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Guess Who Went to Cal State?

State schools can get a bad rap. In California, the larger of our two state university systems (in fact, the largest public university system in the country) and the one that, by design, is most accessible—the California State University—lacks, um, panache. Students, who often put a lot of stock in national, brand name schools, are sometimes concerned about the future opportunities of a graduate from a lesser-known university. There are plenty of Cal State alums whose names are familiar--movie directors including Steven Spielberg and James Cameron; performers like Tom Hanks, Steve Martin, Paula Abdul, and Weird Al Yankovic; authors Amy Tan, Anne Rice, and Raymond Carver. Remember Gorillas in the Mist? Zoologist Dian Fossey was a Cal State grad, too. But there are so many others whose names you might not know, but who managed to carve out wildly successful paths after their time at a less-than-prestigious Cal State campus. A sampling of CSU graduates includes:

  • Winners of Pulitzers, Oscars, Tonys, Emmys, and Grammys

  • The founders/co-founders of companies such as Oracle, Jack in the Box, Cisco, Jamba Juice, Rubio’s, Bebe, and TGI Fridays

  • NASA scientists and astronauts

  • Top brass at entertainment companies including MGM, Paramount, Sony, LucasFilm, Dreamworks, and Disney

  • Olympic gold medalists, as well as Dodgers, Lakers, Clippers

  • The guy who created The X Files, the guy who created Desperate Housewives, and the guy who created SpongeBob SquarePants

  • Senior executives at Apple, Google, Bank of America, Boeing, Ernst and Young

  • Journalists/editors at the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone


  • The lead guitarist for Metallica!

Of course, Cal State campuses also turn out tons of people who become successful politicians, mathematicians, lawyers, engineers, artists, teachers, poets, doctors, astronomers, paleontologists, or news anchors, as well as the occasional celebrity chef* or supermodel**. We firmly believe that your success in college and beyond is based on what you make of it. So what kind of future can you have with a degree from Cal State? It all depends on you. *Nancy Silverton **Cheryl Tiegs

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