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Trailblazing Beyond Gender for a Stronger California

On April 27, CSU San Marcos President Karen Haynes received the Trailblazer Award from Leadership California alongside her five fellow CSU women presidents. (left to right) Lisa Rossbacher, Humboldt State; Dianne Harrison, CSUN; Mildred García, Cal State Fullerton; Karen Haynes, CSU San Marcos; Soraya Coley, Cal Poly Pomona; and Jane Conoley, Cal State Long Beach.

On April 27, CSU San Marcos President Karen Haynes received the Trailblazer Award from Leadership California alongside her five fellow CSU women presidents. (left to right) Lisa Rossbacher, Humboldt State; Dianne Harrison, CSUN; Mildred García, Cal State Fullerton; Karen Haynes, CSU San Marcos; Soraya Coley, Cal Poly Pomona; and Jane Conoley, Cal State Long Beach.

By Dr. Karen S. Haynes
President, CSU San Marcos

I never intended to become a university president but in 1995, after serving as the only female dean at the University of Houston for ten years, I was provided with the unexpected challenge and opportunity to become the president of the system’s Victoria campus. Today I have served as a university president for 20 years—over 11 of those at Cal State San Marcos—and I am the senior woman president in the 23-campus California State University system.

This week I was proud to join my five fellow CSU women presidents in collectively receiving the Leadership California Trailblazer Award. We all have traveled our unique paths to leadership, bumping up against – and putting some cracks in – what has been called the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America. But my pride is dampened by a sobering reality. As I thought about the award, I was struck by the notion that being a female university president is still considered trailblazing.
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