New and expanded services for veterans and undocumented students are just a few things students would like to see at Cal State Bakersfield in the next few years.

CSUB held an open forum on its strategic plan Tuesday in which students, faculty and staff were able to provide their ideas for how they would like to see the university improve over the next five years as well as share what makes them proud about CSUB.

The input is needed to help with a new five-year strategic plan the university hopes to implement next year. The plan allocates human and financial resources based on the university’s goals and priorities.

“The Strategic Plan guides our decision-making and guides where our direction is going. It’s going to build the framework for how we move forward,” said President Lynnette Zelezny. “This is the time for you to share your voice, because all voices matter — and your ideas.”

Zelezny said this will be the first strategic plan the university has done in 14 years and a new one is desperately needed to reflect how CSUB has grown and changed since then.

“The time is now to really leverage the foundation that (former President Horace Mitchell) has laid and to take us to the next chapter,” she said.

One student who spoke at the event was Yoceline Aguilar, who advocated for a resource center for undocumented students that could provide legal services, updates on new laws and policies, help for applying for various programs and more.

Aguilar, who spoke as part of of the United Now for Immigrant Rights group on campus, said only five of the 23 CSUs don’t have a resource center for undocumented students.

“The resource center should address the needs of the undocumented students,” she said. “University campuses should be able to provide for all students and make sure all students feel welcome, safe and supported when on campus no matter who they are, how they identify themselves or what their citizenship status is.”

Another attendee was Andreina Gonzalez, who wants to see more resources and attention to address food insecurity on campus. She said she wants to see the existing food pantry expand and for there to be more attention and support on the edible garden on campus that she helped create last year.

While participating students are allowed to pick food for themselves, Gonzalez said some of it goes to the food pantry.

“I think the garden deserves more attention and support from faculty and staff and more participation from students,” she said. “I believe that every student has the right to eat healthy and eat well.”

Wendy Melendez, director of diversity affairs for the university’s student government organization, Associated Students Inc., said something that is strongly needed in the future is a workshop or a course where students can learn how to manage finances and budget properly, as she said many students don’t have those basic skills.

“It can help show them how to live on their own in the right way so they can succeed not just in their academic life but in their personal lives as well,” she said.

Ulyses Rodriguez is a veteran who came to CSUB last year. Coming out of the military, he said he was hesitant about coming to the university because it didn’t have many services and supports at the time for veterans, such as a resource center or student veterans group.

“Over the last year, we have gained all of that and much more,” he said. “I’m really happy that CSUB has been so supportive of the veterans and have really helped us grow a lot. I was proven wrong by CSUB.”

While Rodriguez said the university has come a long way in a short period of time, there are still some things he would like to see in the future, primarily a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or ROTC, program. It helps prepare students who are interested in joining the military.

“At CSUB, we have almost 500 students who are veterans or dependents of veterans who want to continue their service in some way, and an ROTC program is a good way to do that,” he said. “This is something I’m hoping in the future we could provide to other students and really give them an opportunity to learn, grow and continue their service.”

Regardless of whether CSUB decides to allocate time and money to some of the areas that people would like them to focus on, Aguilar said she’s happy that students, faculty, staff and the general community can provide input.

“I think it’s good they’re listening to our ideas so they know what we want,” she said. “They won’t know what we want unless we speak up.”

Tuesday’s forum won’t be the only chance to provide input. Two more forums are planned for November, Zelezny said.

Joseph Luiz can be reached at 661-395-7368. Follow him on Twitter: @JLuiz_TBC.

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