San Francisco State University will have a new president beginning in August, the college announced Thursday.
The California State University board of trustees selected Leslie Wong to take over for retiring President Robert Corrigan, who has led S.F. State since 1988. Wong has served for the past eight years as president of Northern Michigan University, in Marquette, Mich.
“I’m really excited,” said Wong, in a phone interview with The San Francisco Examiner on Thursday. “My primary goal is to get to know people and me to know them. … I know people are probably wondering, ‘Where in the world is Marquette, Michigan?’”
Wong, who grew up in Oakland, will return to the Bay Area after stints as a psychology professor in Washington and a university administrator in Colorado and North Dakota.
California’s higher education systems have been hit hard by state budget cuts over the past several years. While Wong will likely face difficult financial decisions as president of S.F. State, he said that would be nothing new after leading a public university in Michigan.
“This is my eighth year, and every year we’ve had to go through budget reductions,” he said. “It’s been a slow, steady and steep slide.”
Wong said that Northern Michigan had made a commitment to keeping tuition from soaring, so he and the faculty worked together to agree on cost-cutting measures such as not replacing retirees. The university also used technology to save money on administrative tasks such as sorting applications, he said.
Wong praised S.F. State’s “commitment to social justice and diversity,” as well as its students’ willingness to speak out on issues they care about. One of those issues is executive salaries, as the CSU trustees have come under fire for increasing administrators’ pay even as they raise tuition and cut courses.
The trustees will not set Wong’s salary until their July meeting, but Wong said he trusted they would be fair.
“I know it’s a highly volatile issue,” he said.