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Vice provost seeks to improve student success through diversity and inclusion

January 3, 2017

As an undergraduate student, Octavio Villalpando found his calling helping faculty members create a program to recruit and retain students of color seeking business degrees.

“There was nothing better in life than helping other students of color achieve success in school,” Villalpando says, recalling his undergraduate experience at Cal State Northridge.

That early venture launched him on an academic and professional journey that has led to California State University, Los Angeles. On January 3, Villalpando became the vice provost for diversity and engaged learning and chief diversity officer for Academic and Student Life. He is the first person to serve in this new position at Cal State LA.

“Dr. Villalpando will be instrumental in the development and implementation of the strategic planning for diversity and inclusion, as well as direct efforts to strengthen student learning and engagement,” says Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Lynn Mahoney.

With a student body that reflects the rich mix of Los Angeles—and a commitment to students first—Cal State LA is positioned to break new ground in the areas of diversity and student success, Villalpando says.  

“From just a purely scholarly and intellectual level, Cal State LA represents a unique opportunity in public higher education to take this concept of diversity and inclusion to a different level,” he says.

For Villalpando, returning to Los Angeles is a homecoming. He spent his childhood in the city's Boyle Heights neighborhood, not far from Cal State LA, and attended Tenth Street Elementary School. He moved with his family to Burbank and graduated from John Burroughs High School. 

As Villalpando worked toward his bachelor’s degree in sociology at Cal State Northridge, he helped develop the Minority Business Program in the College of Business Administration and Economics. The program has been described as the first of its kind in the California State University system. Villalpando later earned a master's degree in social foundations of education from Cal State Northridge. At UCLA, he earned a master’s degree and doctoral degree in higher education.

Villalpando comes to Cal State LA from the University of Utah, where he was the vice president for equity and diversity and a faculty member in the College of Education. As the university's chief diversity officer, he crafted policies and developed practices pertaining to gender, racial, ethnic and sexual equity and diversity. He also directed the LGBT resource center, the Center for Ethnic Studies Affairs and the American Indian Resource Center.

At Cal State LA, Villalpando’s goals include developing programs and initiatives to close the achievement gap, increase faculty diversity and strengthen community engagement. He plans to conduct listening tours with students, faculty and staff—an important first step in understanding the University community.  

At a time when federal policies could change with the incoming presidential administration, it's imperative that students know Cal State LA is committed to their well-being and academic success.

“The student body, faculty and staff need to feel reassured,” Villalpando says. “There has to be a visible response, especially for the students, so they can feel and see that the University continues to be committed to their success.”

Villalpando views these efforts as an integral part of Cal State LA’s mission of engagement, service, and the public good. And he’s looking forward to carrying out that mission.

“We’re here to serve the public good. That’s a message that resonates with educators,” Villalpando says. “It is just an amazing opportunity.”

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Cal State LA is a university dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 27,000 students and more than 247,000 distinguished alumni, who are as diverse as the city we serve. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, Cal State LA has long been recognized as an engine of economic and social mobility. Led by an award-winning faculty, the University offers nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education and the humanities.

Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex, TV, Film and Media Center and the Center for Engagement, Service, and the Public Good. For more information, visit