Biography, James M. Rosser

Dr. James M. Rosser has served as President of California State University, Los Angeles since 1979. At the University, he also holds the rank of professor of health care management and professor of microbiology.

A native of East St. Louis, Ill., Dr. Rosser earned academic degrees in health education and microbiology from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (Ph.D. 1969, M.A. 1963, B.A. 1962). In 2003, his alma mater awarded him an honorary doctorate, citing his pioneering efforts to advance the opportunities and contributions of African Americans in science and health care, which included his service on the National Board of Governors of the American Red Cross, the National Institutes of Health National Advisory Council on Aging, and the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Directorate for Education and Human Resources Advisory Committee. He previously received SIU’s Alumni Achievement Award (1982) and Distinguished Alumni Award (1999). In 2005, Pepperdine University awarded him an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws.

Prior to his appointment at Cal State L.A., Dr. Rosser served for five years as Vice Chancellor of the State of New Jersey Department of Higher Education and served as Acting Chancellor in 1977. Earlier in his academic career, he was Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, where he was also a faculty member in pharmacology and toxicology and higher education.

Educational Leadership and Community Service

Dr. Rosser has served on the boards of many state and local community organizations, including the California Community Foundation, the Fedco Foundation, California Chamber of Commerce, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, Community Television of Southern California (KCET), Los Angeles After-School Education and Child Care Program--LA’s BEST, the Music Center Performing Arts Council/Education Council, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, and Americans for the Arts. His civic contributions also include service on the City of Los Angeles’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Theatre, the city’s Economy and Jobs Committee, and the Rebuild Los Angeles task force. He also served on the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Budget Reform; the Los Angeles County Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools; the Los Angeles Annenberg Metropolitan Project (LAAMP), a nonprofit educational reform organization; and the Los Angeles Educational Alliance for Restructuring Now (LEARN). In 2001, the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts presented Dr. Rosser its Community Builder Award. In recognition of his philanthropic work, the Association of Fundraising Professionals presented to him the Spirit of Philanthropy Award in 2008.

Dr. Rosser’s other educational, professional and business board affiliations have included the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), the American Council on Education (ACE), Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the President’s Advisory Committee of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, Edison International, United California Bank and FEDCO, Inc. In 2005, he was named a distinguished member of the honor society Phi Kappa Phi.

Access and diversity

For more than three decades Dr. Rosser has championed increasing access to higher education among underserved communitiesÑdoing so in Congressional testimony, in presentations at national meetings, moderating a White House forum, in service on key commissions, and by promoting programs that increase diversity in education and in the scientific community. He currently serves on the CSU Presidents’ Council on Underserved Communities, the CSU-Public Schools Outreach Advisory Committee, the ACE Commission on Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Equity, and the AASCU Committee on Economic and Work Force Development.

In 2008, Rosser received the Frank W. Hale Jr. Diversity Leadership Award from the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) and a special leadership honor at the Black Engineer of the Year Awards. In recognition of his outstanding leadership and contributions to the greater Los Angeles community, Rosser was also presented with a 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award by The 100 Black Men of Los Angeles, Inc. In 2007, ABET, the national organization that accredits university engineering programs, presented to him its President’s Award for Diversity. Additionally, the American Council on Education presented him with the 2012 Reginald Wilson Diversity Leadership Award.

His numerous previous honors include the National Science Foundation’s Educator Achievement Award, the Los Angeles Urban League’s Volunteer Service Award, the Brotherhood Crusade’s Pioneer of Black Historical Achievement Award, the Golden State Minority Foundation’s Medal of Excellence, and the Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce’s Humanitarian Award.

Science and technology

For three years early in his career, Dr. Rosser was a research bacteriologist for Eli Lilly and Company. Over the ensuing decades, he actively promoted science and engineering education; and he sought ways to galvanize the synergies between science and engineering education, research, technology and industry. He has influenced state and national science policy as a member of the California Council on Science and Technology, the Citizens Advisory Committee of the Congressional Caucus for Science and Technology, ACE’s Committee on Science and Technology, and several NSF and National Academy of Engineering panels and forums addressing diversity in the science and engineering workforce.

He is one of six university leaders on the 22-member National Academies Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable Council, serving with the directors of the National Academies, the heads of major federal research agencies, and industry leaders. He also serves on the CSU Presidents’ Commission for CSUPERB Ð the California State University Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology; and he recently championed new collaborations between CSUPERB’s eight Los Angeles-area campuses and the Southern California Biomedical Council (a life-science industry trade association), and the Pasadena Bioscience Collaborative. The formal agreements strengthen the alignment between biological education and the biotechnology industry, thereby bolstering opportunities in life-science education, innovation, and workforce development.