Viasat partners with Cal State San Marcos to boost engineering program

Viasat has partnered with Cal State San Marcos to support the college’s efforts to build an engineering program in San Diego’s North County area.


There appears to be no question San Diego’s North County region needs more engineers – an analysis conducted on behalf of Cal State San Marcos in 2015 showed as much.

Today, that need is one step closer to being filled thanks to a partnership between CSUSM and Viasat.

CSUSM President Karen Haynes announced on Feb. 8 that Viasat, together with several employees, has invested $1.5 million to become the founding partner of the CSUSM engineering program.

“Their visionary support will create the future Viasat Engineering Pavilion,” Haynes told more than 600 attendees at her annual Report to the Community address, “with funding to renovate classroom and lab space, purchase new equipment and instrumentation, and support the work of our faculty and students — quite literally creating pathways to educate the next generation of talented engineers.”

The gift from Viasat is part of CSUSM’s $50 million campaign, Forward Together, a united effort to prepare tomorrow’s leaders, build great communities and solve critical issues.

“We’re honored to be a founding partner of the new Engineering Program at California State University San Marcos,” said Viasat CEO Mark Dankberg. “Our employees are passionate about supporting our local communities and we believe partnerships like this create an environment that fosters innovation, inspiration and growth. Our contribution to California State University San Marcos stems from our team’s passion to bring an educational program to North County, San Diego that will provide access and opportunity for students in the region to pursue engineering.”

Growing campus meets growing need

Just 28 years old, CSUSM has grown from humble beginnings. It was affectionately referred to as “Cal State Jerome’s” when it opened to students in 1990 because of its location next to a furniture store.

Today, CSUSM’s home is a 304-acre campus that includes nearly 17,000 students and 2,000 employees. Fueling a diverse and talented workforce dedicated to this region is a hallmark of CSUSM. More than half of the University’s students are first-generation college students and more than 80 percent continue to stay in the region when they graduate.

Building on the success and reputation of CSUSM’s Computer Science & Information Systems and Physics programs, the University will begin its Bachelor of Science in software engineering this fall with a degree in electrical engineering anticipated to begin in fall 2019.

“Viasat is engaged with CSUSM and our community for the common good, moving forward together to enhance the intellectual and economic life of our region and the state,” said Katherine Kantardjieff, dean of CSUSM’s College of Science and Mathematics. “Viasat believes in the University’s importance in our region’s success.”

An engineering feasibility study conducted on behalf of CSUSM in 2015 confirmed what the University has long believed: It’s a much-needed program in the region. While there are other engineering programs in Southern California, the study highlighted how CSUSM is in a prime position to draw from existing curricula and faculty expertise while appealing to the hiring needs and goals of local industry.

In September 2016, CSUSM was awarded a $6 million, five-year grant under the Hispanic-Serving Institutions STEM Program, providing foundational funding for the engineering program.

The gift from Viasat is a start in helping the University secure the funding that will make the engineering program a success.

“Perhaps the biggest contribution to our future workforce is the work that Viasat is doing with CSUSM to develop signature engineering programs that address critical workforce needs,” Kantardjieff said. “Viasat’s major financial commitment to our new engineering programs indicates a shared commitment to building a regional comprehensive university that meets the needs of our region and the state.

“With Viasat’s support, we will be able to create and sustain engineering programs of exceptional quality that will provide transformational and life-changing opportunities for our students.”


The Cal State San Marcos campus, located near Viasat’s corporate headquarters in Carlsbad, CA, now has nearly 17,000 students. Photo courtesy CSUSM

Don Buchman is vice president and general manager for Commercial Aviation at Viasat.