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University Times

The student news site of California State University - Los Angeles

University Times

The student news site of California State University - Los Angeles

University Times

President Eanes shares her goals for Cal State LA and her journey in education

Cal State LA’s new president, Dr. Berenecea Johnson Eanes, is the university’s first woman to occupy the position, according to her biography on the website. She holds a strong connection to community and education. Eanes spoke with the University Times about her plans as president.

Mission for Cal State LA

Eanes has returned to the CSU, where she previously worked as vice president for student affairs at Cal State Fullerton. She said being president at Cal State LA is an exciting opportunity, and is thrilled to be a part of a special community. 

“This is a beautiful campus, full of amazing students and great faculty that are doing great research and teaching and staff that absolutely love it here,” Eanes said. “There’s nothing like it — working on a campus where people love what they do and where they are.” 

Being the first woman president, she feels that students and faculty are watching her every move, but to her, there is a significant amount of responsibility to uphold, and wants to exceed their high hopes and expectations.  

Eanes was presented with the opportunity to become president, but what motivated her was the importance she saw in higher education. 

“Higher education in our country is one of the most amazingly empowering, impactful spaces to work,” Eanes said.

Eanes said she is on a mission to help the Cal State LA community. She has started a listening tour called “100 Days of Listening” where she actively goes into the community to hear concerns students, staff, and faculty have and to come up with a plan to help the school. 

“I’m going to be visiting different department meetings. I’ve already been to the student government meeting,” Eanes said.

Eanes said how she believes Cal State LA needs to “embark on a new strategic plan process,” to make future goals possible and that this is something the students and her can make possible.

Eanes said one of their plans will focus on enrollment management and a physical master plan.

She described some of the concerns she’s heard about, such as housing, basic needs, safety concerns in the evenings, and having social opportunities for the students.

With this, she hopes to break the idea that “Cal State LA is a hidden gem” and put the campus on the map in a different way so that current and future students can transform their lives through higher education. 

Her childhood and the important people in it

Eanes said that growing up she was surrounded by amazing people who showed her how to be a leader. 

“I grew up in a beautiful community in Indianapolis full of amazing people that you didn’t know you grew up with until you were grown up,” Eanes said.

Her mother was a third-grade teacher for 32 years, and her father was also a teacher who eventually stopped and started medical school. This was a huge deal for her family as both her parents grew up very poor in Arkansas. As her father went back to school, she recalled them “making the best of it.” 

“I tell people when I was little, what I did on Sunday was go to church then go to campus and help my dad feed his lab rats for his work-study job because if the four of us did it together, we would get it done faster, and we actually made it to be something fun,” Eanes said.

Her life in the church is also a big part of who she is since both her parents were very committed to their family and community. Eanes said that when she was young, every Sunday they would visit someone from the “sick and shut-in list,” which contained the names of people from their church program that were sick.

She said that her mother instilled in her a mindset of confidence and leadership. 

“My mother and her dynamic group of sister friends when I was growing up they were quite the force to be reckoned with,” she said. “They were in charge of everything and anything they could be.”

She described how three of her aunts were leaders and had a mission of their own in life. One taught children of color to swim; the second ran a vacation Bible school at their church every summer; and the third was the head cook at a local college. 

Eanes said that growing up she was very lucky to have mentors who were deeply invested in her.

Eanes said that just like any other teenager she struggled with her self-esteem but wasn’t super aware of it. Being surrounded by diverse women helped her see that people come in all colors, shapes, and sizes. As a young girl, she was constantly reminded by the women in her life of how beautiful she is and to not let others tell her what is or isn’t beautiful or a leader.

Her journey in education

At the age of 17, Eanes went to Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana. She went in wanting to be a pre-med major but graduated with a bachelor’s degree in public health. She later got a job at a hospital and said she did not like it as much as she thought she would. 

When she returned home, her dad gave her one year to figure out what she wanted to do with her life and take care of herself.

In that one year she had a lot of jobs and also got a mentor to help her figure out what her next step would be.

Eanes recalled a conversation she had with her mentor and how she saw her as a social worker. Eanes was baffled at the thought of it because in her community social workers are looked at negatively.

Eanes couldn’t understand why she saw that in her but later researched and learned more about it. She was interested and applied to school once more to study social work.

She received a scholarship to Boston University, and because she was a resident assistant (RA) at Dillard University, she was able to get another kind of RA position in grad school and get housing paid for as well.

However, during her time in grad school, she realized none of the professors looked like her.

She mentioned how situations like those would spark a voice in the back of her mind and push her to progress even further in education. She eventually gave in and applied to get her Ph.D. in social work at Clark Atlanta University. 

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About the Contributor
Calista Pineda, Multimedia Reporter & Videographer
Calista Pineda is a multimedia reporter and videographer for the University Times. She is a television, film and media major with a minor in journalism, combining her skills to create innovative and compelling stories. Pineda has an interest in field reporting and documentary filmmaking, as she is always on the hunt for a story. When not reporting for the UT, she is either exploring her surroundings, tapping into her creativity through music or trying new things.

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