Cal State San Marcos History

California State University San Marcos (also CSUSM or Cal State San Marcos) is a campus of the California State University (CSU) system located in San Marcos, California, a suburban town in north San Diego County. It was founded in 1989 as the 20th CSU campus and was the first after nearly 30 years. The first class was admitted in 1990.


Efforts by community and political leaders to attract a state university to North County date back to 1968. In 1978, state legislator William A. Craven (1921-1999) won state funding for a North County satellite campus of San Diego State University. In 1989, Gov. George Deukmejian signed another Craven bill which established a CSU campus in San Marcos.

The state purchased land in San Marcos, including the former Prohoroff Poultry Farms chicken ranch. The hillside site lies approximately 8 miles (13 km) due east of the Pacific Ocean and 35 miles (40 km) due north of downtown San Diego. Today the campus comprises 304 acres (123 ha).

Cal State San Marcos' library

Bill Stacy was appointed president in June 1989. During the 1989-1990 academic year, Stacy hired 12 "Founding Faculty," who played an important role in the university's early years and today are memorialized in Founders Plaza.

CSUSM admitted upper division students and held classes from September 1990 through August 1992 in rented facilities in a San Marcos business park, alongside the North County campus of San Diego State. Groundbreaking for the permanent campus occurred on February 23, 1990. Classes began at the current campus in August 1992. Craven Hall was the third instructional building opened in December 1992, and the largest building up to that time at 155,000 square feet.

Since 1992, the campus has been growing steadily. Major additions over the subsequent decade include the Foundation Classroom Buildings (December 1996), University Hall (1998), a second Science building (August 2002) and the Arts building (August 2002). The largest building to date is Kellogg Library, opened January 2004 with nearly 200,000 square feet. The most recent addition is Markstein Hall (January 2006), home of the College of Business Administration.

President and Faculty

The university has had four presidents:

Bill Stacy (1989-1997), who left to become chancellor of the Chattanooga campus of the University of Tennessee

Alexander Gonzalez (1997-2003), previously the provost of the California State University, Fresno who left CSUSM to become president of the larger California State University, Sacramento

Roy McTarnaghan (2003-2004), interim president

Karen S. Haynes, (2004-), former president of University of Houston–Victoria, who joined CSUSM in February 2004

The university opened in 1990 with the 24 faculty. Today it employs 200 tenure-track and tenured faculty out of a total of 980 employees.


Originally, the university admitted only upper division students; enrollment in 1990-1991 was 448. The first freshman students entered in 1995, when enrollment totalled 3,642.

The university's enrollment (as of Fall 2006) was approximately 8,461 students; about two-thirds of the students were from San Diego County. Enrollment is projected to surpass 12,000 students in 2010 and 18,000 students by 2020. The campus master plan calls for an eventual enrollment of 25,000.

The university has three colleges: Arts & Sciences, Business Administration, and Education. In the 2002-2003 academic year, the most popular majors were Business Administration, Liberal Studies and the Multiple Subject (Elementary) Credential. The latter two majors are mainly used by those planning on becoming K-12 teachers.

The university is fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) for both Bachelors and Masters degree programs, receiving initial accreditation in 1993. The university is undergoing its seven year review, having just completed the Capacity and Preparatory Review visit in March 2007, and is expected to finalize the process in spring 2009 following the Educational Effectiveness Review. The school reduced the number of units needed to graduate. Some have criticized this policy change stating that students will not receive a liberal and broad education.

Campus culture

The school is a commuter campus, but approx. 600 students live in on-campus residence halls. Co-curricular programs and activities are sponsored by Associated Students, Incorporated, Student Life and Leadership, the Clarke Field House/University Student Union, and the University Village Apartments. There are more than 100 student organizations. The school attracts many students from the local community colleges like Palomar, as well as from the North San Diego County, Southern Orange County, and Southern Riverside County region.

In 2007, for the third straight year, Cal State San Marcos won first place in the nationwide RecycleMania contest.

The school is a typical commuter campus. It is referred to California State University Stair Master (CSUSM) because of its location on a hill.


The original mascot of the campus was established as the "Tukwut," the name for the California mountain lion in the language of the Luiseño Native American tribe. However, a 1999 student referendum selected the more generic "Cougars" as the name for all [CSUSM sports teams].

The school's team sports were, at one time, very limited with only teams in golf, cross country, and track & field (women's and men's teams in each). However, with the passing of a student fee referendum in 2005, Cal State San Marcos now additionally fields competitive teams in soccer (men's and women's), women's softball, and men's baseball. The official colors of the Cougars are bright/royal blue and white. In the early years, burgundy was used sparingly as an accent. Cougar athletic teams compete as independents in Region II of the NAIA. The school recently hired their first coaches in Baseball (Dennis Pugh) who coached at a local high school for decades, and Soccer (Ron Pulvers). In 2007, in the Softball program's second year, the school hired former UCLA All-American (Kelly Warren) who was previously the Associate Head Coach at San Diego State University. Steve Scott (aka "The Miler") is the Cougars' Cross Country and Track & Field coach.