James M. Rosser
California State University, Los Angeles
Like many of the thousands of CSU employees, alumni, students, and, of course, our partners in church congregations across the state, I placed high hopes on the Super Sunday effort and our collective aspirations of encouraging more young African Americans to enroll in college.
From those very first town hall meetings that inspired the CSU African American Initiative, to now our eighth year in this effort, our success is more than apparent; it is applauded and serves as a model for educational outreach and change across the nation.
Next month, when I again stand in front of a congregation to discuss the Road to College and the life-enriching benefits of a college degree, I look forward to making meaningful connections with the young people and those for whom this information is so critical. For some, shedding a little more light on the path is all that is needed. For others, the information is a call to action.
Since announcing my retirement, and as Super Sunday quickly approaches, I have reflected on how far we have come and how much farther there is to go. From my colleagues who wake early on Sunday morning to address churches filled with hundreds of parishioners, to those who plan the events and hand out literature before and after service, I thank you for your efforts and enthusiasm.
Super Sunday was launched in 2006. That year, the CSU partnered with 35 faith-based institutions throughout California. Since then, we have expanded to around 100 churches and have created additional comprehensive signature programs that take place throughout the year. Our creative forethought, and the planning that ensued in partnership with our church partners, has enabled us to develop a continually expanding pipeline of more educationally-prepared African American youth entering postsecondary institutions.
Of course, many challenges remain for young African Americans; however, it is a great source of satisfaction for me to have contributed to Super Sunday to help level the playing field by providing accurate and useful information, and through direct and productive action.
During my 34-year career at Cal State L.A., I have experienced the pendulum of the state’s prosperity swing from prosperous to adverse times—from our current budgetary challenges, to exponential growth in the number of students we serve, and their positive impact on the communities in which they work and live.
We cannot rest on our laurels. It is imperative that we push forward. The increasing demographic shift in California’s and the nation’s job market make it vital that African Americans, Latinos and the full spectrum of students, inclusive of other underrepresented student groups, obtain critical skills, particularly those in math, engineering, science and technology fields.
We have come a long way, yet the CSU must work harder and remain unwavering in helping ensure all students of color become and remain competitive in a rapidly changing economy. And we will. Through our experience on the frontlines in this effort, and as witnessed time and time again during our professional lives, we know that a strong economy and workforce, particularly in California, will largely depend on the educational attainment of all students.
I have dedicated much of my career to increasing access to higher education for all students and I am particularly pleased by the knowledge that the work we have all done through the African American Initiative and Super Sundays will carry on long after I retire.