CSU Voices and Views

Super Sunday and a parable of success

By James M. Rosser,
President of California State University, Los Angeles

James M. Rosser listens as James A. Bell addresses Cal State L.A's Class of 2009.

James M. Rosser listens as James A. Bell addresses Cal State L.A's Class of 2009.

The goals of the CSU’s African American Initiative and its Super Sunday activities are inspired by countless personal stories of potential and achievement. As president of Cal State L.A., I particularly enjoy sharing how the story of James A. Bell, one of our campus’s most distinguished alumni, resonates with the vision of Super Sunday. This brief account below sums it up.

“As a black kid born and raised in a south-central Los Angeles neighborhood, it was inconceivable to me that someday I would be the corporate president and chief financial officer of the worlds’ largest aerospace company. But here I am,” James A. Bell told Cal State L.A.’s Class of 2009. “Live and in living color.”

Mr. Bell—who is now corporate president, CFO and executive vice president of The Boeing Company—could sense what it was like to be among the graduates.  Years ago, he had earned his bachelor’s degree (in accounting) from California State University, Los Angeles.  He, like many in the Class of 2009, was the first in his family to graduate from college.

 “…And clearly I had a lot of help along the way,” he said.

There’s a good chance that some graduates in the upcoming Class of 2010 will have received “help along the way” at a previous Super Sunday. Maybe they clarified their college goal after hearing from a CSU leader. Maybe the CSU’s take-home “How-To-Get-To-College” poster helped them find the right academic track and stay on it.

The most prominent outreach event of the CSU’s African American Initiative, Super Sunday began in 2005 as a partnership with African American churches statewide.  Now in its fifth year, CSU leaders are preparing to address congregations at more than 100 churches throughout the state – over four Sundays in February and more in March.

With extensive follow-up each year, the initiative has grown. It now includes some Super Saturdays, workshops for academic trainers and counselors, and Summer Pre-Algebra Institutes. The results have been encouraging, with major increases in applications and admissions for African Americans in the CSU.

While statistics offer important measures of the positive differences fostered by the initiative, it is harder to gauge the transformational impact it is having on individuals and communities.

As Mr. Bell said last spring, “I firmly believe that education is the key to the door of freedom.”

Note: James M. Bell’s comments were excerpted from remarks he made at the 2009 Commencement of California State University Los Angeles. Bell’s address at Cal State L.A.’s Commencement 2009 can be viewed in this video.

Timemarkers on video:
President Rosser’s introduction of Bell: 31:10
James M. Bell’s remarks begin: 34:20

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