by LIZ ONUFER | photo courtesy of California State University San Marcos

Passionate about Higher Education and Community, Dr. Karen Haynes Leads CSUSM

Her curriculum vitae showcases a career committed to improving higher education, empowering women’s leadership, and increasing opportunities for underrepresented student populations. President of California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) and Vista resident since 2004, Dr. Karen Haynes is leading the collaboration of the college and community.


Name: Karen S. Haynes, Ph.D.
Profession: President of California State University San Marcos
Community: Vista since 2004
Hobbies: Traveling, reading, collecting kaleidoscopes, collecting 1940s carry-all purses
Favorite Local Spots: My own patio, pool, and view


“When I started my presidency at CSUSM, I felt a strong commitment to doing what was best for this region: educating traditionally underserved and diverse student populations, and those who would stay in our region and give back to their communities after graduation,” Karen explained. As a first generation college graduate herself who advanced to complete her doctorate in social work, Karen understands the challenges and impacts intimately. “I am, first and foremost, a macro-practitioner of social work,” she acknowledged. “Today we have gained national recognition for our efforts to attract and support traditionally underrepresented student populations, including ethnic minorities, American Indians, veterans, and former foster youth.”

For the last decade Karen has led CSUSM in considerable growth: doubling the number of buildings, opening the off-campus center in Temecula, greatly increasing the number of academic programs, and more than doubling student enrollment to nearly 14,000. “This year I shook the hands of some 2,650 proud CSUSM graduates. Every year when I see them walk across that stage, diverse in every aspect, I can’t help but be proud of what we are achieving together,” Karen shared.

Karen’s decision to relocate to Vista and accept the position at CSUSM was grounded in the school and community. “At the time, the university was only 14 years old. I saw that many people were drawn here for the same reason I was – to mold a new, truly unique and innovative university,” Karen stated. Her husband, Jim Mickelson, is the Director of ACE Scholars Services, supporting former foster youth at CSUSM and co-author of a textbook with Karen. Their professional lives were paired with parenting; they have three adult children and four grandchildren living across the United States.

Heading into her second decade at the helm of CSUSM, Karen looks forward to celebrating the school’s 25th anniversary. “For a quarter of a century, there has been great synergy between the university and our region. We have literally grown up together, coming of age as we have helped create and were fed and nurtured by, our region’s business, organizations, schools, neighborhoods, and cities,” Karen stated.