By Chris Metinko
HAYWARD -- Change is always difficult, especially after nearly three decades.
Leroy Morishita, the new interim president at Cal State East Bay, is learning that slowly. After 29 years at San Francisco State in a variety of leadership positions, he was named head of the Hayward campus in April.
He officially assumed the position July 1 and has had to adjust to learning everything from new faces to budget numbers.
"I've learned you can't learn everything in one day," said Morishita, a 59-year-old Oakland resident. "It'll take a little time."
Morishita assumed the school's presidency after former Cal State East Bay President Mohammad Qayoumi was named to the top job at San Jose State. Morishita, who had been serving as an executive vice president and chief financial officer at San Francisco State, also had been a finalist for the San Jose State job.
"I feel I have been given a great opportunity," Morishita said. "I am not here to be a caretaker. I plan on doing the very best I can here.
"Everything I've done so far has prepared me for this."
Morishita grew up on a grape and plum farm just outside Fresno. His parents had nothing more than high school educations and made it clear to him at an early age that he would be going to college.
It was his Central Valley roots that led him to a career in higher education.
Morishita said growing up in a farming area, he saw many minority kids not planning to attend college, instead being encouraged to enter careers in farming or in a vocational trade.
It was those experiences that led him to pursue a bachelor's degree in psychology at UC Berkeley and a master's degree from San Francisco State in counseling; he wanted to counsel youngsters to pursue their dreams.
Despite his time as part of the administration at colleges, he said that attitude still has not changed.
"My major priority coming here is the students," he said. "The decisions I make here will be based on the students."
To that extent, Morishita plans to hold sessions with students -- as well as with faculty members and the community -- to hear their concerns.
He knows one of the main issues will be tuition and fees, which continue to increase, especially with a state budget that substantially slashed education funding.
"I know it's difficult," Morishita said. "That's why it is important for us to find the wisest use for every dollar."
Professor Mike Mahoney, who leads the Academic Senate at Cal State East Bay, said Morishita already has attended two senate meetings with faculty. He described the new president as "warm and gracious.
"He was frank about the challenges of dealing with the massive cuts to our university's budget in the upcoming academic year," Mahoney said. "Importantly, he seemed open to hearing from the faculty and communicating his intentions in advance of implementation. We refer to those qualities as part of shared governance, which is crucial for a president and university to be successful. The faculty are truly looking forward to working with President Morishita over the coming year."
Jeffery Seitz, who is the chairman of the school's department of earth and environmental sciences and sits on the executive committee, said Morishita thus far has gone out of his way to meet the faculty.
"He's shown himself to be very pro-student and pro-faculty," Seitz said. "We really look forward to working together with him."
Whether Morishita spends more than the coming year on Hayward's campus has yet to be determined.
He has said he would like to be considered a candidate for the permanent president position, and said "at some point" he will sit down with the Cal State University chancellor to discuss his future.
A decision on the president position is not expected until next spring or summer.