Written by The Business Journal Staff
Dr. Lynnette Zelezny, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs
California State University, Fresno
What we do:
We serve about 25,000 university students in the Central California Valley. We are a Hispanic Serving Institute, and an Asian American, Native American, and Pacific Islander Serving Institute. Over 70 percent of our students are first-generation college students.
M.B.A., 2005, California State University, Fresno, Fresno CA.
Ph.D., 1998, Psychology, Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, CA
M.A., 1981, Psychology, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA
B. A., 1979, Psychology, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA
Family: Married to John Zelezny, Senior Vice President, Community Medical Centers, for 34 years. Three grown children Serena, Reed and Stephen Zelezny.
How did you come to position as Fresno State provost and what does the job entail, Dr. Lynnette?
The Provost is the Chief Academic Officer and the second-ranking officer at the university.
I’ve served at Fresno State for 25 years as a professor of psychology, chair of the Department of Psychology, associate dean of the Craig School of Business, dean and associate vice president of Continuing and Global Education, and associate provost.
I was an American Council of Education Fellow and attended Harvard’s Management Development Program for Higher Education Leaders. These experiences trained me for top leadership positions in higher education.
What are some of your goals as provost and how might you achieve those, Dr. Lynnette?
I have two big goals. First, I intend to work with faculty and staff to improve student success, namely student retention and graduation rates. We will be focused on classroom excellence, the psychosocial needs of our students, and opportunities for students to be engaged in high impact practices like internships, service learning, study abroad, and undergraduate research. Second, I intend to hire outstanding faculty that are diverse and mission-driven to serve our largely first-generation college student population.
What challenges stand in the way of boosting Hispanic graduation at Fresno State and how have you worked to overcome those, Dr. Lynnette?
Remediation is a challenge. We have developed an Early Start summer program, which is intended to get students on track faster to work toward their college degree.
Another challenge is making sure that our Hispanic students have faculty mentors that look like them. We are working hard to improve the number of Hispanic faculty that serves at Fresno State.
What is the mission of the DISCOVERe@FresnoState initiative that you chair, Dr. Lynnette?
This is a very exciting Presidential initiative. The mission is to improve student learning. Research suggests that the use of technology can improve student engagement and success. It also teaches students to be competent with cutting-edge technology that will likely be used in their professional worlds.
What kind of strain did several years of budget cuts put on the university’s academic programs and how are they recovering, Dr. Lynnette?
We have significant challenges with faculty staff salaries, and programs that are too lean to be optimally effective. We are strategically working on the best ways to invest in our people and programs to better serve our students.
Your background is in psychology. What got you interested in that, Dr. Lynnette?
I actually taught statistics and research methods as a psychologist. I like math and understanding people’s behavior, so psychology is a good fit. I have found psychology to be an excellent foundation for all of my work at the university.
What qualities make a good teacher and what drew you to that career path, Dr. Lynnette?
Good teachers are passionate about their discipline and eager to share their wisdom. Great teachers are intentional about student transformation. They are mentors who care deeply and holistically about their students. Being a teacher is the best gig on earth.
You’ve been involved on numerous community boards over the years. What local community service projects, organizations or events are closest to your heart, Dr. Lynnette?
I’m very community and service-minded, which is why I’m drawn to the work at the Fresno Rotary and United Way. I’m my most authentic self when serving the vulnerable; the young, elderly, hungry, sick, or homeless.
What skills do you think will be the most important for the next generation of job seekers and business leaders, Dr. Lynnette?
Creativity, communication, professionalism, we vs. me thinking, empathy, integrity and leadership. I am extraordinarily hopeful and optimistic about our next generation of young leaders.
What was your first job and what did you learn from it, Dr. Lynnette?
I was a babysitter for a doctor’s family with four young sons, including a newborn. I learned that I loved kids and chaos, and that I was good at it.
What are your roots in the San Joaquin Valley, Dr. Lynnette?
I’ve lived in Fresno for over 25 years. John is a native of Santa Barbara, California and I was born in Dallas, Texas.
John and I were very intentional about moving to Fresno. This is where we wanted to dedicate our energy to make a difference and raise our family. Fresno has been inordinately good to us. We’ve had amazing professional opportunities and our children had an idyllic upbringing.
What do you like to do in your spare time, Dr. Lynnette?
I love to dance, read, hike, sail, travel (goal to visit all 50 states) and go to the movies. I’m a huge classic movie fan. My mother in-law was in “Singing in the Rain.”