Matador statue surrounded by campus scenes and smiling students


Creativity, Collaboration and Community Building During Unparalleled Times

University Student Union
California State University, Northridge

USU Sol Center

Mission Statement

The University Student Union, as the heart of campus, uplifts and empowers students to achieve educational, personal and professional goals by providing leadership development, meaningful employment, and innovative programs, services and facilities. We promote equity, inclusion and well- being, while encouraging social justice advocacy to help Matadors feel heard, respected and connected to CSUN.


From the Executive Director

Creativity, collaboration, and community building were at the forefront of the University Student Union (USU) in 2021–2022 as Matadors sojourned to campus amid the emergence of a new college experience.

Following 16 months of online courses and work-from-home mandates, students, staff and faculty once again were in the plaza with backpacks, bikes and a curiosity about how much might have changed since the pandemic called for a swift closure in March 2020.

Creative collaborations launched the fall semester with safety protocols that provided masks, and hand sanitizers to students, and put safer distancing markers on floors and walkways. Computer workstations, keyboards, and equipment were sanitized after each use, while powerful air filters were added to air conditioning ducts, and all-virtual programming shifted to a hybrid model.

We were forced to prioritize and reprioritize, create and re-create, and work and re-work plans. Yet, we never wavered from the USU commitment to students. As the heart of campus at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), we harnessed the best of our student-majority Board of Directors and staffs to continue providing leadership development, meaningful employment, and innovative programs, services and facilities. We asked Matadors what they needed most and we listened. By outreaching to campus and community partners, we then found solutions that enhanced CSUN’s communities.

We learned about the pandemic’s devastating impact on families that lost jobs during the shutdown, and shattered many caregivers’ ability to support students. When the Board of Directors heard students’ call for help with fulfilling the basic needs of food, shelter, books and supplies, it rallied to approve scholarships and distribute care packages to first-time freshmen and transfer students. Collaborations with University Counseling Services, the CSUN Food Pantry, CSUN Temporary Emergency Housing/Rapid-Rehousing, and the USU’s HEAL Project among other partnerships addressed other gaps to keep Matadors focused on their graduation goals.

Author Gary Burnison coined the term, “ambigility” as the act of responding and not reacting in times of ambiguity. As Burnison says, “When ambiguity abounds — agility is our response.” In effect, that is what we did. We changed, we transformed, and we developed new skills, mindsets, and new ways of being and collaborating to help Matadors succeed.

Debra L. Hammond

Debra L. Hammond Signature

Debra L. Hammond
USU Executive Director

Alberto Martinez and Jacob Akopnik

Alberto Martinez
Chair, USU Board of Directors
Summer/Fall 2021

Jacob Akopnik
USU Board of Directors
Summer/Fall 2021

From the USU Board of Directors
Chair & Vice Chair

The University Student Union (USU) at California State University, Northridge exemplified what it meant to create positive change in 2021–2022. Through programs, services and meaningful employment, the return to campus brought back in-person elements that were dearly missed during two years of the virtual university.

By rekindling the Matador campus experience, lively events encouraged student empowerment and community. Matador favorites like USU Night Market and Carnaval sparked creativity, collaboration and community. Students transitioned back to campus with excitement, whether connecting with their mental and physical health, or reflecting on their campus/community involvement and advocacy.

The reopening of the Student Recreation Center (SRC) and Oasis Wellness Center saw students reaching fitness and wellness goals, while the in-person support of CSUN faculty and USU staff was remarkable, evidenced by the overwhelming number of students who told us they benefited from the mentorship, guidance, and resources.

As student financial needs emerged, the Board of Directors (BOD) approved the cost and distribution of welcomed care packages to first-time freshman and transfers, implemented a bookstore scholarship program, and finalized both a Justice Scholarship and emergency funding to aid first-time and continuing Matadors.

The Board’s determination to address and care for students’ needs was a rewarding experience for us. Students expressed how the Board’s efforts supported their endeavors.

The USU now looks toward the future and even better days filled with love and light. Our drive and commitment to our mission and values will continue to change students’ lives. As Brazilian lyricist and novelist Paulo Coelho said, “If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello.”

Jacob Akopnik and Giselle Olmedo Torres

Jacob Akopnik
Chair, USU Board of Directors
Winter/Spring 2022

Giselle Olmedo Torres
USU Board of Directors
Winter/Spring 2022

Musical performer surrounded by scenes of the University Student Union


Thriving Student Life with Food, Music and Fun Activities

USU Night Market and Carnaval

Matador favorites USU Night Market and Carnaval returned after two years with an array of food trucks that dished up diverse cuisines. Live performances served as a backdrop for students who socialized face-to- face with peers on campus.

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What You Want Wednesdays

The USU introduced What You Want Wednesdays, offering more than 760 students meals from fan favorites Chipotle, Subway, Corner Bakery and more.

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Noontime Concerts and Sunset Jams

Open-air concerts were the scene for local artists and performers of Noontime Concerts which replaced virtual Sunset Jams.

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Crunch Time

Designed to ease student stress during final examinations, Crunch Time emphasized wellness and fun with Craft Corner, yoga, and cardio classes led by Student Recreation Center instructors. Free breakfasts and exam supplies were provided.

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Sex Week

The Pride Center embraced sex positivity with empowering and educational events that created space for safe, inclusive conversations about sex, sexuality and intimacy. Events included My Body is Art: Paint ‘n Sip, a sexual health keynote presentation by CSUN faculty member Bobbie Emetu, Kinky Karaoke and Sex Toy Party.

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Mystic Evening

This spooky circus-inspired celebration delivered a tarot card reader, photobooth, caricaturist, haunted maze and hypnotist show.

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Spring Fest

This virtual scavenger hunt prompted Matadors to “roam” around campus in search of key campus locations.

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Games Room Tournaments

The Games Room was abuzz as a growing CSUN gaming community returned ready to match their skills with a catalog of tournaments for a chance to win prizes.

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Community Activities

The Pride Center, DREAM Center, and Veterans Resource Center staged friendly gaming competitions like Adventures of the USUniverse, Gaming Trivia Night, Gayme Night, and VRC Game Night.

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Connecting Through Art

Artistic Expressions

Students immersed themselves in art expressions while connecting with others at Craft Corner, All That Art, Paint and No Sip Night and Queerations.

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CSUN student creating art piece
Student participates in USU All That Art event

Amplifying Voices on Social Media

SMAC (Social Media Advocacy Campaign)

The Social Media Advocacy Campaign educated students about injustices around the world through an informational campaign on Instagram. More than 11,200 people who follow the @csun_usu Instagram account had access to topics about adult attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) awareness, women’s reproductive rights, the DREAM Center, Black History Month, National Deaf Month, the gender wage gap, and the HIV/ AIDS Epidemic.

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Influencer Series

UFC fighter Henry Cejudo and Ndidi Onukwulu joined the Spring Influencer Series to share how they achieved success, and how they used social media to amplify their careers.

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USU Matador Spotlight

The USU Marketing Department launched a digital series that highlighted Matadors whose involvement with CSUN organizations enhanced their university experience. Installments featured the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA), American Marketing Association (AMA), Autonomy Research for STEAHM (ARCS), and the USU Board of Directors (BOD).

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USU BOD Instagram Launch

The USU Board of Directors (BOD) launched its first Instagram account to raise Matador awareness about the programs, services and facilities created by the 16-member board that is comprised mostly of students (10 members). Its aim: alert students about their ability to grow their talents by serving as a member of the Board or its standing committees and gain real-world development in leadership, stewardship, and decision-making.

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CSUN students surrounded by scenes of the University Student Union


Critical Reflection and Action Through the Power of Knowledge

Examining Our Campus and Moving Forward Together

The USU Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Department (DEI), in collaboration with the University Counseling Services (UCS), Office of Student Success, Department of Africana Studies, Black House and Associated Students (AS), encouraged Matadors to envision how they could influence higher education towards a future of anti-racism, racial equity and decolonization that is free of microaggressions. Special guests featured prominent activists Angela Davis and Dr. Ibram X Kendi.

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Palestine: History Repeating Itself

The USU, in collaboration with CSU Dominguez Hill’s Loker Student Union, hosted Palestine: History Repeating Itself. Students heard from a panel of knowledgeable activists and scholars about injustices against marginalized communities and how they can make a difference through their own commitment to both national and global solidarity.

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Deported Veterans

The Veterans Resource Center and DREAM Center facilitated a panel discussion about the complex social justice cases of deported veterans. Veteran Joseph Silvia showcased his photography featuring deported veterans.

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Disrupting Racism Through the Lens of Langston Hughes

In collaboration with University Library, this presentation about the Harlem Renaissance provided social commentary on racism experienced by Africans across the diaspora.

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Prioritizing Student Needs

Transgender Town Halls and Transgender Experience Survey

The Pride Center collaborated with CSUN’s LGBTQIA+ Advisory Committee to organize Transgender Town Halls and a Transgender Student Experience Survey. Trans students voiced their demands and feedback to create a set of recommendations for additional support for the community, which were shared with University leadership.

transgender symbol

Esports Space

In Fall 2021, the Games Room reopened with a newly renovated Esports Space that was created in partnership with Associated Students and the Esports Club with financial support by donor Bill Imada. Imada, a CSUN alum, is chairman and Chief Connectivity Officer of IW Group, Inc., an agency that connects clients with multicultural and cross-generational consumers.

Decorated with colorful lights, new paint, carpet and furniture developed and coordinated by the USU Maintenance, Operations, Reservations & Event Services and Technology Support Services (TSS) departments, students experienced PC and console gaming, and billiards in a revitalized space. The average number of Games Room participants per day jumped from 90 to 300 with the addition of the Esports Space.

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Support for Undocumented Students

The DREAM Center (Dreamers, Resources, Empowerment, Advocacy, and Mentorship) arranged for undocumented Matadors from diverse backgrounds to receive legal appointments and connections to supportive resources. With donations from The Change Reaction, a Los Angeles-based charitable foundation that targets vetted giving to those in greatest need, students received counsel and strategies that included the renewal of their Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applications. This support was made possible by the dedicated effort and collaboration with the Central American Resource Center of Los Angeles (CARECEN), the CSU Legal Project Team, and other universities.

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Undocu-Ally Presentations

The DREAM Center provided Undocu-Ally presentations to USU and campus departments to encourage Matadors to support the undocumented community.

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Closeup of hands holding a gaming controller

HEAL Project

Through individual consultations, the HEAL Project assisted students with complex challenges. Examples include a transfer student who needed specific information about CSUN services and resources and a student undergoing chemotherapy who asked about campus learning support accommodations. Because of the HEAL Project staff’s strong relationships with on-campus and off- campus entities, students received accommodations and services throughout the year. Partnerships included the Basic Needs Department, Transfer Student Alliance, University Counseling Services (UCS), Student Housing and Residential Life, Los Angeles LGBT Center, and the North Hollywood Interfaith Food Pantry.

Of the students who completed a survey about The Heal Project services:


The HEAL Project respected my identity and validated my experience(s)


The HEAL Project provided helpful referral services


The HEAL Project helped (them) overcome barriers to accessing resources


The HEAL Project created a sense of belonging for me


Would recommend the HEAL Project to other students

Strongly Agreed

Moderately Agreed

Neither Agreed nor Disagreed

USU Board of Directors (BOD) Support

Menstrual Products

In partnership with Associated Students, the USU placed multiple menstrual product dispensers in USU restrooms. The products were provided at no cost to students.

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Welcome Packages

The BOD gave welcome gift packages to select first-time freshmen and first-time transfer students as they began their CSUN journeys.

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Emergency Funding

To help relieve students’ stress related to textbook and class supplies costs, the BOD approved and implemented a bookstore scholarship program. In addition, it finalized Emergency Funding programs to aid LGBTQIA+ and undocumented communities, and those in need of temporary housing.

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Social Justice Scholars

The Board created social justice scholarships for enrolled students who actively seek to enhance justice for African American, American Indian, Asian American/Pacific Islander, and Latinx/a/o communities.

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Celebrating the Return to Campus

Afternoon Kickback with Dr. Beck

As part of CSUN President Dr. Erica Beck’s investiture activities, the USU, Associated Students, Student Development and Transitional Programs, The University Corporation (TUC) and Chartwells collaborated to host an afternoon community event with live music, dancing and free food. Campus student leaders, including USU Student Representatives, presented Dr. Beck with gifts.

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Operation 48

The Veterans Resource Center worked with Associated Students Outdoor Adventures to take veterans on a camping/whitewater rafting trip. Through reflection and team activities, they gained a better understanding of themselves and bonded with other student veterans.

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Matadors Forward Ambassadors Program

During the initial weeks of the return to in-person classes, USU staff and student employees, along with numerous university staff and administrators, populated stations in the Plaza del Sol and major pathways throughout campus. They welcomed students to campus with maps, water bottles, masks, navigation tools, and COVID-19 safety materials.

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CSUN students surrounded by scenes of the University Student Union

Community Building

Career Development

Queer in Your Career and Elevate

The Pride Center hosted Queer in Your Career and the Veterans Resource Center hosted Elevate. Both programs encouraged students’ career aspirations by hearing from professionals in their communities who shared their wisdom from a range of fields. Students networked and gained insight into various careers that interested them.

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UndocuGrad Program and Beyond Bachelors Part II: What Should I Know About the Application Process?

The DREAM Center and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion staff guided undocumented and first-generation students who were interested in pursuing graduate school with a how-to lesson about navigating the admissions process, financial aid, and residency applications.

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Undocu-Entrepreneurship: Building a business without DACA and Women’s Entrepreneurship Panels

Two entrepreneurship panels featured a diverse set of business owners whose stories about their journeys to success, financial stability and accomplishments were designed to motivate Matadors to initiate their own innovative careers. The Undocu-Entrepreneurship panel was hosted by the DREAM Center in collaboration with Immigrants Rising and Spark. The Women’s Entrepreneurship panel was hosted by WISDOM, a part of the USU Black Student Success Initiatives program.

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Student holding a tablet

USU Employment Program

As part of their exit-interview process, USU student assistant employees completed an optional employment survey and reported the following about their student union work experience.

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USU Student Employment Program
Exit Survey

90%: My USU work experience helped me find purpose in my university experience

94%: My USU work experience contributed to my campus or community engagement as a Matador

88%: My USU work experience contributed to my success as a CSUN student.

Lean in!
I was resistant to change at first as we were transitioning back to campus or when I made a mistake, but those experiences helped me grow and made my experience at the USU more meaningful.

Never give up!
Because sometimes, you don’t see results immediately, but if you keep working hard, you’ll see them at some point.

Student Assistant Employee Peer Advice Quotes

Collected from post-employee exit survey

Matadors Found Communities in Support Groups

Lavender Takeover and T-Time

The Pride Center fostered strong bonds between LGBTQIA+ community members with discussion groups the Lavender Takeover and T-Time. In addition, peer mentors helped students navigate campus protocols and services.

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Coffee Talks

The DREAM Center brought together a student-led “brave space” for conversations about issues relevant to immigrant communities.

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The Blend and Women to Women

The VRC provided a community for veterans of all identities who could openly discuss challenges they face and find support.

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WISDOM Sister Circle and Black Male Scholars (Barbershop Talks and Black Chat)

The USU Black Student Success Initiatives program in collaboration with University Counseling Services (UCS) provided community and support through discussion spaces and programming for African American students, those from the African diaspora and allies.

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Welcoming and Celebrating Diverse Identities

Women’s History Month, Coming Out of the Shadows, Around the Block with QTPOC, Trans Empowerment Week, Salute to Service and Black History Month

Throughout the year, the Pride Center, DREAM Center, Veterans Resource Center and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion empowered communities through a variety of special events that celebrated intersectional identities. Events included:

The Pride Center’s Women’s History Month that featured LGBTQIA+ women, Around the Block with QTPOC and Trans Empowerment Week supporting trans students of color.

The VRC’s Salute to Service honored student veterans and the military-connected community.

The DREAM Center’s Coming Out of the Shadows which uplifted the identities of undocumented folx.

Black History Month events that celebrated the worldwide contributions of African Americans.

Resource Centers’ Welcoming Events

To help students settle into the school year, the DREAM Center, Pride Center and Veterans Resource Center held hybrid welcoming events, where students became familiar with faculty, staff, resources and services and deepened their connection to the campus.

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Cultural Welcomes

Matadors connected with their Latinx, Asian American Pacific Islander, African American and American Indian communities on campus at Cultural Welcomes. Resources and a supportive network of students, faculty, and staff were shared with in-coming students.

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Rainbow Graduation, VRC Graduation Celebration and Undocu Graduation

The Pride Center, DREAM Center and VRC celebrated their graduating community members with in-person graduation celebrations. Students gave speeches, were handed awards and scholarships, and were honored for their achievements.

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Achieving Health and Wellness

student working out with kettlebells

Student Recreation Center (SRC) 10-Year Anniversary

Reaching its 10th anniversary in 2022, the SRC@10 program celebrated the milestone with programs and events that promoted fitness and wellness, including Spring Into Wellness. The event kicked off with a reception for student, university, and student union leaders, colleagues and vendors who took part in the creation of the 118,000 square-foot facility.

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Hybrid Fitness and Wellness Classes

The SRC and Oasis Wellness Center began the year with virtual classes and in-person versions to support members who desired options in both spaces.

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Build a Workout

The SRC’s new service, Build a Workout, helped SRC members optimize their fitness experience by connecting them with a Personal Trainer to discuss fitness goals and create a four-week training program that members would implement on their own.

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Summertastic! RECreate into Wellness Campaign

The SRC and Oasis Wellness Center celebrated the summer and kept Matadors engaged by offering 20 programs and events for the CSUN community.

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Preparing Students for
Campus and Beyond

Adulting 101 and Let’s Talk About Budgets

Life skill workshops, including Adulting 101 and Let’s Talk About Budgets, presented students with valuable life skills designed to help them navigate aspects of life such as graduation, budgeting and moving out. Adulting 101 — an ongoing hybrid series — gave students insight about adulthood from folx who successfully made the transition.

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Cultivating Community Connections

Operation Veteran-Owned Businesses (VOB)

The VRC highlighted Veteran-owned and military-connected businesses each month through Instagram and provided Matadors with the chance to receive vouchers for the establishments.

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Student using a calculator on a cell phone
CSUN students surrounded by scenes of the University Student Union

Financial Statements

Statement of Financial Position

  2022 2021
Current assets
Cash and cash equivalents 929,889 796,975
Short-term investments 9,539,805 8,500,528
Accounts receivable, net 17,809 37,549
Prepaid expenses and other 93,612 100,347
Total current assets 10,581,115 9,435,399
Property and equipment, net 400,766 524,116
Total assets 10,981,881 9,959,515
Liabilities and Net Assets
Current liabilities
Accounts payable 129,571 343,552
Accrued expenses 1,011,286 1,071,351
Deferred revenue 256,404 92,700
Current portion of postretirement benefit payable 26,760 35,417
Total current liabilities 1,424,021 1,543,020
Commitments and contingencies
Postretirement benefit payable, net of current portion 2,230,081 3,149,728
Total liabilities 3,654,102 4,692,748
Net assets, without donor restrictions 7,327,779 5,266,767
Total liabilities and net assets 10,981,881 9,959,515

Statement of Activities

  2022 2021
Operating revenues
Student activity fees 14,205,060 14,614,076
Program revenue 300,095 67,415
Rental income 547,339 513,218
Recreation center income 302,154 84,777
Grant revenue 476,896 382,916
Other income 585,885 249,145
Total operating revenues 16,417,429 15,911,547
Operating expenses
Program services 11,069,384 9,812,840
General and administrative 4,321,152 4,036,557
Total operating expenses 15,390,536 13,849,397
Change in net assets from operating activities 1,026893 2,062,150
Nonoperating (expense) revenue
Other components of net postretirement benefit cost (86,625) (150,984)
Postretirement changes other than net postretirement benefit cost 1,061,435 662,058
Investment income 59,309 81,476
Net nonoperating (expense) revenue 1,034,119 592,550
Change in net assets 2,061,012 2,654,700
Net assets, beginning 5,266,767 2,612,067
Net assets, end 7,327,779 5,266,767