Cal State LA master’s graduate aspires to be a university president
He was accepted into five Ph.D. programs for higher education leadership policy.
By Jillian Beck | Cal State LA News Service
Erick West has his sights set on the top echelons of leadership in higher education.
The 25-year-old Monterey Park resident wants to one day serve as the president of a university to improve the lives of students. He’s on a path to do just that.
“I see the inequities in the education system and I feel the only way for me to actually do something about it is for me to get to a high enough position to change it,” says West, who graduated in May with a Master of Arts in Education with an option in leadership from Cal State LA.
West has been accepted into five Ph.D. programs in higher education leadership policy at universities across the country. He will choose between his top choices, the University of Georgia and Howard University—and will begin in the fall.
Growing up in South Los Angeles, West saw his share of obstacles. He was homeless at times, struggled to have enough food and stayed with different families when he could. But school was always a positive outlet, West says.
“I have always worked to create what I wanted,” West says. “A lot of things were not given to me. I just really wanted to be a student, go to school, and be.”
West earned a Bachelor of Arts in Pan-African Studies with minors in biology and geography at Cal State LA. As an undergraduate student, he was a member of the Black Student Union, worked as a student assistant in Housing and Residence Life and was on the men’s track and field team.
Faculty in the Department of Pan-African Studies, especially Professor Nana Lawson Bush, encouraged him to pursue a master’s degree and a career in higher education leadership, West says.
His experience as an undergraduate student-athlete inspired the topic of his master’s thesis, which explored how universities can educate student-athletes holistically, allowing them to succeed in sports and the classroom while also participating in activism.
As a graduate student, West assisted Charter College of Education professor Allison Mattheis with research to improve the Los Angeles Urban Teacher Residency (LAUTR). The program, which is a collaboration between Cal State LA and the Center for Collaborative Education, is an intensive credential and master’s degree program that emphasizes social justice.
West researched and evaluated teacher preparation programs at colleges and universities across the nation, using the data collected to find ways to better integrate social justice concepts into the LAUTR curriculum.
After graduation from Cal State LA, West hopes to go on to be a professor and eventually a university president. He wants to increase the representation of African Americans in top leadership positions in higher education and better connect administrators with students.
“One of the ways that I can be more impactful is if I get in the room,” West says.