The new American economy, with its pronounced shift toward people-intensive services and information production, has focused greater attention than ever before on the places where people live and work. As a result, regional leaders are increasingly aware of the need for an integrated approach to local development and long-term sustainability.
Because of the complexity of these challenges—and because they cross so many boundaries—both leaders and constituents are turning to higher education as a crucial resource to help identify the opportunities and challenges of creating innovative economies, livable communities, collaborative governance, and social equity.
State colleges and universities—such as California State University, East Bay— with their deep and long-standing regional connections, are not only well-situated to serve as regional stewards, but are actively re-envisioning and re-engineering themselves for new roles as catalysts for economic growth and social change. As opposed to research universities, regional universities distinguish themselves with applied programs that respond to local needs, an emphasis on workforce preparation, and a commitment to providing higher education that is broadly accessible.
Cal State East Bay itself has just concluded a yearlong review and retooling of its mission, as part of its accreditation process under the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). What emerged is a vision calling for the University to be known for “engagement in and essential contributions to the civic, cultural, and economic well-being of its region and communities.”
The region that Cal State East Bay serves—the East Bay—is home to an extraordinarily diverse and dynamic population of 2.5 million in two counties, Alameda and Contra Costa. Not only is the region one the state's most important economic and cultural centers, it is also growing and changing rapidly. As a result, the East Bay faces complex and interrelated new challenges ranging from housing, employment, and transportation to education, economic opportunity, and multicultural inclusion. To help meet these needs, Cal State East Bay is embracing its role as a regional steward with new programs, expanded reach, and plans for growing involvement in the lives—and futures—of the communities it serves.
From a single campus chartered in 1957 to meet the needs of southern Alameda County, the University now strives to serve the greater East Bay with two spacious and well-equipped campuses—one in the Hayward Hills and the other in the Concord foothills of Mt. Diablo—as well as a Professional Development Center in downtown Oakland. And while its original mission was teacher preparation, Cal State East Bay today emphasizes broad professional education with more than 100 career-focused fields of study, many developed in direct response to regional economic and social needs.
Since inception, the University has prepared 90,000 graduates for productive careers. Of these, an estimated 85% live and work in the East Bay—an impressive and significant contribution to the region's economic well-being.
Looking ahead, the University has plans well underway to meet the growing— and changing—higher education needs of its region, including traditionally underserved communities. This fall, it will expand its core educational offering with new programs designed to improve student experience and retention and ensure academic success, including an innovative freshman learning community. And before the year ends, the University will begin construction of a doubling of its on-campus student housing, a major expansion of it student union, and an exciting state-of-the-art business and technology center. With convenient locations, relevant programs, a wealth of student services, and affordable tuition fees— among the lowest of any comparable institution in the nation—Cal State East Bay supports the quest of East Bay students of all backgrounds to discover and develop their personal potential and career paths.
While the University has long been deeply involved in local schools and education, its connection to the life of the East Bay goes far beyond the classroom. Recently, for example, the University cosponsored the launch of the East Bay Small Business Development Center, which offers classes, consulting, and business planning resources for local entrepreneurs. The University is now planning to house a new East Bay Biotechnology Center to support the expansion of the region's burgeoning biotechnology industry with consulting in bioinformatics, drug research, and advanced manufacturing. These are but two of a number of regional initiatives that will not only help create new jobs, but new opportunity, for East Bay residents. The University's work—both in the classroom and in the community—evidence its stewardship, vision, and earnest commitment to the economic and social vibrancy of the region it serves, the great East Bay.