President Haynes recollects travel and professional experiences


Courtesy of

Layda Galvan, Editor-in-Cheif

Before President Karen Haynes’ journey as the longest serving president at CSUSM, her travel experiences allowed her to shape her sense of self and the world.

“… I have never been out of the United States or North America to travel. Living in Malaysia in 1970 was another life changing [experience], in positive ways… I was a minority for the first time in my experience where you didn’t understand any of the languages written or spoken, but gave me a sense of what that meant in culture…,” she said.

Haynes was a first generation college student, that was born and raised in New Jersey until the age of 18. She attended an all women’s college and lived in Malaysia and Egypt.

When Haynes moved from Asia to the Arab world she said, as a woman, it would be hard to excel in a male dominant place, but was shocked when she realized it wasn’t how she thought it would be.

“I went [in] with a stereotype as a young white blonde female in the Arab world, that, even though I had a job, it would be very difficult to work in that male dominated arab culture in the 1970s. One [positive] shock was that it was not true… because Egypt at that time needed educated people… seems strange to say because gender and culture didn’t matter if you had an education that you could contribute…”

During her time in Egypt, Haynes said that living in an underdeveloped country came with life adjustments due to electricity outages that lasted from five minutes to five hours. Outages that included telephones that were in offices and homes that didn’t work, leaving people to send messages via bicycle carriers.

Her experience in Malaysia and Egypt helped shaped Haynes’ view of cultural differences.

“I certainly think [these experiences] helped … early international travel gave me a perspective of being a minority, which I would not have gotten living in this country… I wasn’t in poverty and I wasn’t uneducated, but [it] gave me that sense and gave me an appreciation for cultures and differences…” said Haynes.

Haynes earned her Master’s and Doctorate degree in Social Work from McGill University and from the University of Texas.

“Going into social work for Master’s degree was also because some undergraduate social courses made it clear to me, that there were social injustices and devise. I was always interested in the policy and the programmatic place that you could intervene to try to make a difference. When I became a president the first time, some of my social work colleagues said, ‘are you leaving a professional social work?’ I said, ‘No, I hope I’m bringing some of those values into the presidency.”

President Haynes served as a President for 24 years. She served for the University of Houston-Victoria for eight and a half years, and at CSUSM for 15 years. In 2016, she became the first female to hold a role as senior president in the CSU system.

In 2004, when she began her presidency at CSUSM, Haynes reminisced about her first day on campus.

“On my first day on this campus, I will never forget it, my presidential spot was filled with purple balloons…and this office was filled with purple carnations…and through the week the kindness of people wanting to know something [personal] about me … I will always remember with the incredible fondness,” she said.

Haynes said what she will miss about the campus is the school spirit.

“Both the spirit of this place, that comes from the students, that comes from engaging with faculty that are focused on student experiential learning and student success. I will miss coming to a place where I like to work… For me, it’s always people that I will miss and this campus… but there’s something else that’s very special and very different about this campus, and it draws me to work…”

When asked to describe her professional life in one word, she said audacious.

“… In my professional life, [I] can remember thinking about pushing those boundaries just a little bit, [and] how [we can] vision or set an audacious goal that is achievable… It’s almost impossible to think its 15 and a half years… Collectively, the sense of this has been an incredible privileged position, and somehow even when I set audacious goals we did them… we did them with good spirit… I sit back and think wow, what an extraordinary, incredible presidency,” said Haynes.

President Haynes plans to travel with her husband, and spend more time with family. After a few months she plans to help others for educational purposes.

“What is immediately next is, thinking and feeling of what an empty calendar will feel like… I promised myself and my husband that I need at least six or eight months to not accept any opportunities that come to me … We have some things planned so we see children and grandchildren and do some international travel, while I see who this Karen Haynes is going to be…”

The Cougar Chronicle The independent student news site of California