Junn is the First Korean American Woman to Lead a Four-Year Public Institution of Higher Education in the United States
January 18, 2023

After 39 years of service in higher education – 37 years with the California State University and the last seven at the helm of Stanislaus State – President Ellen Junn announced Wednesday, Jan. 18, her decision to retire at the end of the 2022-2023 academic year. 

Junn shared the news in a video message and letter to campus and community members.  

“It is with mixed emotions of anticipatory joy, and the bittersweet sadness of farewells to wonderful campus friends and colleagues, that I share with you the decision that I will retire at the end of this academic year,” Junn said. “After more than a year of discussions with my family and much planning and preparation, this is now the right time.   

“It has been the greatest privilege and honor of my life to serve this remarkable institution of higher learning and to get to know our phenomenal students, dedicated faculty, caring staff and administrators and talented alumni who are the heart and soul of our University.”

 Junn became Stanislaus State’s 11th president on July 1, 2016. She is the first Korean-American woman in the United States appointed to lead a four-year public institution of higher education and is the second woman to serve the University as its president. Prior to joining Stan State, Junn held high-level administrative roles at five other CSU campuses: Cal State San Bernardino, Cal State Fullerton, Fresno State, San José State and CSU Dominguez Hills. 

Some of the highlights from Junn’s tenure at Stan State include: 

  • Founded the President’s Central Valley First-Generation Scholarship Initiative, the first in the CSU system to affect and attract students from a specific geographic region; 
  • Nurtured student success by addressing gaps in graduation rates and implementing enhanced programs of support;   
  • Launched CareerReadyU to help students prepare for their post-college professions;   
  • The University made an annual impact of $770.5 million to its six-county service region in fiscal year 2021-2022;  
  • Secured more than $69 million in new funding to build a new classroom building, renovate the Magnolia Mansion and begin the initial renovation of the Acacia Building to expand the Stanislaus State Stockton Campus in San Joaquin County;   
  • Celebrated the completion of the new, technology enabled J. Burton Vasché Library renovation along with exceeding the goal of a $1 million naming campaign;   
  • Opened the University Student Center that was designed by student body representatives from Associated Students Inc. (ASI) and the Student Center Board; 
  • MONEY magazine named Stan State among California’s Top 10 colleges along with elite institutions that included Stanford, UCLA and UC Berkeley; 
  • Established the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion and developed a campus action plan to promote an inclusive campus environment for all students, staff and faculty based on respect, trust, engagement and a sense of belonging;  
  • Founded the first-ever Warrior Cross Cultural Center with support programs that include cultural groups, Dreamers, LGBTQI+ and installed culturally relevant art; and 
  • Established and supported new faculty and staff affinity groups. 

“All of this happened because so many of you worked together as a collaborative team by showing up every day to help make Stan State a powerful and transformative engine of social mobility and economic hope for our students, their families, the Central Valley and beyond,” Junn said.   

“As we look ahead, I am proud of how hard we have all worked to position Stan State for an even brighter future. Our campus will become the Central Valley’s premiere institution of higher learning, committed to providing residents of all ages the breadth and depth of education they need to ensure the region’s economic prosperity and robust opportunities for all.” 

Interim California State University Chancellor Jolene Koester expressed gratitude for Junn’s extraordinary service to Stanislaus State and the CSU system and described her as a steadfast champion of improving social mobility of Californians across the state. 

“Many thousands of students have benefitted from Dr. Junn’s wise leadership,” Koester said. “Thanks to her efforts as president of Stanislaus State, students in the Central Valley now have greater access to the life-transforming power of a Cal State degree.” 

Koester also lauded Junn’s commitment to advancing equity, diversity, inclusion and social justice, calling her “a trailblazer and an inspiration to many, having demonstrated that women of color can reach the highest levels of academia.” 

Junn said that during the next six months, she will continue to lead the University with the same level of vigor, commitment and energy that has defined her tenure.  

“We have an exceptionally talented, cohesive and highly functioning Cabinet and strong, visionary teams within each division. Their combined talent, along with outstanding faculty, student and staff leaders, will continue to move the campus forward.” 

An interim president will be appointed to lead the University, and the CSU will launch a national search to identify Junn’s successor. Under university policy, Koester and CSU Board of Trustees Chair Wenda Fong will select a committee comprised of campus and community stakeholders who will be publicly announced at a later date. Campus and community input will be sought in an open forum held on the Stan State campus.