HSU President, Lisa Rossbacher, Announces Plans to Retire

Josiah Lawson memorial

HSU President Lisa Rossbacher speaking at the beginning of a 2017 memorial for student David Josiah Lawson, who was fatally stabbed. [Stock photo by Mark McKenna]

Today, the president of Humboldt State University, Lisa Rossbacher, released a letter announcing her plans to retire on June 30, 2019.

The following is the text of her letter:

I am writing to share with you my plan to retire from the California State University at the end of the current academic year, effective June 30, 2019. This was not an easy decision, as I very much enjoy being part of this campus community. I am inspired each day by our amazing students and by the commitment of our faculty and staff.

Working together, we have made strategic choices to prioritize the academic experience of our students and to position the University for future success. This is why I believe now is the right time for me to move on to the next phase of my career.

I want to take this opportunity to reflect on how our work together has put HSU on a stronger footing going forward.

When I arrived at HSU at the beginning of the 2014-15 academic year, the University’s base budget deficit was projected to exceed $4 million, a number of important programs were operating on one-time funds, and the University was on track to exhaust all operating fund balances by the following year. To address this challenge, we reduced expenditures even while continuing to invest in the core mission of the institution. We increased the University’s operating fund reserves, and we will address the remaining deficit during the current academic year. I am proud to say that HSU will enter the 2019-20 academic year with a balanced budget.

Most importantly, we made these difficult reductions while protecting our academic programs, adding new tenure-line faculty positions, and investing additional resources in student support. We launched several initiatives to make our campus and surrounding community more welcoming and equitable for people of color. We are making progress toward closing the opportunity gap in both persistence and graduation, and we recently achieved the highest four-year graduation rate ever at HSU.

Looking ahead, HSU’s current strategic plan extends through 2020, meaning it is nearly time for an update. A new fundraising campaign, which will help assist our students with their basic needs and make college more affordable for them, is in the planning phase. We are ready to begin developing a new facilities master plan. The next president of HSU will have the opportunity to impact the future of this institution through strategic investment of resources based on a balanced budget and continued enrollment stabilization.

On a personal level, I am looking forward to resuming some writing projects after serving as a university president for two decades. A draft manuscript on “leadership in times of chaos” has been in progress for more than 10 years. I also look forward to returning to writing a bi-monthly column for EARTH magazine focused on the intersection of science and society.

I plan to remain very involved in higher education. I remain deeply committed to education — and particularly the transformative power of public higher education, which is so clearly illustrated in the work of the California State University.

In the remaining months of the 2018-19 academic year, I will be focused on the goals that I outlined during Fall Welcome. These include our ongoing initiatives related to student success, strengthening a welcoming and supportive community for HSU’s growing diversity, achieving a balanced budget, and addressing the recommendations from our recent review by the WASC Senior College and University Commission. To these I now add an additional priority: planning for a smooth transition to new leadership next summer.

Over the summer, I shared with Chancellor White my plan to make this transition. The Chancellor has indicated that he intends to launch a national search for a new president at HSU this winter. More information on that process will be forthcoming from his office.

I have been truly honored to serve as your president for the past four-plus years. Working together, we have made significant improvements for our students, and we can see real progress from our focus on supporting their success. Thank you for what all of you do to support students in their educational journey.

With best wishes,

Lisa A. Rossbacher, Ph.D.



  • was a memorial really the right place to do a press conference? i think it takes away from the person that the memorial was for

  • I hope this is good news for the football program…

  • Hilarious. One look at the steaming Marxist mess that is HSU was enough to end her career. Who could blame her, having to contend with red-capped La Raza crazies, shrieking Take-Back-the-Night post-feminist sex assault “victims,” and other lefty fringe critters. What HSU needs is the iron boot of real Americanism, but that will never happen. Instead, as California wrenches itself from the vile, inhuman “blue state” status of recent years, enrollment will continue to plummet and more and more moms and dads will refuse to allow their junior kommies to apply. Hopefully, one day, HSU will collapse in upon itself and Arcata will die, killing off north coast socialism once and for all.

    Yes, a man can dream ….


  • No tears. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out!

  • There long enough to remove the Nursing program and get rid of football. Two very successful programs in many ways. And I am sure long enough to max out her retirement package.

    What a pathetic state of events at HSU, comedy central.

  • HSU Class of 1975

    There is a god.
    Miracles never cease.
    Let us pray for someone up to the job, who cares about HSU more than themselves.

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