Jan 21 2020

CSUF President Fram Virjee Immigrated to So Cal on the Queen Mary, and Other Cool Stories!

On Tuesday, January 14, OCBC hosted its first Chairman’s Leadership Breakfast of 2020 featuring Fram Virjee, President of California State University, Fullerton (CSUF). 

In a discussion with Steve Churm, Executive Vice President, Public Affairs, FivePoint, Virjee discussed his life from his early years as the son of a British freighter captain seeing much of the world through their travels, to sailing aboard the Queen Mary to the United States in 1966, to becoming the first college graduate in his family, to developing a distinguished law career, and now being the sixth permanent president of a university that, last year, graduated more students than any public or private institution in the State of California.

In addition, Virjee discussed his belief CSUF as a transformational university, rather than just a transactional university.

“Two years ago, the university celebrated its 60-year anniversary… Way back then, it was sleepy, quiet, off the radar – a transactional institution,” Virjee said. “That has changed over time. We’ve changed from being a transactional university where we help people with the tools to become professionals, to a transformational leadership organization where we just change lives.”

Virjee elaborated – discussing how the university is at the forefront of high-impact practices that give students real life experience along with their curriculum. In addition, the university’s student population is made up of 60% first-generation students, who as Virjee stated, “are bringing not only their backpacks, but their families and communities and everyone else on their backs as well.”

“What they do will transform their lives, and also the lives of their entire communities,” Virjee said.

Virjee also touched on the topic of free college tuition, and how California – and CSUF – is leading the nation in providing just that for its students.

“We call it the State University Grant program,” Virjee said. “We take the first third of our revenue and set it aside to make sure students can go to school. So the first bottom third of our students socio-economically go to school without paying tuition, with just the cost of room, board, and books. Then, the second-third of our kids receive grants from the State of California, from Pell grants and more. So, almost two-thirds of our kids at Cal State Fullerton are going to school without paying tuition.”

“We are investing in the future,” Virjee added.

 Virjee elaborated that the university not only provides no or low-cost tuition to a majority of its students, but it also works to provide online textbooks at a fraction of the price, as well as housing support, support from local food banks, and employment opportunities.

When asked about Cal State Fullerton often referred to as the “best kept secret of Southern California,” Virjee set the record straight.

“There are Titans everywhere,” Virjee said. “We produce 50% of the teachers, 50% of the engineers, 50% of the accountants, 50% of the nurses, and the list goes on and on. We produce those graduates that keep Orange County as a thriving economic engine with the firth largest economy in the world. We are loud and proud, and we are Titans.”

On the percentage of Titans who actually stay and work in Orange County, Virjee estimated a solid 85% stay in the county long-term.

“We are the only CSU in Orange County, so we are the place where the kids come,” Virjee said. “We also draw a lot of students from underserved communities, who come from a demographic where – for the most part – they stay close to their families after they graduate.” 

“We are paying attention to that and working very closely withthe Orange County business community to create opportunities for these students while they’re on campus to create stickiness in the county, so when they graduate there are centers for them on Entrepreneurship, Family Business, Leadership, you name it, to build their lives and careers right here.” 

For more information about the Chairman’s Leadership Breakfast series, please contact Lauren Martin, OCBC Events Manager. 




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