Lynnette Zelezny (’79 Psychology, ‘81 M.A. Psychology) has just made history by becoming the first woman president of CSU Bakersfield. It’s a perfect fit for an academic whose career has taken her from undergraduate teaching assistant to provost of CSU Fresno. “This is one of the happiest times of my life,” she says.
Zelezny’s journey began at Humboldt State University, where she and her family have deep ties. Her husband John (‘78, Journalism) is a 2004 recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award, and her daughter, Serena, graduated in 2004 also with a degree in Journalism.
Zelezny enrolled at Humboldt at the suggestion of a high school guidance counselor who knew of her fondness for the natural environment and rigorous science classes. In a statistics course she found a mentor in psychology Professor Mary Gruber. Soon, she was working as Gruber’s student teaching assistant and eagerly absorbing all she could from Gruber’s teaching and research skills. “Mary’s class really changed my life,” Zelezny says. “She had a way of bringing out the fire in you.”
After graduating from HSU, Zelezny and her husband relocated to the Central Valley and she began lecturing in CSU Fresno’s psychology department. Her department chair recognized her talent for teaching and leadership and encouraged her to earn a Ph.D. She rapidly rose through the academic ranks, adding to her psychology expertise with an MBA and leadership training from Harvard and the Wharton School.
She went on to CSU Fresno, serving as chair of the psychology department, associate dean for the university’s business school, dean and associate vice president for the extended education division, and associate provost. Now, as she prepares to take over as president at Bakersfield on June 30, she’s eager for the latest opportunity. “I love the students of Bakersfield,” Zelezny says. “I honestly never thought this chance would come along. I’m just so happy.”