Photo Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA

Octavio Villalpando

Dr. Octavio Villapando recently accepted Cal State Los Angeles’ offer to become vice provost for diversity and engaged learning and chief diversity officer for Academic and Student Life. He is the first person to serve in this new position at Cal State LA.

A graduate of CSUN, Villalpando — who began his new position on Jan. 3, — said he found his calling helping faculty members create a program to recruit and retain students of color seeking business degrees.

“There was nothing better in life than helping other students of color achieve success in school,” Villalpando said.

“Dr. Villalpando will be instrumental in the development and implementation of the strategic planning for diversity and inclusion, as well as direct efforts to strengthen student learning and engagement,” says Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Lynn Mahoney.

With a student body that reflects the rich mix of Los Angeles—and a commitment to students first—Villalpando believes Cal State LA is positioned to break new ground in the areas of diversity and student success.

 “From just a purely scholarly and intellectual level, Cal State LA represents a unique opportunity in public higher education to take this concept of diversity and inclusion to a different level,” he says.

Villalpando’s early years were spent in Boyle Heights, not far from Cal State LA, and attended Tenth Street Elementary School. He moved with his family to Burbank and graduated from John Burroughs High School.

 While studying for his bachelor’s degree in sociology at CSUN, Villalpando helped develop the Minority Business Program in the College of Business Administration and Economics. The program has been described as the first of its kind in the California State University system.

He later earned a master’s degree in social foundations of education from CSUN. At UCLA, he earned a master’s degree and doctoral degree in higher education.

Villalpando was working for the University of Utah, where he was the vice president for equity and diversity and a faculty member in the College of Education, before accepting the Cal State offer. As Utah’s chief diversity officer, he crafted policies and developed practices pertaining to gender, racial, ethnic and sexual equity and diversity.

He also directed the LGBT resource center, the Center for Ethnic Studies Affairs and the American Indian Resource Center.

Villalpando’s goals for Cal State LA include developing programs and initiatives to close the achievement gap, increase faculty diversity and strengthen community engagement. He plans to conduct listening tours with students, faculty and staff—an important first step in understanding the University community. 

At a time when federal policies could change with the incoming presidential administration, it’s imperative that students know Cal State LA is committed to their well-being and academic success.

“The student body, faculty and staff need to feel reassured,” Villalpando says. “There has to be a visible response, especially for the students, so they can feel and see that the University continues to be committed to their success.

“We’re here to serve the public good. That’s a message that resonates with educators. It is just an amazing opportunity.”