The president of CSU Channel Islands was named Thursday the successor to retiring Cal State Northridge President Dianne Harrison.

Erika D. Beck will take over the CSUN presidency Jan. 11. Her selection was announced Thursday morning by the California State University Board of Trustees, who also approved her annual salary of $415,952, along with benefits including auto and housing allowances.

The base salary is 10% above Harrison’s compensation — sparking some dissension among board members. The salary makes Beck the third-highest-paid president in the 23-campus CSU system, below San Diego President Adela de la Torre at $454,749 and San Luis Obispo President Jeffrey Armstrong at $442,812.

The Board of Trustees on Tuesday also named a new president of Cal State East Bay in Northern California, appointing Cathy Sandeen, who has been serving as the chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage. Her salary, also approved Thursday, will be $389,238, representing a 10% increase over that of her predecessor, Leroy Morishita.

Several board members spoke out against boosting salaries during the coronavirus pandemic and associated economic crisis, saying it sends the wrong message to the community.

“I am proud to say that we have chosen student-oriented, intelligent and really strong leaders for CSUN and East Bay. … With that said, I don’t think a 10% increase for two presidents in a global pandemic makes sense right now,” Trustee Maryana Khames said.

But the majority of trustees supported the compensation packages, with several noting how important it is for the system to maintain competitive pay for its leaders.

“We all know that our presidents are well behind market,” Trustee Jack McGrory said. “These two 10% increases just move them up a bit — keeps them still far below the median.”

Beck, during her time at CSUCI, was making a base salary of $307,740. According to the CSU, she earned the university many high national rankings, including those issued by U.S. News & World Report, Money and Washington Monthly. The campus’ four-year graduation rate for first-year students also reached an all-time high and last year was recognized as one of nine institutions in the nation with the prestigious Seal of Excelencia for its accomplishments in facilitating Latinx student success.

“Her extensive knowledge of the CSU and California ensures that she will build on the successful work of outgoing CSUN President Dianne Harrison,” said CSU Trustee Debra Farar, chair of the search committee.

Beck said she’s looking forward to continuing her career at CSUN.

“From the robust academic programs to inspirational athletic competition to the expansive opportunities for arts and culture, I am inspired by the impact that CSUN has in shaping the face of the San Fernando Valley and beyond,” Beck said. “While it is bittersweet to leave CSU Channel Islands where working together with faculty, staff, students and community we have made significant progress, I am thankful for this opportunity to join the talented CSUN faculty, staff and students to ensure that all Matadors rise.”

Prior to her appointment as the third president of CSU Channel Islands in 2016, Beck served as provost and executive vice president at Nevada State College, where she was a leader and founding faculty member who helped build the campus from the ground up.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from UC San Diego; a master’s in psychology from San Diego State University; and a doctorate in experimental psychology from the UCSD, where she also served as a faculty fellow.

A former research associate at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Beck has conducted research in the areas of developmental psychopathology and cognitive neuroscience.

The California native and mother of two also sits on the Ventura P-20 Council and the Santa Barbara Zoo Board of Directors. She is an honorary board member of the Gold Coast Veterans Foundation.

She was selected as a Woman of the Year by the California Women’s Caucus, one of the Top 50 Women in Business by the Pacific Coast Business Times, a Woman of Distinction in Education by the National Association of Women in Business Leaders, and a Top Female Business Leader in Education by the Las Vegas Business Press.

Harrison, who has been leading CSUN since 2012, announced last November that she would be retiring at the end of June 2020. But the onset of the coronavirus pandemic prompted her to delay her retirement. She is now set to retire at the end of the year.

Harrison became president CSUN’s fifth president in June 2012, after serving six years as president of Cal State Monterey Bay, where she was the first woman to lead the campus. Before that, she spent nearly 30 years at Florida State University, serving as a faculty member, dean, associate vice president and vice president for academic quality and external programs.

In her retirement announcement last November, she hailed increases in the CSUN graduation and student-retention rates, the hiring of a chief diversity officer and the creation of a Commission on Diversity & Inclusion “to support an inclusive learning environment.” She also touted record levels of donations, improved involvement by alumni, plans for a hotel on campus and efforts to improve mass transit access.

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