Ellen J. Neufeldt, an administrator at Old Dominion University in Virginia, was named Wednesday as the new president of Cal State San Marcos by the California State University Board of Trustees.
Neufeldt, 50, now serves as vice president of student engagement and enrollment services for Old Dominion in Norfolk, Va. She will replace retiring president Karen Haynes, who will step down June 30 after nearly 16 years at the helm.
CSU Trustee Jean Picker Firstenberg described Neufeldt as a “visionary leader” who has shown a strong commitment to student success throughout her career.
“She brings a wealth of experience, and will serve as an inspirational leader on the campus and in the community,” Firstenberg said in a press release.
Neufeldt said she is honored to lead CSUSM, which she sees as an “emergent and fast-forward university” with unlimited prospects.
“For me, the heart of my career has been about student success, social mobility and working with the community hand in hand,” she said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “This opportunity has so many wonderful things happening on that campus, which is student-centered, always looking to new frontiers, very future-focused and putting students first and community first.”
Since 2011, Neufeldt has served as a vice president at ODU, where she leads the areas of student engagement, student success enrollment services, government relations, institutional research, marketing and public relations. She oversees a staff of more than 400 and a budget of $70 million, and also recently secured more than $5 million in funding for need-based student scholarships.
John R. Broderick, who has served as president of ODU since 2008, has high praise for Neufeldt’s abilities. In a phone interview Wednesday, he described her as “terrific” and one of the most likable, competent and qualified administrators he has worked with in his 30-year career.
Broderick said Neufeldt has such a diverse skill set and strong leadership skills that he has continuously expanded her responsibilities over the past eight years.
“She picked up more and more things in her portfolio because you just like to hand them all to someone who’s going to score a basket for you,” Broderick said. “In a job like mine where you have to depend on people to be a successful executive, she was remarkable, consistent, energetic and dependable.”
Old Dominion is a public university with 24,000 students and a reputation for its graduate programs in the health sciences. Like Cal State San Marcos, it has a diverse student body with a high percentage of first-generation, low-income and military-connected attendees.
Neufeldt said she prefers a diverse campus because that dynamic is important to the “essence of learning.” Her goals are to continue building on CSUSM’s student success rate and graduation rate and build more engagement between the students and the community.
When Neufeldt arrives in July, she will join 11 other women presidents at CSU’s 23 campuses. She will be CSUSM’s fourth president, beginning with Bill Stacy from 1989 to 1997, Alexander Gonzalez from 1997 to 2003 and Haynes, who arrived in 2004.
Haynes praised Neufeldt’s leadership abilities, including her successful lobbying of the Maryland legislature and state education board to allow public-private partnerships to build more student housing at ODU. Haynes has spearheaded similar projects at CSUSM.
“Dr. Neufeldt is someone who I believe brings the trailblazing, community-engaged and innovative mindset that Cal State San Marcos is known for,” Haynes said in an email. “I know that she admires, respects and supports what CSUSM has accomplished with a vision for continued growth and opportunities ahead.”
Neufeldt was born in Michigan and raised in Cookeville, Tenn., where her British Columbia-born father was a faculty member in the college of education at Tennessee Tech University. She attended the university’s nursery and elementary schools and fondly remembers walking the campus grounds as a girl.
After earning a degree in business administration, she initially went to work in the business world but immediately realized she missed the environment of higher education. She went back to school and earned a master’s degree in educational psychology and counselor education from Tennessee Tech and a doctorate of education from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Before joining ODU, Neufeldt served as vice president of student affairs at Salisbury University in Maryland and as assistant vice chancellor for student development and dean of student life at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she also served as the assistant dean of students.
During Haynes’ record-breaking tenure — she’s now the longest currently-serving president among the California State University system — CSUSM doubled its enrollment to more than 14,000 students and grew physically from 7 to 22 buildings. Under Haynes’ leadership, the university opened a satellite campus in Temecula, launched more than 100 new academic programs and its athletic program has risen to NCAA Division II status.
Neufeldt will be tasked with carrying on the 29-year-old university’s ambitious growth goals, which call for enrollment of 20,000 students by 2025 and the addition of as many as 30 new buildings, including a large science complex.
During her interviews for the CSUSM job in recent months, Neufeldt said she made an undercover visit to the San Marcos campus. She was impressed by the beauty of the campus, the friendliness of its students and the university’s ongoing building boom.
An avid outdoorswoman, Neufeldt said she’s eager to explore the local hiking trails and beaches. She also looks forward to sampling some of the region’s acclaimed chef-driven restaurants. And she can’t wait to roll her sleeves up and get to work with her future colleagues at CSUSM.
“I know that there’s such a positive trajectory to move forward from together,” she said. “I have so much pride and I’m thrilled to be someone who can lead them on the next chapter of the journey.”