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Campus History

1968: Business and civic leaders in North San Diego County work to interest state legislators and educational leaders to develop a state university in their region.

1969: CSU Chancellor Glenn S. Dumke issues a report that “an ultimate need” exists for a new university campus in North County.

1979: The State of California allocates $250,000 in start-up funds for San Diego State University’s North County satellite campus. The campus opens at Lincoln Middle School in Vista and serves 148 students.

1982: The campus moves to a larger facility — an office building on Los Vallecitos Boulevard in San Marcos.

1985: Senator William A. Craven of Carlsbad introduces Senate Bill 1060. The bill passes in September and appropriates $250,000 to a feasibility study of the need for a new North County university campus.

1988: As enrollment at SDSU North County grows to over 1,250, CSU trustees purchase the future permanent home of CSUSM — the 304-acre Prohoroff Poultry Farm in San Marcos — for $10.6 million. They also request $51.8 million for the first phase of construction of a new “full-service” university campus.

1989: Governor George Deukmejian signs Senate Bill 365 into law. The bill officially reconstitutes the SDSU satellite campus as California State University San Marcos — the first comprehensive U.S. university to be founded in two decades, and the 20th campus in the CSU system. Bill W. Stacy is named the university’s first president and is tasked with recruiting 12 founding faculty members.

1989-1990: President Stacy and founding faculty members are given one year and a budget of $3.9 million to lay the groundwork for the new university, its mission and its first nine majors.

1990: In February, ground is broken on the site of the old poultry farm, and construction begins on the future permanent campus. Later in the year, CSUSM admits its first 448 students — all juniors and seniors — during fall semester. Classes are conducted in the former SDSU satellite location on Los Vallecitos Boulevard.

1991: Seven students are awarded the first Bachelor of Arts degrees in campus history.

1992: CSUSM holds its first official commencement ceremony in May. Later in the year, the permanent CSUSM campus on Twin Oaks Valley Road officially opens with the completion of Craven Hall, Academic Hall and Science Hall I. The new campus serves a rapidly growing student body of 1,700, and it employs 305 staff members.

1993: The rapid growth of the university continues as CSUSM serves nearly 2,500 students and expands its academic offerings to include 17 bachelor’s degrees, nine teacher credentials and six master’s degrees. Additionally, CSUSM receives accreditation three years ahead of schedule from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

1995: CSUSM admits its first freshman students as lower-division courses are added to the curriculum. Total enrollment is now more than 3,600. In addition, the College of Education receives an exemplary rating and full accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

1996: The university receives two transformational gifts from generous donors: Jean and W. Keith Kellogg II pledge $1 million — the first of multiple major pledges in support of the future Kellogg Library. Additionally, Richard H. Griset Sr. and Margaret Griset Liermann present CSUSM with a $1.3 million gift on behalf of their sister, Lucille Griset Spicer, who donated the money in her will. The donation establishes a student loan fund for needy students.

1997: Alexander Gonzalez is appointed the interim president of CSUSM following President Stacy’s departure earlier in the year. Meanwhile, CSUSM expands its academic offerings to include 19 bachelor’s degrees, 15 teacher credentials and eight master’s degrees. The student body is now more than 4,400 strong with instruction provided by more than 300 combined part-time and full-time faculty members. Generous donor support continues as Bob and Ruth Mangrum donate funds toward the construction of an Olympic-class on-campus track and soccer field, and Leonard Evers pledges $2.3 million to establish the Evers Computer Scholarship program.

1998: The CSU Board of Trustees appoints Gonzalez as the permanent president of CSUSM. University Hall opens its doors, making it the first in a series of new campus buildings to be constructed over the next few years. In addition, the university establishes an intercollegiate athletics department consisting of men’s and women’s golf, cross country, and track and field. Later in the year, groundbreaking takes place on the future site of the Mangrum Track & Soccer Field.

2002: The building boom continues as Science Hall II and the Arts Building open their doors. Simultaneously, the state awards nearly $25 million toward the construction of a new headquarters building for the College of Business Administration.

2003: The new University Village Apartments open, and for the first time, some CSUSM students are able to live on campus. University Village is complemented by the completion of a nearby campus social and recreational facility — the M. Gordon Clarke Field House / University Student Union. Known to many students as “The Clarke,” the facility is made possible by a 1998 pledge of $1.2 million by Helene Clarke in honor of her husband.

2004: Karen S. Haynes is appointed CSUSM’s third president, filling the vacancy created by the departure of President Gonzalez in 2003. In addition, Kellogg Library — CSUSM’s first freestanding library building — opens its doors for the first time, and the university announces plans to create a new School of Nursing. More than 7,000 students are enrolled at CSUSM on the first day of the fall semester.

2006: Bolstered by a generous 2005 pledge of $5 million from Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Markstein, the College of Business Administration opens its new flagship building — Markstein Hall. The athletic department expands to include baseball, softball, and men’s and women’s soccer. In addition, the School of Nursing opens its doors and accepts its first cohort of students during the fall semester.

2007: The new Center for Children and Families opens. This state-of-the-art day care and preschool facility offers quality child care for students, faculty, staff and the community as well as providing meaningful real-world learning opportunities for CSUSM students.

2008: The CSUSM community gains an important alternative for transportation to and from campus as the Sprinter light-rail line begins service, complete with a train station on campus. The Veterans Center opens its doors, providing important on-campus resources for CSUSM students who are active-duty personnel, veterans, or their dependents. In addition, The Bernard Osher Foundation donates over $1 million toward the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

2009: The rapid physical growth of the campus continues as construction begins on the College of Arts and Sciences’ new flagship Social and Behavioral Sciences Building, and The McMahan House special event and conference facility opens its doors. Construction of The McMahan House is funded by a generous $4.4 million donation from Mr. and Mrs. Richard A. McMahan. Also, the women’s cross country team earns the first national championship in CSUSM history.

2010: As CSUSM celebrates its 20th anniversary, student enrollment reaches an all-time high of 9,767. The university’s 23,000th graduate crosses the stage at spring commencement — a remarkable accomplishment for the region, as many of these graduates remain in the area, thus providing a powerful engine for economic growth.

2011: The California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center, a place that fosters further collaboration and understanding between the university and regional American Indian communities, opens in the Social and Behavioral Sciences Building. The CICSC will serve as a focal point for Native Studies and American Indian activities on campus.

2012: A surprise $1.2 million gift from local philanthropist Darlene Shiley highlights the launch of the CSU Institute for Palliative Care at CSUSM. The Institute is dedicated to increasing access to palliative care by educating current and future health professionals to better serve a growing number of people with life-limiting illness. In the fall, students move into The QUAD as construction is completed on the first phase of the modern, 158,000-square-foot complex adjacent to the campus.

2013: CSUSM welcomes more than 11,000 students to campus, the first time in university history that enrollment has surpassed that mark. The university also launches its Master of Social Work program, which is designed to develop culturally competent, ethical and effective professionals for direct social work practice with diverse populations. A ceremonial groundbreaking is held for the Student Health and Counseling Services Building, a 20,000-square-foot, two-story structure.

2014: The 90,000-square-foot University Student Union opens, becoming the new hub of student life on campus. Later in the year, CSUSM becomes one of just 92 institutions to achieve "Great College to Work For" recognition from The Chronicle of Higher Education for specific best practices and policies. 

2015: Home to a one-of-a-kind program that provides support to former foster youth pursuing their college degree, the new Jan and Esther Stearns Center for ACE Scholars officially opens. The center was made possible by a generous $1 million gift from the Stearns to ACE Scholars Services. Later in the year, President Haynes publicly launches the university’s first major philanthropic campaign, Forward Together, an ambitious effort to raise $50 million.

2016: The U.S. Department of Education awards CSUSM a nearly $6 million grant under the Hispanic-Serving Institutions STEM Program, providing foundational funding for an engineering program. The university's physical growth continues with the opening of The Sports Center, home to Cougars men's and women's basketball and women's volleyball. The 25,000-square-foot building includes seating for 1,400 for games.

2017: On July 14, President Haynes and Director of Athletics Jennifer Milo receive confirmation from the NCAA that CSUSM is a full-fledged NCAA Division II member after successfully completing a three-year transition period. Later that year, the university debuts a new look for longtime CSUSM mascot Crash the Cougar.

2018: Construction begins on the new Extended Learning building. Part of a public-private partnership, the first of its kind in the state's history, the project includes a 135,000-square-foot, six-story building, an accompanying 709-space parking garage and a pedestrian bridge over Barham Drive. The project is expected to be completed in time for the fall 2019 semester.