Message from the Dean

Man with red tie and dark blue suit

Welcome to the College of Natural and Social Sciences (NSS)! My name is René Vellanoweth and I’m the dean of NSS. I am an archaeologist by training and have been part of the California State University System for over 20 years, serving as a professor, department chair, and now college dean. The College is made up of twelve diverse departments and programs, over 150 talented tenured and tenure-track faculty, scores of gifted adjunct lecturers, and an incredible staff. We serve almost 7,000 undergraduate and graduate students pursuing their career goals and personal dreams.

It is my honor to lead the college from which I graduated many years ago. Cal State LA has been home to me and my family spanning three generations and over 60 years. As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of Cal State LA over the coming months, I will feel a deep sense of connection and pride. In many ways, the history of our campus courses like a river through my veins, providing me incredible opportunities at every turn. The core of our existence on campus is to inspire and train the next generation of students to do great things in the world. As dean, it is my responsibility and my pleasure to support ways that students and faculty can succeed both in and out of the classroom. From inspiring lectures, meaningful discussions, revealing labs, and transformative field experiences, I will do my best to ensure that we meet the goals of higher education and provide you with the resources that you need to fulfill your aspirations.  

As an archaeologist, I would be remiss if I didn’t look back to the past to see where we might be going. Last year we successfully worked through difficult times and transitioned from predominantly remote learning experiences to more traditional in-person classes. We now understand how remote, online instruction can be effective in the right situations but also more deeply appreciate the critical role played by university experiences that happen on campus. Most of our classes this year will take place in-person, although we will continue to offer online courses as well. Our departments have painstakingly examined their curricula and converted appropriate classes so they can be offered in a variety of learning formats, including face-to-face, asynchronous online, and hybrid. We will continue to evaluate how the COVID pandemic has altered our lives and higher education, with a commitment to use cutting-edge technology and teacher ingenuity to improve the university experience. I look forward to working with associate deans Drs. Robert Nissen and Alison McCurdy and the campus community to facilitate these changes.  

Despite the difficulties posed by the pandemic, students graduated, many attending in-person ceremonies; faculty published articles and books and obtained research grants; staff worked tirelessly behind the scenes and face-to-face; and administrators continued to remove barriers to graduation and to improve university structures. In NSS, we created the Urban Ecology Center (UEC), a new entity on campus that focuses on environment and sustainability. The purpose of the UEC is to support the advancement of transdisciplinary research, education, and professional development with a focus on sustainable, equitable, and fair economic drivers, land use practices, and public policies. The UEC is an important new development on campus that highlights the role of urban centers and the global existential crises we face on climate, food insecurity, health discrepancies, and other environmental and social issues. I believe that Cal State LA is ideally positioned to be a leader in urban sustainable living. Please join me, Robert, and Alison over the coming months as we promote the UEC and make our campus a healthier, greener, and more sustainable place to live and learn.

Whether you are a first-time freshman, graduating senior, new graduate student, or someone in between, we look forward to serving you and making your experience at Cal State LA both rewarding and enjoyable!  




René Vellanoweth, Ph.D.

Dean and Professor of Archaeology