Timothy P. White, chancellor of the 23-campus California State University, said Cal State San Bernardino’s role, while important in the past, is increasing in inland Southern California, he said at a forum on Oct. 4.

Speaking to students, faculty and staff at the Santos Manuel Student Union and on a live-stream feed online, White said CSUSB may be one of the campuses “that simply has so much more opportunity, and more challenges, and importance because of the way California is evolving in the next 10, 15, 20 years.”

Currently with a population of 42 million, the state is projected to grow to 50 million people by 2030.

“They’re not going to live in Santa Monica,” he said. “They’re going live in San Bernardino, and Hemet, Riverside, out in the Coachella Valley. And education is going to be at the core of success — socially, economically and environmentally — for that kind of growth. So the stakes are getting higher for this wonderful campus.”

White visited the university with trustees Jane Carney and Steven Stepanek. The trio met with student leaders, the faculty senate and the newly formed staff council, as well as with university President Tomás D. Morales and his cabinet.

Before the forum started, White led a moment of silence to remember the loss of CSUSB student Jordyn Rivera, one of the at least 58 people who died at the hand of a gunman during an outdoor concert in Las Vegas on Oct. 1. He noted that other CSU campuses, including Cal State Bakersfield and Sonoma State, were also touched by the tragedy.

White, who spent five years as chancellor of UC Riverside, recalled his experience in the Inland Empire, and said, “The opportunity and the need here is so amazingly powerful, and quite frankly, alluring to so many of us.”

He said: “You know better than I of the enormous importance and need of public education, affordable education, here in the Inland Empire. And you have been leaders in creating — by cooperating with the public schools and the community colleges in partnerships — a robust set of understanding of what it means to keep young boys and girls in elementary, middle school, high school, in school taking the right courses, doing the right things, so that they are eligible to come directly to Cal State San Bernardino and/or go through the community college system and transfer in.”

White told of meeting briefly with two motivated CSUSB students, and how the university provided them with the education they needed and sought — and nationally recognized programs at that. He also noted that CSUSB alumni have the opportunity to go anywhere in the world, yet many are choosing to stay here.

“And as this community grows in size and importance, there’s going to be more knowledge-based businesses coming into this community to create jobs for your graduates,” White said. “And there’s the ecosystem that grows the quality of life for everybody in the community.”

“The economic revival of the Inland Empire, the social accent of its residents, the educational achievements of your faculty and your students, the remarkable work of your staff that provides academic advice and support services to run a small city … all is going to lead to stimulating knowledge-based businesses, in every discipline, becoming part of this community,” he said.

Yet while many universities may stop there, White encouraged the audience to take one more step — to think about why the university matters. He noted the economic, political and social turmoil society faces today — forces that, left unchecked, would tear society apart.

“What entity in a democracy provides a counter force to this one that pulls us apart?” he said. “I come clearer and clearer in my thinking, ‘That’s us.’ The California State University, which serves unlike anyone else in the world, has a rich array of diverse students who come from poverty to privilege, from low income to high income, from the entire spectrum of race and ethnicity to more races and ethnicities.”

And, he noted later, one in 20 college degrees in the United States is earned at a CSU.

“We bring students and faculty together around ideas,” White said. “And in so doing, counter that centrifugal force that separates society, and allows us to find those common areas of understanding not only in our own disciplines, but in our humanity. But we also play some role in recognizing that there are some differences that we never want to get rid of. But we need to respect and understand them more deeply. …

“If it’s not for the university to bring people together,” White said, “then what does that portend for our region, our state, our country, our world?”

For more information on Cal State San Bernardino, contact the university’s Office of Strategic Communication at (909) 537-5007 and visit news.csusb.edu.