CSUMB President Eduardo Ochoa retires after 10 years at the university
Eduardo Ochoa will step down on July 31, after a decade as President of CSU Monterey Bay. He is the third president of the young university that held its first classes in 1995. Ochoa’s replacement, Vanya Quiñones, currently serves as provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs at Pace University in New York.
Ochoa purchased a home with his wife Holly in Monterey and plans to live there after retirement. They hope to travel and spend time with their two adult sons. He may also do some part-time consulting or advisory work.
Ochoa led the university through its teenage years — a time of growth, lots of challenges and a coming of age. In an interview with KAZU News, Ochoa discussed challenges and accomplishments of the last 10 years, and the importance of diversity on campus. He began by speaking about the value of a liberal arts education.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Eduardo Ochoa (EO): You know, in the in the past, a bachelor's degree had a major not because you were training for a specific field in a professional sense, but because having a major concentrated effort within an academic discipline and learning the rigorous standards in that discipline, would then stand you in good stead regardless of what you did in the future. And that's certainly what we do here at CSUMB.
Doug McKnight (DM): Let's go back to when you first came here in 2012. Was there anything that surprised you?
EO: Well, I think one thing that was hard to avoid noticing by anybody who came to the campus at that time was the number of blighted structures that were still left over from the army base days. I think it discouraged some families from sending their kids here because it didn't give a very good impression.
I was very, very grateful when Chancellor White visited this campus and saw all these buildings, said, what about all this? I said, we need $30 million to tear them all down. It's hard to get donors to support tearing things down. It would be great if the state could fund the demolition for all of these remaining blighted structures. And lo and behold, he did it and really transformed the face of the campus and created a canvas on which we can paint a wonderful institution.
DM: Was the blight your biggest challenge or were there challenges within the system itself?
EO: Well, the other major challenge for us is growth. The constraint for growth until the last couple of years really was not student demand. There were plenty of people who wanted to come here. Since then, things have changed significantly nationally. There's been a reduction in the college-going rate. This has been because of the pandemic and also the way the economy has been evolving. There are plenty of jobs that tend to depress college attendance. The pandemic has also had an impact.
One of the things that's going to have to be faced by the new incoming president is that our growth is going to be demand-constrained. So we have to shift gears and really become much more proactive about student outreach and recruitment.
DM: You talked about diversity at the university. You're an immigrant. Was that experience important in increasing the amount of diversity at the university?
EO: Well, yes. First of all, having experienced another culture is a mind expanding, altering experience. That's why I think that an international experience, even if you don't get to live in two cultures like I did as an immigrant, but at least experiencing another culture through an international educational experience is a critical element in a well-rounded education.
One of the things that I think will ultimately be a very important factor in the development of the United States, is the large Hispanic-Latino population that it has now. And that their population has the potential ability to be a cultural bridge to all of the Americas. In fact, you know, we call ourselves Americans in Latin America as well. And I think that the future of the United States is in the Americas.
DM: In the White House, when a president leaves, he traditionally leaves a letter for the incoming president. If you were to leave a letter like that for the new president of CSUMB, what would it say?
EO: Well, I hope to have conversations with the new incoming president, so I won't have to write the letter. (laugh) But in the conversations, I would just simply share with the president how this institution is very special. And I think that the founding vision statement that was drafted at its inception captures a lot of what is unique about it; its commitment to service learning, its commitment to building a respectful community among all the members, faculty, staff and students. It's its embrace of innovation and change in higher ed.
That sort of innovative entrepreneurial spirit is something very special from this region.
CSU Monterey Bay holds the FCC license for 90.3 KAZU. The station is located on the university’s campus.