President's Biography

President Covino

William A. Covino is the seventh president of California State University, Los Angeles, leading the institution as it realizes its dedication to engagement, service, and the public good. President Covino holds a Ph.D. in English and has published important scholarship on the power and uses of rhetoric, persuasion, and imagination. He is also a nationally celebrated proponent of civic learning.

Since becoming president in September 2013, President Covino has emphasized the importance of a curriculum that prepares students to transform the future and improve the quality of life in Los Angeles and beyond. To achieve this goal, he is leading efforts to closely connect civic learning and community service to many of the more than 4,500 courses and programs that were reinvented when the University moved from a quarter to semester calendar in fall 2016. Under his leadership, Cal State LA was one of 33 colleges and universities selected in 2018 to participate in the nationwide Higher Education Anchor Mission Initiative by the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU). As part of this initiative, Cal State LA is cultivating new alliances and partnerships that are creating opportunities for students and enriching the communities served by the University.

To promote a welcoming and inclusive environment for learning, interaction, and engagement, President Covino and First Lady Debbie Covino established the Mind Matters initiative in 2014. The University-wide initiative has been recognized nationally as a model for supporting the inner and physical well-being of students. Mind Matters provides access to vital behavioral health services and resources, therapeutic activities, and basic needs.

President Covino has overseen the establishment of Cal State LA’s Center for Engagement, Service, and the Public Good, which consolidates and strengthens community service and service-learning opportunities. Under his leadership, the University has also launched a bioscience incubator that will promote economic development in the region. Through Civic University, a partnership with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the University is helping to train civic and community leaders. The program exemplifies President Covino’s commitment to increasing civic participation.

President Covino is leading initiatives to strengthen ties with alumni and supporters of the University. As a result of these efforts, Cal State LA has received record levels of philanthropic support. He also formed the President’s Council, which includes more than 40 influential corporate executives, philanthropists, and civic leaders who are helping advance the goals of the University.

During his four-decade career, President Covino’s scholarly specializations have included the history and theory of rhetoric, persuasion, imagination, and literacy. He has authored five books including The Elements of Persuasion and The Art of Wondering, along with numerous scholarly articles, chapters, and presentations.

He is a member of regional and national organizations including the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, Rotary International, Association of American Colleges and Universities, Board of Directors of the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities, Council for Advancement and Support of Education, UNITE-LA, and vice president of the CUMU Executive Committee.

President Covino joined Cal State LA following a four-year term as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Fresno State. He is a past recipient of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities William M. Plater Award for Leadership in Civic Engagement. Prior to Fresno State, he served as provost at California State University, Stanislaus and as dean of the Schmidt College of Arts and Letters at Florida Atlantic University. He has also held faculty positions at the University of Illinois at Chicago and San Diego State University.

A first-generation college student, President Covino moved with his family from Connecticut to the San Fernando Valley when he was 12. He graduated from Reseda High School and attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in English. He holds master’s degrees from California State University, Northridge and the University of Southern California. He earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of Southern California in 1981. President Covino and Dr. Debbie Covino have four adult children.