Living the Matador Life
Annual Report
Four student sitting in the lobby of the Sol Center, USU

Mission Statement

The mission of the University Student Union is to foster the achievement of students’ educational goals by facilitating a strong connection between students and their campus community.

We are an engaging and energetic campus program that develops students through inclusive activities, meaningful employment opportunities, leadership experiences and innovative technologies, facilities, and services.

Two students sitting in a meeting room smiling

Message from the Chair & Vice Chair

Jesus Martinez-Ramirez and Shahtaj Khan

It was another historic year for the University Student Union as it continued to serve as a home away from home for CSUN students by providing quality programs and services that help them fulfill their educational goals and enhance their college experience.

Even with the increase in CSUN enrollment, dynamic programs such as Matador Nights, Carnaval and Espressions at the USU helped students build a connection to the university and to each other. As expected, both the Pride Center and Veterans Resource Center provided a welcoming space for those communities, which resulted in the need to expand both centers by Fall 2015.

This year, the USU also opened the East Conference Center with its state-of-the-art meeting spaces for both student and off-campus groups. In addition to meeting rooms, the center includes a lactation room, a multi-faith room and a foot-washing station. Responding to research that pointed to lack of sleep and stress as barriers to student success, the USU began its next collaborative project — the construction of the Oasis Wellness Center for students, scheduled to open in the Fall 2015.

Continuing its mission to provide meaningful employment, the USU extended its various professional and personal development opportunities aimed at preparing more student employees for the workforce. The USU is now the largest employer of students on the CSUN campus with more than 400 student employees.

Students became agents of change through a series of diversity training events hosted by the USU to raise students’ cultural awareness. Both student employees and student representatives of the Board of Directors took part in these trainings. Similarly, an Inclusive Language Campaign was launched to help the campus community become more aware of the power that our words can have on others.

The USU has truly changed our lives and the lives of the other students it serves, so it is with great excitement that we look forward to the year ahead.

Jesus Martinez-Ramirez
Chair, Board of Directors

Shahtaj Khan
Vice Chair, Board of Directors

Staff and students from the USU Business Services department sit in a meeting

Message from the Executive Director

Debra L. Hammond
Life’s most persistent and urgent question is,
‘What are you doing for others?’
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

That question posed by the civil rights leader is one that we ask ourselves often at the University Student Union. Servant leadership is the framework from which I operate, as do most of our employees. We understand the relationship between our work and the CSUN students that we serve. Without them, we would have no purpose, and so it is for them that we assess, plan, design and execute our programs, facilities and services.

This was the year that we delved into the comprehensive Program Review, examining 75% of our work. From our mission statement to ethics, diversity and technology, hundreds of documents, photographs and videos were examined against standards set by the Council for the Advancement of Standards to measure our work against nationally accepted practices. For months, the work consumed us while departments and campus partners combed through our methodologies, processes, procedures and results. Next, an external review team comprised of four student union professionals from throughout the nation came to speak to our staff and student employees, read our self-review and render its own opinion about what we do well and where we might lean in to have an even greater impact on students.

Our remaining programs (25%), featuring student recreation and wellness, LGBTQ and Veterans programs will take place in the years ahead.

If you have ever been through such an examination, you know how humbling and refreshing it is. Thankfully, we received high marks from the external team, which also pointed us in a few new directions — changes and improvements that we will begin planning and executing next fiscal year as we continue to ask, “What are we doing for CSUN students?”

This year’s report features the outstanding work of the Finance and Business Services Department with its stellar record of achievement and its tremendous impact on the careers of students and staff alike. I invite you to discover more about this team in our Featured Department section and learn how it and our entire organization are making a difference.

Debra L. Hammond
Debra L. Hammond
Executive Director

Two USU Business Services staff smiling in front of a computer

Featured Department: Business Services

Midway through her work experience as a student business assistant in Administration, Communications Studies Major Febe Vargas (’14) juggled two potential career paths — student affairs or accounting. Each one interested her and played to her talents, but she was at a crossroads.

Vargas is one of many student assistant employees whose career path came into sharp focus thanks to the mentorship they sought and accepted from the Finance and Business Services department.

“The mentorship I received from the Business Services department was truly priceless,” said Vargas, who chose to pursue accounting and currently serves as plan administrator for Kravitz, Inc. in Encino, California.

“Being a college student comes with challenging decisions which affect the trajectory of your future. Having the right support system that fosters openness, growth and clear guidance is absolutely vital. The Business Services department encompasses these aspects, preparing students for life beyond college.”

Vargas joined the dozens of employees from 24 different USU departments who have learned the principles of budget management from members of the Business Services team.

“We are here to provide support to USU departments with their financial documents and to help them manage their financial resources effectively,” said Joe Illuminate, Associate Director of Finance and Business Services. “[We teach them] to be in compliance with state and federal regulations and to keep financial documents accurate.”

With a team of eight staff and three student employees, the department has amassed a record of exemplary performance. This was the 12th consecutive year that the corporation has received unmodified audit opinions, which is the best opinion that an audit firm can bestow on its client, Illuminate said.

Under Accounts Receivable Technician Tamika Braud’s watchful eye, the balance for the accounts receivable operating budget was below $33,000 as of June 30, 2015, according to Illuminate. As a standard, the balance should never exceed $50,000. In addition, there has been a zero balance for dishonored checks for six years and no write-offs for the past four years, he said.

At the core of the department’s performance success is its role as a resource and educator. The department has collaborated with CSUN business seniors taking an audit course by having students create a flowchart of its business processes. Master of Science in Accounting candidates provided the USU with a financial ratio analysis based on financial data.

Three Board of Directors subcommittees pertain to finance — the Finance Committee, Audit Committee and Retirement Committee. Most are primarily comprised of CSUN students and Illuminate serves as the executive secretary of each to provide orientation training, promote student participation during meetings, encourage students to select one goal and accomplish it, present recommendations to the board and make the most of the experience.

The same devotion is found when it comes to mentoring student assistants who work in the USU’s Business Services office.

“We train students on how to prepare monthly financial statements,” said Accounting Manager Jonathan Navarro. “Our student assistants offer purchasing support to USU staff and students.”

Arianna Mesbahi (’14 double major in Marketing and Business Law with a minor in Finance) who worked as student assistant in the Business Services department, now serves as a program coordinator for the nonprofit organization Girls Inc. 

“In my three years working with Business Services, I was not only given the tools that would allow me to become successful, but I was also given an environment that would give me ample opportunities to grow,” Mesbahi said. “Each employee in the department would be available [for me] to seek any professional advice from, genuinely wanting to see each of their students succeed.”

Mesbahi credits every member of the team for helping her realize her full potential.

“I am extremely grateful for the experience. It’s one of the greatest places I’ve ever been employed.,” she said.

Annually, the business team hosts a budget retreat where upper management, managers, coordinators and supervisors who oversee budgets join their student assistants for a half day of training. This training gives an overview of the U.S. economy and touches on the state economy before narrowing in on the corporate budget. Staff members have described this training helping their understanding of the economies and their budgets.

Navarro said the business team stays abreast of trends by attending professional development conferences and seminars that include the National Association of College Auxiliary Services (NACAS) Annual Conference, the Annual Auxiliary Organization Association (AOA) Conference and the American Payroll Association (APA) Conference.

Former students of the department have gone on to intern for National Geographic, serve as the Director of Admissions at the California Institute of Advanced Management (CIAM), the Disbursement Supervisor at CSUN’s University Cash Services and as the USU Cashier. One of them has been accepted into a Public Administration doctoral program at the University of La Verne, while current student assistant Taylor Cubas, seeks to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

“Jonathan Navarro was my supervisor and I worked with him directly every day,” said Penny Li, Director of Admissions at CIAM in El Monte. “He was willing to share his professional knowledge and expertise in the field with me and answered any questions that I had, anytime. He also demonstrated a positive attitude in the office and acted as a positive role model, meaning that people liked to be with him and felt secure to ask questions.”

Li gives credit for the effectiveness of the team to Associate Director Illuminate.

“Joe is an expert in Finance and Accounting, which made our department operate productively and successfully,” said Li. “He always demonstrated specific and necessary behaviors and actions to guide the team toward success. He exhibited his enthusiasm in leading the team, and also was committed himself to helping and empowering us to develop our own strengths.”

USU Business Services student staff smiling

Business Services Highlights

Calendar Icon

Celebrated the 12th consecutive year that the USU has received unmodified audit opinions, which is the best opinion that an audit firm can bestow on a client.

Debra L. Hammond teaching a class

Administration Highlights

Executive Director Debra L. Hammond and Coordinator of Special Initiatives Kingson Leung each taught graduate courses in the Educational Psychology and Counseling program, guiding students in the principles of student development theory, campus environments and assessment.

Swimmer in the SRC Rec Pool

Student Recreation Center Aquatics Highlights

First Aid Icon
community American Red Cross
courses in CPR,
AED (Automated External Defibrillators)
and First Aid to

Swim Lessons

70 adult swim lessons


33 children swim lessons


Students at the USU Computer Lab

Computer Lab Highlights

Icon of Person Working at a Computer
Served more than
CSUN students
Icon of Person Working at a Computer
Average of
unique students served monthly
Three students sitting in a meeting

Human Resources Highlights

Person Icon
Signed in
new employees
Icon of Person on a Computer

Rolled out implementation and user-training for Taleo, an online recruiting software program designed to better manage the approximate 5,500 applications the USU receives annually for student employment

Close up of intramural champions t-shirt

Student Recreation Center Intramurals Highlights

900 games and contests
More than
games and contests
3,096 Matadors
Played by
Maintenance staff working in the Veterans Resource Center

Maintenance Highlights

Hammer and Wrench Icon
work orders including everything from facility maintenance requests to contributions for special events

Marketing Highlights

Provided strategic direction and full creative services to produce 4,590 deliverables, such as posters, fliers, scroll wheels, emails, etc.

Won six “Steal This Idea” awards at the 2014 Association of College Unions International (ACUI) Region I Conference and two awards at the 2014 ACUI Annual Conference.

Social Media

Facebook Fans, 2013–2014

5,283 USU
USU Facebook Fans
1,168 Games Room
Games Room Facebook Fans
4,586 SRC
SRC Facebook Fans
366 Pride Center
Pride Center Facebook Fans
162 VRC
VRC Facebook Fans

Facebook Fans, 2014–2015

5,728 USU
USU Facebook Fans
1,191 Games Room
Games Room Facebook Fans
4,833 SRC
SRC Facebook Fans
602 Pride Center
Pride Center Facebook Fans
311 VRC
VRC Facebook Fans

Twitter Followers, 2013–2014

3,017 USU
USU Twitter Followers
1,409 SRC
SRC Twitter Followers
374 Pride Center
Pride Center Twitter Followers
196 VRC
VRC Twitter Followers

Twitter Followers, 2014–2015

3,682 USU
USU Twitter Followers
1,903 SRC
SRC Twitter Followers
495 Pride Center
Pride Center Twitter Followers
272 VRC
VRC Twitter Followers

Instagram Followers, 2013–2014

2,756 USU
USU Instagram Followers
2,454 SRC
SRC Instagram Followers

Instagram Followers, 2014–2015

4,304 USU
USU Instagram Followers
3,251 SRC
SRC Instagram Followers
437 Oasis
Oasis Instagram Followers

Text Message Users, 2013–2014

Text Message Users

Text Message Users, 2014–2015

Text Message Users
View of the SRC indoor track and Red Ring Courts

Student Recreation Center Membership Services Highlights

Student Recreation Center
User participations at the Student Recreation Center (SRC) since opening its doors in 2012
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SRC user participations during the
2014–2015 academic year
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members used the SRC, setting a one-day record in the spring
Customer Service Attendant helps a patron at the USU front desk

Operations Highlights

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Question Icon
in-person questions
Call Icon
telephone calls
Students in the Pride Center

Pride Center Highlights

52 average student visits per day, 2013-2014

52 average student visits
per day, 2013–2014

61 average student visits per day, 2014-2015

61 average student visits
per day, 2014–2015

26 LGBTQ Awareness trainings facilitated

26 LGBTQ Awareness
Trainings facilitated, reaching
689 participants

85 programs and events

85 programs and events that served 2,683 participants

Reservations and Event Services Highlights

Reservation Icon
room and space reservations serviced for student groups, university departments and off-campus requests
Meeting Icon
number of times student employees
reset meeting rooms
Setup Icon

Set Up and
Tear Down

374 sound systems
35,149 tables
273,549 chairs

Campers at Sunny Days Camp

Sunny Days Camp Highlights

Sun Icon
campers hosted
Banner on the USU Sol Center during We (Heart) Our Veterans Week Celebration

Veterans Resource Center Highlights

Presentation Icon
Veteran Awareness Trainings were given to
CSUN faculty, staff and students
  • Rainn Wilson speaks at the Valley Performing Arts Center
  • Inclusive Language Campaign on the windows of the USU Sol Center
  • Flags in front of the Oviatt Library in observance of Veterans Day
  • Matty the Matador hypes up the crowd at Matador Nights
  • Students dance in the Plaza del Sol during the Carnaval event
  • Student band performing at Student Showcase in the Plaza del Sol Performance Hall


Student Connection, Entertainment and Awareness set the theme for USU events this year.


To connect students in a deeper way to themselves and others, actor Rainn Wilson, best known as the eccentric character Dwight Schrute on the NBC show The Office, brought his SoulPancake: Chewing on Life’s Big Questions lecture to CSUN’s Valley Performing Arts Center. Wilson, whose SoulPancake media and production company creates inspiring content related to the human experience, spoke to more than 740 students about art, philosophy, creativity and spirituality.

The USU launched the Inclusive Language Campaign to shed light on the power of our words. Words can hurt and words can heal — the choice is yours. The Soapbox: A Celebration of Free & Inclusive Speech introduced students to the concept of inclusive language with performances by Aleshea Harris and the CSUN Poetry Slam Team as Matadors were encouraged to speak on camera in the “Vent Tent” about hurtful speech. During the Word Bubble event, students posted the words and phrases they find personally offensive on the Sol Center’s windows.


Each year, students are welcomed to campus in the fall with the annual Matafest event. More than 2,200 students joined the boardwalk-themed celebration that spanned both afternoon and evening hours. Weeks later, the Old West came alive at the 22nd installment of Matador Nights, the hugely popular bi-annual late-night event that always brings a crowd to the USU. More than 4,300 Matadors filled the Plaza del Sol in September where the open-air space was turned into a western playground.

The 18th annual Carnaval, a celebration of global diversity, showcased Gamelan Music, Egyptian Dancers, Afro-Caribbean Dancers, Hindi Film Dancers, Native American Dance and Music, Brazilian Samba Dancers, CSUN Jishin Taiko, Chinese Lion Dance, and Persian, Armenian and Polynesian Dancers. The experiential, educational and cultural program exposed more than 2,000 Matadors to foods from around the world. Students even got to learn the word hello in various languages.

Music Night, Noontime Concerts, Laugh Your Class Off comedy shows and Billiards and Table Tennis Gaming Tournaments were also a part of the entertainment lineup presented by the USU.


Renowned journalist, author and LGBTQ activist Andrew Sullivan shared his experiences with early gay activism, living with HIV, and the LGBTQ community during a Q&A with Andrew Sullivan. The USU celebrated National Coming-Out Day and also held an LGBTQA Perspectives Panel to continue the discussion of relevant topics. For World AIDS Day, the USU, in collaboration with CSUN’s Services Tele-health and Rapid Testing (START), spoke to students about HIV and AIDS awareness and advocated the importance of getting tested.

Students during the USU Student Summit


Year-End Celebration Awards

Student Assistants of the Year
Jorge Lopez
Samantha Simmonds

Staff Member of the Year
Jimmy Francis

Aida C. Salazar Award
Samantha Simonds

BOD Committee Member of the Year Award
Asia Wheaton

Board Chair Award
Jesus Martinez-Ramirez

Proctor Award
Kingson Leung

Janie “JJ” Jones Outstanding Team of the Year Award
BOD Chair & Vice Chair
(Jesus Martinez-Ramirez, Shahtaj Khan)
Program Review Team
(Ani Avetisyan, Sharon Eichten, Jeremy Hamlett,
Debra L. Hammond, Joe Illuminate, Linda Kang,
Shahtaj Khan, Sharon Kinard, Kingson Leung, Samantha Liu,
Jesus Martinez-Ramirez, James Matzen, Carol Nardini,
Kristen Pichler, Isaac Simon, Shanell Tyus, Brandon Urtiz)

Commitment Award
Tamika Braud
Chelsea Herman
Neda Nickfardjam
Usman Kamil

Most Inspirational Student Assistant Employee
Jimmy Guevara

Most Resourceful Student Assistant
Peruza Gevorgyan

Spirit Award
Sally Harrison
Vince Palaganas
Brianna Wilcox

Students in the USU Ball Pit

Financial Statements

Statement of Financial Position 2015  
Current Assets    
Cash and cash equivalents $1,815,482
Short-term investments $1,500,003
Accounts receivable, net $56,727
Prepaid expenses and other
Total Current Assets $3,438,538
Property and equipment, net $763,091
TOTAL ASSETS $4,201,629
Current liabilities
Accounts payable $720,635
Accrued expenses $560,148
Deferred revenue $297,723
Current portion of postretirement benefit payable $5,876
Total current liabilities $1,584,382
Postretirement benefit payable, net of current portion $1,501,882
Statement of Activities 2015  
Operating revenues
Student activity fees $11,177,771
Program revenue $478,486
Rental income $729,903
Recreation center income $759,462
Commission income $67,690
Other income $69,436
Total operating revenues $13,282,748
Operating expenses
Program services $11,831,843
General and administrative $1,119,073
Total operating expenses $12,950,916
Change in net assets from operating activities $331,832
Nonoperating (expense) revenue
Pension related changes other than net periodic pension costs ($275,865)
Interest income $264
Transfer to the University ($3,752)
Net nonoperating expense ($279,353)
Change in net assets $52,479
Net assets, beginning of year, as previously reported $1,221,430
Restatement for accrued payroll* ($158,544)
Net assets, beginning of year, as restated $1,062,886
Net assets, end of year $1,115,365

*In order to conform to generally accepted accounting principles and properly reflect accrued expenses, the Union recorded an accrual for payroll at June 30, 2014. As a result of this change, accrued expenses at June 30, 2014 were increased by $158,544, and net assets as of June 30, 2014 were decreased by the same amount to $1,062,886.