Newest Director of Public Affairs and Communications

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JJ Reed

Jennifer Self, CSUB’s Director of Public Affairs and Communications, enjoys the afternoon in her office in University Advancement.

By Vincent Perez, Features Editor

A vital part of The Bakersfield Californian staff for 30 years, Jennifer Self was intertwined with CSU Bakersfield’s campus long before settling in her role as Director of Public Affairs and Communications this semester.

Self has cemented herself as a local staple in journalism and in the community, being the voice of Eye Street, as editor, covering CSUB and Bakersfield’s arts and entertainment.
Christine Bedell, who spent 19 years as a reporter and news editor at The Bakersfield Californian, was very close with Self during their time at The Californian.

“I’ve known her since the day I walked in the door [at The Californian],” said Bedell. “She’s like my second sister. There’s nothing that we wouldn’t do for each other.”
Bedell said when she needed advice on how to approach a story, Self was one of the people she always went to. Self knows Bakersfield in the way people know their siblings. “Jennifer knows this community better than anyone I know. She knows the people and the history better than anybody,” said Bedell. Bedell is the Alumni Engagement Specialist at CSUB.

After her 30-year career in journalism, Self dedicated two years in healthcare, working for Clinical Sierra Vista and Omni Family Health, which were federally qualified health centers.

She said that both organizations go out to underserved healthcare residents. Despite the outreach, she said, “I saw such poverty and despair. It was in those moments that I realized that to change people’s lives with decent healthcare, food and homes, there needs to be a longer-term solution. Education is the way we change lives in the [San Joaquin] Valley.”

Wherever Self worked, she immersed herself into the position.

“Every career I have chosen, I have always found something to connect with a mission. In journalism, I found its importance for our democracy.”
Self left The Californian in June 2017. Her close friend and associate, Bedell, said it was bittersweet. “But we were happy for each other,” said Bedell.

It wasn’t too long that Self and Bedell were apart in their work lives. Bedell and Self left a few months within each other, following the road together to CSUB.

“I am the second happiest person that she got this job,” said Bedell. Self is the first, added Bedell with a joyful laugh. “We’re collaborating on our work [again],” said Bedell.
Michael Lukens, Chief of Staff to the President, was part of the committee which hired Self said, “She has such a broad knowledge of Bakersfield and is well respected.”
He added that Self is an excellent writer and communicator. “She can tell the type of stories that people can connect to.”

Despite her lack of a higher education degree, Lukens believes in Self.

“It goes with the territory but she’s eager, hard-working and everything we were looking for,” said Lukens.

He said that a dozen candidates were being considered for the role, before the committee, which was composed of leaders around campus, according to Lukens, selected Self.

“I have long admired CSUB from afar and I knew it was going to be a great place to work,” said Self.

In regards to the looming 50th anniversary of CSUB in 2020, Self said, “We have to think of how we re-imagine what we want to become. In terms of our branding, I want to look at what we’ve done so far.”

She said she is fortunate to have Lukens show her the way to handle the transition.

“Usually the previous person moves on to another job opportunity. He’s always there for me. I see it as a seamless transition,” said Self. Lukens was Director of Public Affairs and Communications from 2016-2018.

Self said she wants to improve the reputation of CSUB.

“What I hope is accomplished is doing a better job that CSUB is a welcoming experience,” said Self. “We’re just here to help our community.”

She described what she brings to the table in her journalism and healthcare background.

“I’ve learned how to be resourceful, talk to people and size up a situation,” she said. “These skills that build you as a person and a professional, you finally see the skill that you learned from being in journalism.”

Self said she wanted to go into education because of the low higher education rates within Bakersfield, to make a difference.