To serve a communityFeatures — May 22, 2012
The university’s mission goes well beyond providing a top education
by Koren Wetmore
Leading a major academic institution is by no means a one-man operation. Nor is serving the communities that surround it.
No man has understood this more clearly than Cal State San Bernardino President Albert Karnig.
“Al Karnig brought a leadership style that matched perfectly with the times. His handshake was firm and strong, and his warm smile was contagious to all who would meet him,” said Jack Brown, president and CEO of Stater Bros. Markets and an adjunct business professor at CSUSB. “He had a vision to reach out to the communities served by Cal State.”
During his 15-year tenure, Karnig forged partnerships with educational, business, community and civic leaders that have benefitted everyone involved — especially future generations of students and residents.
“Karnig gathered around him associates who shared his vision … He empowered them and together they became educational crusaders …”
Patrick Morris, mayor, San Bernardino
“Karnig gathered around him associates who shared his vision,” said San Bernardino Mayor Patrick Morris. “He empowered them and together they became educational crusaders in communities throughout the Inland Empire, meeting and talking to school boards, business and political leaders.”
He drew from that community to form the CSUSB President’s Advancement Council (now known as the Philanthropic Foundation), which advocates for the university and helps with fundraising campaigns. Today, the university has established more than 500 community partnerships, including ones with 59 school districts, and 29 research and service centers focused on issues such as water, economics, education, indigenous peoples, health disparities, criminal justice, child development and Middle Eastern and Islamic studies.
Many of the centers bring needed services, such as literacy and business training, while offering students opportunities to apply their acquired skills and knowledge in a real-world context. Others provide policy analysis and research resources to address issues common to the Inland Empire.
Three of the centers — the Leonard Transportation Center, the Water Resources Institute and the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship — are prime examples of Karnig’s entrepreneurial approach, said CSU Trustee Lou Monville. “He provided a leadership role and harnessed the powers of the institution to better the region while giving a hands-on, strong educational experience for students,” he said.
Karnig also encouraged opportunities for diverse students to access and excel in higher education.
“When Dr. Karnig arrived, there were sweeping demographic changes occurring,” said state Assemblymember Wilmer Amina Carter. “He accommodated these changes in many ways, including establishing the university as a Hispanic-serving institution, participating in Black Church Sundays for CSU presidents, yearly Native American week on campus, and other groundbreaking programs.”
CSUSB now boasts a 46 percent Hispanic student population, and the number of African-American and Asian students also is on the rise. The university also made the Top 200 list of colleges for Native Americans. Community outreach and scholarship programs have also opened doors for students and families underserved in the past. Now, 70 percent of CSUSB graduates are the first in their families to finish college.
“He clearly sees the importance of reaching out to all segments of our diverse community and has built bridges between the university and the region’s educational institutions, businesses and community groups,” said Gary Thomas, San Bernardino County superintendent of schools.
Just as Karnig invited participation in CSUSB’s goals, he and his wife Marilyn enthusiastically served within the community.
“He made it a point to attend district superintendent meetings to address K-12-related issues and, as an executive board member of the Alliance for Education, worked with the county schools’ office and business leaders to promote partnerships to bring rigor and relevance to the classroom, and produce a higher-skilled workforce for the region,” Thomas said.
Karnig serves on the boards of several organizations, including Inland Action, the Inland Empire Economic Partnership and Community Hospital of San Bernardino. Marilyn Karnig serves with nonprofits such as Childhelp and is a board member for the San Bernardino Symphony.
Honors for Karnig’s community involvement include the 2007 Honorary Black Rose Award from the San Bernardino Black Culture Foundation and Congressman Joe Baca’s Community Leadership Award for Outstanding Service and Dedication to the Community. Both Karnigs were honored by the San Bernardino YWCA with its 2006 Humanitarians of the Year award.
The university itself has also received recognition. For the past six consecutive years, CSUSB has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest honor a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning and civic engagement.
Achieving such honors and results requires teamwork and a community willing to collaborate for the common good. It’s a concept nurtured during his tenure and one Karnig hopes will prove a lasting legacy. “Because, in the last analysis,” he said, “the university exists for the students and the region we serve.”