MARIETTA — Southern Polytechnic State University’s president, who was about to be displaced after a mandated merger with Kennesaw State University, has accepted a new position at a northern California school.
Lisa Rossbacher will become the first female president in the 100-year history of Humboldt State University, which is part of the California State University system off the Arcata Bay outside of Eureka, Calif.
Rossbacher will start her new role as HSU’s seventh president on July 1, succeeding Rollin Richmond, who is retiring at the end of the academic year after 12 years as president.
The move will be a return by Rossbacher to California. She previously served as a professor of geological sciences and the associate vice president of Academic Affairs at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, from 1984 to 1993.
HSU offers 49 undergraduate majors, including art, biology, business administration, elementary education, English, kinesiology, psychology and wildlife, as well as 12 graduate programs and hundreds of minor degrees, concentrations and certificates of study.
The university emphasizes a combination of classroom and hands-on learning, with experiments, lab research, and field work.
Rossbacher could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
“The university’s unique programmatic offerings and beautiful setting draw a diverse group of students who are committed to improving themselves and the community through public service,” Rossbacher said in an announcement posted to HSU’s website. “HSU embraces sustainability and the environment like few other universities, and I look forward to engaging all groups to achieve the university mission.”
A scientific search
Rossbacher, who earned a doctorate and a master’s degree in geological sciences from Princeton University, has dedicated her career to science education, including her time in the 1990s as a dean and professor at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania and a stint as a science reporter in 1982 for National Public Radio in Washington, D.C.
Her curriculum vitae, or CV of qualifications, is 20 pages of honors and publications, including her work as the principal investigator for the NASA Planetary Geology and Geophysics Program, the Glass Ceiling Award from the Cobb Executive Women in April 2006 and the Recognition for Leadership in Latino Education by an Atlanta Chapter in October 2005.
Her appointment to HSU was part of a national search by a selection committee of California State University’s Board of Trustees.
“Lisa’s broad experience as an educator, scholar and academic leader and her passion for education are qualities that will serve her and HSU well,” said CSU Trustee Larry Norton, chair of the presidential search committee.
Growth at SPSU under Rossbacher’s tenure
Since 1998, Rossbacher has been the president of SPSU, which saw its enrollment grow 78 percent under her leadership to 6,500 students, focused on science, engineering, technology, architecture.
New academic programs were added in civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, new media arts, and game design.
The University of Georgia System is formulating a plan to merge SPSU with KSU as part of a continuing effort to reduce administrative costs and relieve some of the burden on state funding of higher education.
Both schools will operate under the Kennesaw State University name, with current KSU President Dan Papp leading the merged institution.
In November, Rossbacher was one of four finalists considered as the next president of Southern Utah University in Cedar City, three hours south of Salt Lake City.
In April of 2012, Rossbacher went down a similar path when she was a finalist for a position with Wichita State in Kansas.
In March 2010, she withdrew her name for the presidency of the University of Alaska after visiting the school. In 2009, she was passed over for the top job at New Mexico State University after visiting its Las Cruces campus.