Humboldt State University alumna Lynette Zelezny was recently appointed as the first female president of California State University, Bakersfield.
Zelezny will be the 12th woman added to the current list of 23 CSU presidents, officially making female presidents the majority.
“It’s an amazing honor,” Zelezny said. “This is a really big deal for such a large system. I am modeling to women that there is no ceiling. We just smashed it.”
Zelezny earned both her bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1979 and her master’s in 1981 from HSU. Zelezny remembers her time at HSU fondly. Not only is it where she met her husband, but also she was mentored and nurtured academically.
Zelezny said it was her time studying with psychology professor Mary Gruber, Ph. D. that changed her life. Zelezny took statistics with Gruber, and eventually became her teacher’s assistant.
“She was kind and encouraging in helping the students develop their skills,” Gruber said. “The students expressed great appreciation for her guidance and inspiration.”
Gruber worked at HSU from 1974 to 2008, and recalls how much she enjoyed working with Zelezny as a student, as an advisee and as her teacher’s assistant. Gruber said that Zelezny helped tutor a group of international students, and worked very closely with a blind student, coming up with creative ways to graph and manipulate data.
“Lynnette’s positive energy, dedication, expertise, insight, caring and collegiality are clearly beneficial for those she works with, and serves,” Gruber said. “The students and faculty at California State University at Bakersfield will be very fortunate to have her guiding and inspiring them as their president.”
Kauyumari Sanchez is an assistant professor of psychology at HSU who attended California State University, Fresno to finish her undergraduate degree, and has known Zelezny since 2003.
Sanchez said that Zelezny served as a mentor, helping guide her through applying to grad schools and providing tips for success. Sanchez said Zelezny’s ability to work with others, and her adaptability, set her apart in her field.
“I would say I owe a lot to her,” Sanchez said. “She was really quite honest about some realities of being a woman in this field. She prepared me mentally for that expectation.”
Chris Aberson is a professor of psychology who said that he thinks Zelezny helped him get his job at HSU.
“When I was scheduled to interview at HSU in 2000, I reached out to Lynnette, as I knew she was an alum. She immediately emails one of the professors on the search committee to provide an informal reference,” Aberson said. “I have a feeling that her kind words have something to do with me being here.”
Zelezny’s position as president will commence on June 30.
Zelezny currently serves as the provost and vice president for academic affairs at Fresno State. This means she is in charge of faculty hires and development of new academic programs, among other things.
Zelezny said that she feels it is her consistent involvement with her students that makes her a unique leader.
“It’s a privilege to serve students in a bigger way,” Zelezny said.
Zelezny said an important part of her role is to understand diversified funds. These are multiple ways a university can make revenue, through grants, self-support, such as extended education, and gifts from alumni and friends.
When asked about Humboldt State’s budget crisis, Zelezny said that while the entire CSU system is facing budget cuts, understanding the different ways to obtain funding is more important than ever.
Zelezny said that she supports students’ rights to protest, and encourages them not to lose optimism, or hope.
“We hold each other up in times like these,” Zelezny said. “Your voice should be heard, and that should be encouraged.”