Fifty-one years ago this month, Cal State Bakersfield welcomed our first 962 students with a heartfelt promise: New beginnings are possible here.

Since our first day, CSUB has kept that promise to the thousands of students who have followed, in pursuit of their own new beginnings, and holding tight to their dreams.

It is in the spirit of new beginnings that I extend an invitation to our community today:

Please join CSUB as we imagine a future of discovery, prosperity and excellence through ’Runners on the Rise, a visionary initiative that has the power to transform the landscape of hope in our region.

In partnership with the most generous community in California, we will invest in our students, ushering in an era of growth and achievement that will allow all of us to rise together.

This is our moment, the moment to write the next chapter in the story of CSUB and our region.

CSUB: ON THE RISE

For the past year, CSUB has honored the incredible legacy we have inherited from our early champions, leaders of fortitude and vision.

We have relied on their example to move our university forward during a year of unprecedented challenge and hardship. Yet adversity has shown us what we are made of, that change can be good, and that nothing will deter us from our mission: Serving our students.

Enrollment continues to climb, nearing 12,000, at a time when most colleges and universities are reporting declines.

We are graduating more students than ever, in a diversity of fields and disciplines, all of which are in alignment with our region’s needs. Our alumni – 60,000 strong – are leaders around the world, but particularly right here, in our community, and they exemplify the ’Runner spirit of selfless service to others.

And we are making progress in closing the equity gap, ensuring that the pursuit of a university degree is within the grasp of all students.

But progress takes incredible effort and passion, and it takes support.

CSUB STUDENTS UNSTOPPABLE

At CSUB, we believe that offering students a first-class education is only part of our obligation. A student cannot continue their studies if they are hungry, if they need medical care, counseling, tutoring, financial resources and other critical forms of support.

The Veterans Success Center helps students navigate the aid they are entitled to for serving our country.

The College Assistance Migrant Program guides the children of farmworkers through their college journey, overcoming towering barriers common to first-generation college students.

The Food Pantry ensures that our students are able to focus on their studies and not on when they might eat their next meal.

Each of the many services and programs offered at CSUB help students with an array of unique needs. But they all have one thing in common: When our students are supported, they are unstoppable.

Already, we are breaking new ground in every corner of our university: academics, research, athletics and more.

• CSUB’s award-winning Teacher Residency Program is addressing the critical shortage of qualified teachers and leading the state in the effort to put more teachers of color in local classrooms.

• The university’s science, technology, mathematics and engineering programs are creating a pipeline of STEM professionals in a region that has always relied on innovation and ingenuity to move us forward.

• In healthcare, CSUB is offering — for the first time — a public health degree that will answer our region’s urgent need for public healthcare professionals. And our top-rated nursing program is expanding access to care.

• Our undergraduate research program is exploring solutions to real-world issues like cancer, innovative water use, forest fires, earthquake threats and more. We are preparing a new generation of scientists who will take the research begun at CSUB into their roles in the local workforce.

• In Division 1 Athletics, CSUB continues to excel in the Big West, and our scholar-athletes are winners both in competition and in the classroom. For 13 consecutive academic terms, our scholar-athletes have averaged a GPA of 3.0.

And as part of the Kern Pledge with our K-12 and community college partners, CSUB is removing barriers to access and opportunity, including the opening of Bakersfield College Southwest Center on the CSUB campus.

In regional economic development, CSUB is helping lead the new B3K initiative — A Better Bakersfield and Boundless Kern. CSUB will become a hub of excellence for energy and entrepreneurship in alignment with the B3K.

We are engaged in these vital community partnerships because we believe that the best, most enduring opportunities are the ones we create together.

There is an exciting energy at CSUB, felt in every corner of our Bakersfield and Antelope Valley campuses.

It is found on the smiling faces of our students.

It is a special connection, a sense of belonging to something greater than yourself.

CSUB is a place that welcomes all voices, all traditions, all cultures, all people because diversity is our superpower.

But to reach the next level in our rise, CSUB needs our community.

CSUB needs you.

Please learn more about how you can become involved in ’Runners on the Rise at CSUB.edu/rise.

Lynnette Zelezny is the president of California State University, Bakersfield.