-fiving faculty, posing for pictures with me, and taking a few selfies. Friends and family cheered them COEHHS students throwing their caps in the air.on, some crying, some a bit more stoic, but all appreciative of the moment, of finally being able to celebrate their student.

And I can’t tell you how appreciative the entire CSUSM campus is to the firefighters and first responders who CSM Studentskept our campus safe, and to the staff who jumped in and got right back to work to ensure that graduation could go on. Of course, our thoughts remain with those who were less fortunate, who lost their homes and their belongings. But if there’s one thing that these fires reinforced, it’s that this community — CSUSM and our neighbors — has a great spirit. We collaborate, we come together when needed, and we support our collective efforts to make our region great.

CHABSS Students Jumping in the air after Commencement.