President addresses CSUEB plans at 2012 Fall Convocation

  • September 24, 2012

It is with great pleasure and gratitude that I welcome you, the Cal State East Bay community, as we begin our 2012-13 academic year.  Last year I delivered my first convocation address 81 days following my appointment as your interim president. 

The warm welcome you extended to me and my family, and the ways in which I saw faculty and staff work together, to teach and support our students, made me feel very excited to be part of this community.  At the end of 2011, I told Chancellor Reed that I wanted to have the word “interim” removed from my title.  Fortunately, the campus community, including the Executive Committee of the Academic Senate, were supportive so the Chancellor and the Board of Trustees voted me as your “permanent” president.  The learning environment at Cal State East Bay is solid and I believe that working together we can accomplish so much in the future.  I look back one year, and I am amazed by how fast the year has passed, and the steps we have taken to move forward. 

This convocation provides the opportunity for us to reflect on last year’s accomplishments, talk about the challenges ahead and discuss critical initiatives that we must address this year. 

I would first like to thank Mr. Jerry Chang, President of Associated Students Inc., Dr. Mitchell Watnik, Chair of the Academic Senate, and Dr. James Houpis, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, for joining me on the dais this morning.  Their presence acknowledges the importance each brings in their respective roles, working together in shared and open processes, both formal and informal, so that we can address and resolve major challenges as they arise, and provide both informed and timely decisions necessary to advance the University.  Our collective success will depend greatly on our ability to work effectively together and our commitment to open communication and shared governance. 

I would like to recognize my cabinet, the academic and administrative leaders in our many units, as well as the members of the Academic Senate, for all the support they gave me in our first year working together.  And I want to thank them for the great work they do on behalf of our students, the University and our community.  There was much to learn during my first year in office, and I truly appreciate your support and assistance in helping me understand the campus community and culture as well as the university’s unique characteristics and history.  I am extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to work with such special colleagues.
 
I now want to recognize members of our Cal State East Bay family who have assumed permanent or new administrative roles.  We have listed these individuals in the program, and I would ask those administrators who are listed in the program to please stand.  Please help me collectively welcome these colleagues to their new assignments.

At last year’s convocation, I stated that my #1 priority is doing what is best for our students and that our goal was to strive to provide a welcoming and engaging place to work and learn.  As we continue to work together, and as we are able to add new members to our community, it is essential that we all continue to reinforce and model this priority and important goal.

I want to recognize and honor Cal State East Bay’s faculty and staff in providing educational opportunities and support to our students and recent graduates.  Cal State East Bay now proudly counts 120,000 alumni in our 55 year history.  Today about 85,000 of them live and work directly in our region, making important contributions to the quality of life in our communities.

Let me share with you some personal experiences I have had this past year.  Whenever I meet alumni from CSU East Bay, I ask them, “Did you get a good education?”  They all have said “yes” and often say “I have received a great education.”

Last fall I met a student at our science fair.  He was a senior majoring in Biological Sciences.  I asked if he was getting a good education.  He excitedly said, “Yes, he was receiving a great education.”  He then went on to explain that when several of his friends were accepted to Cal but he was not, they told him that he was going to get a second rate education at Cal State East Bay.  However, he was in labs since his sophomore year conducting research with his faculty members.  His friends were not able to have the same opportunities to participate in research activities with their faculty, and, in fact, had to go outside the University and pay for lab time.  In the end, it was our CSUEB student who had a much better learning experience.  This is why what you do at Cal State East Bay matters.

In last year’s convocation address I also stated that Cal State East Bay is an institution on the move, propelled by your energy.  If we are to advance on our aspirations in the areas of academic excellence, institutional distinction and regional influence, we must continue to invest in our tenure track faculty and our staff. 

I would like to extend my personal welcome to our newest faculty members.  You join a proud and distinguished faculty who have brought great honor and recognition to the University through their teaching, scholarship, creative activities and service. 

Last year, the Provost and I stressed to our Department Chairs the importance of attracting and hiring top scholars to join our faculty in order to advance our academic excellence and institutional distinction.   I am most pleased with the knowledge, academic excellence, talent, and global awareness each of you brings to the University.   I am also very pleased with the diversity of this cohort of faculty-- which is about 60% individuals of color, and about 70% women.  I wish each of you success as you begin your professional journey and we look forward to your contributions in advancing the University.  One of our highest priorities is to continue to hire, nurture and retain a diverse faculty to lead our academic programs.  New faculty members, would you please stand one more time and be recognized.

In addition to these 20 new faculty members, I am pleased to announce that I have authorized the Provost to conduct 30 tenure-track faculty searches for this coming year.

I would now like to welcome the new staff members who have joined the University during the past year.  As I observe our outstanding staff members at work, I am reminded daily how critical staff are to accomplish our University’s mission, which is to support a diverse student body with an academically rich, culturally relevant learning experience.  I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having an outstanding staff, all making valued contributions in providing an inclusive, vibrant, learning environment that serves students first.  I look forward to the contributions you will make towards Cal State East Bay’s continued success.   I would ask our staff members who have joined the university in the past year to stand and be recognized.

As part of our “tradition” at Fall Convocation, I would like to recognize two individuals who have been honored by the University community this last year. Each year a faculty member is selected to receive the George and Miriam Phillips Outstanding Professor Award and a staff member is selected to receive the Vivian Cunniffe Award. 

I invite Dr. Derek Kimball, Associate Professor of Physics and recipient of the Phillips Outstanding Professor award and Mr. Derrick Lobo, Parking Services Coordinator and this year’s recipient of the Vivian Cunniffe award to stand and be recognized.  Please join me in congratulating our recipients. Thank you for your valued contributions and congratulations! 

I would like to introduce my wife, Barbara Hedani-Morishita.  If you were here last year, you met Barbara and our son, Kyle.  This year she is here with our other son, Derek.  Barbara and Derek, will you please stand.

In my communications last year, I expressed my enthusiasm for the opportunity to work with the University community in advancing Cal State East Bay and taking those next steps together.  We began by engaging our University community, faculty, staff, students, administrators, alumni, donors and friends during fifteen Listening Sessions.   Our constituents offered their insights on the University’s strengths and areas for needed improvement in these sessions, and also through our website.

During the winter and spring quarters faculty, staff and students attended seventeen meetings where they made suggestions for modifying the University’s Mission Statement and replacing the previous seven mandates with a new set of eight shared strategic commitments.  Importantly, these new commitments express the aspirations of the University community at this critical time in our history.

Last year also saw the completion of the Institutional Learning Outcomes (ILO’s)—a process initiated by the Academic Senate to identify a common set of six competencies for our graduates. 
These three statements, which are listed in your programs, were adopted by the end of the spring quarter.  Together, our Mission Statement, our Shared Commitments and our Institutional Learning Outcomes, provide a means for us to explain to our public who we are, and what it means to be a Cal State East Bay graduate.  What an exciting culmination of my first year as President to see these converging messages emerge as we move forward to define our collective shared vision for the future! 

While our new Shared Commitments represent aspirations for the future, we have already begun to address them.  Time will not permit a comprehensive review; however, let me share with you a few representative examples from this past year for which we can take pride.

In our commitment towards academic quality:  Last year I requested that the Provost and Academic Senate Chair investigate with the faculty the development and implementation of engaged learning strategies.  I am pleased to report that last spring, we introduced the Programmatic Excellence and Innovation Learning Program (PEIL).  A total of thirteen (13) projects for the coming year were funded totaling over $330,000 dollars.  These projects involve 47 faculty and 7 staff working in interdisciplinary teams.  We look forward to the continuing work in the development of pedagogy that provides engaged learning strategies for our students, which have been found to increase student learning, retention and graduation.

Academic Affairs established cross-disciplinary opportunities to promote distinguished scholarship, collaborative work, and research, and was able to do this through seven faculty learning communities sponsored by the Office of Faculty Development, and the formation of three new Centers.  Well over 100 faculty and staff are participating in these exciting and creative endeavors.

Derek Kimball, our outstanding professor, received a prestigious National Science Foundation grant in laser research.  

Research related to Professor Kimball’s grant provided the opportunity for senior student Trinity Pradhananga to win the 2011 Stephen Chu Award for best undergraduate student research from the California American Physical Society.  Congratulations to Trinity.

Two of our professors were internationally recognized and awarded Fulbright scholarships as visiting professors.  Dr. Doris Duncan, Professor Emerita in Accounting and Finance lectured at ESPIRIT a private college of engineering and technology in Tunisia and Dr. Chris Knaus, Associate Professor in Educational Leadership, worked with aspiring teachers at the University of Western Cape in South Africa.

Ten of our students, representing all four colleges, participated in the annual CSU Student Research Competition. Phil Lees, a graduate student in the MS Kinesiology program placed second in the Health, Nutrition, and Clinical Services division.  We extend congratulations to our students and their faculty advisors.

Further, the University raised $5.2 million in private support to provide funding for scholarships, research programs and faculty support.

In our continuing outreach efforts in support of an inclusive community:  Last Spring, the University introduced a new educational summit, in addition to our annual Latino and African American Educational Summit and Super Sundays.   This new summit, CSU Journey to Success, focuses on outreach to the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community.  The summit, as well as other initiatives addressing Asian American and Pacific Islander student retention and success is being supported by a five-year $1.57 million grant awarded to the University by the United States Department of Education.  Dr. Meiling Wu, Modern Languages, serves as the principal investigator.

Vice President Wells has instituted under the direction of Human Resources a professional development program designed to assist staff in leadership skills and gaining knowledge, skills and competencies especially as they relate to enhancing and supporting our students' experience.  The program is being directed by Mr. Corey Gin, and has commenced this fall.  I look forward to the important contributions this program will make in assisting our staff in developing their skills and attaining their goals.

We continue to enhance the vibrancy of our campus through enhanced student life activities.  We finished our first year as a full member of the California Collegiate Athletic Conference.  Our athletes earned academic honors in men’s baseball, basketball, golf, and soccer; and also in women’s basketball, cross country, soccer, softball, swimming, volleyball, and water polo, as well as having successful athletic seasons.  Our student athletes, their coaches, faculty, and staff members are to be commended.

Last year, Associated Students Inc., hosted a series of national prominent speakers including Ralph Nader, Cornel West, Tim Wise, Tim Westergen and Maria Ochoa. These events were well attended and provided our community opportunities for dialogue on a number of contemporary topics.

As part of our continuing efforts in sustainability, the University has implemented a number of activities and programs including a vanpool for staff and faculty, charging stations for six electric cars with plans for an additional 14 stations, a more energy efficient plasma lighting system in our parking lots, and a composting program utilizing coffee grounds from Starbucks & Einstein’s for local use on campus.

Our service profile to our community is one that we should take pride in, and continues to expand.   The University received a five-year $25 million Promise Neighborhood grant from the Department of Education to work closely with the City of Hayward and the Hayward Unified School District and six other partners to improve the education and health care opportunities for youth and their families in the Jackson Triangle Neighborhood of Hayward.  We were one of only five proposals that were funded nationally.

We have almost doubled the number of service hours provided by our students to our regional communities.   Last year the number of service hours increased to 178,200 compared to 90,000 hours the previous year.  And the Provost told me that we are hoping to double this number this year!

While this is not a comprehensive list of the outstanding accomplishments of our faculty, staff and students, our collective achievements last year clearly demonstrate our ability to persist and excel despite facing adversity.  I would like to thank each of you for your dedication and commitment to our students and the University.

Now, I would like to turn to the challenges ahead of us.  Despite our successes I cited earlier, given the continual decline in State support, we cannot continue to provide the quality education and services that our students deserve.   The disinvestment in the CSU by the legislature has required significant reductions in our budget over the last seven years.   The result is that our funding today is approximately 35% less in State support than we received in 1998.   These continual reductions have significantly impeded our ability to provide the quality of instruction and the necessary student support services that are critical and essential to our students’ success.   The bottom line is that based upon the cuts we have absorbed over the last four years, we have made significant compromises.  In some cases, our excellent programs have become—or are on the verge of becoming—merely good programs; good programs are threatened to become simply adequate.

I recognize that all of our programs and activities that we sponsor have value and make important contributions in advancing the university, or we would not be doing them.  However, based on our ever-decreasing resources we are now forced to make some difficult and painful decisions.  We cannot continue to do business as usual.  Together, we need to assess our present infrastructure and ability to deliver quality educational programs and services to our students with severely limited resources.

There are other challenges ahead.  As many of you know, early this summer Chancellor Reed announced his retirement.  The CSU Board of Trustees is presently in the process of identifying a successor who is expected to take office later this year or by the beginning of next.  Importantly, Chancellor Reed has been a very strong supporter of mine, and as such, a strong supporter of Cal State East Bay.  While I will work diligently to establish an effective working relationship with our new chancellor, I only hope the new chancellor is as supportive of Cal State East Bay and me as Chancellor Reed has been.
 
Let me now discuss two campus-wide planning initiatives that we will be engaged in during this coming year:  first, a discussion regarding the conversion of quarter campuses to semester campuses; and second, the Planning for Distinction: Program Prioritization process.

Much discussion continues at both the CSU Board of Trustees and the Chancellor’s Executive Council about converting the six quarter campuses to semesters.  For pedagogical reasons and to ease transfer of community college students to the CSU, all six quarter campuses have been asked to examine what it will take to convert to semesters.  This year, we will begin to explore what it would require for us to make this transition.   I want to emphasize that we will only be in the beginning or planning phase, which will involve identifying the process by which we could determine the elements and cost of conversion.   The conversion process would take a minimum of three years.  And all six presidents have agreed that without financial support from the Chancellor’s Office, we cannot afford to implement the initiative.

Let me take a moment to discuss our budget.  One of the critical uncertainties this fall is whether the Governor’s tax initiative, Proposition 30, will be approved by the voters in the November election.  If the proposition does not pass, the California State University system would be subject to the previously announced trigger reduction of $250 million to take place in January 2013.  Cal State East Bay’s share of this would be a budget reduction of roughly $9 million dollars.

If Proposition 30 does not pass, the $250 million reduction to the CSU—added to the unprecedented $750 million reduction made during the last fiscal year—means that State support for the California State University system would be cut by $1 Billion, or 35 % over the past 24 months. The reduction in State support now means that two-thirds of Cal State East Bay’s budget will be from student fees and one-third from the State, a complete reversal of the past ratio in under five years.

As I have commented before, as a result of prudent planning and budget contingencies last year, we ended 2011-12 with a surplus that is sufficient on a one-time basis to maintain operating support at the current level through the 2012-13 fiscal year.  However, as I have also previously stated, it is clear that we cannot continue to do business as usual and provide the type of quality education that has been the hallmark of Cal State East Bay.

If we wish to continue to be a vital public higher education institution in the East Bay and advance Cal State East Bay’s institutional excellence, distinction and regional influence, we must take this window of opportunity now to carefully plan for our future.  

The President’s Cabinet has been discussing this issue for some time.  I wrote to the University community in early July.  And I discussed with the Executive Committee of the Academic Senate that we have come to the point where we must prioritize all of our administrative and academic activities and programs to ensure that we are spending our resources in support of our highest priorities. 

At my direction, Provost Houpis and Chief Financial Officer Wells are organizing a detailed process that will involve faculty, staff, administrators and students for reviewing both academic and administrative programs.  We are calling this process Planning for Distinction:  Program Prioritization.  The fundamental goal is to identify a set of high priority programs and activities that will enable us to advance in our aspirations for institutional excellence, distinction and regional influence.  To invest in these critical activities, this review process will lead to increasing support for our most critical and important activities and distinctive programs.

This comprehensive institutional review of both academic and administrative programs by faculty, staff, administrators and students will establish criteria for analyzing each program based on the values identified in our Mission Statement and new shared commitments.  The process will then lead to a set of recommendations to increase resources supporting our highest priority and distinctive programs, maintain steady funding for programs central to our mission and eight shared strategic commitments, and consolidate or reduce funding for those programs that are determined to be of lower priority.

The Provost and the CFO have been working throughout the summer to develop an inclusive process for involvement by the University community this fall.  That process includes formation of a steering committee that will be chaired by Dr. Linda Dalton, Vice President for Planning, Enrollment Management and Student Affairs.  Task groups are also being formed and a series of workshops to explain the process to the University community will be held.  The task groups, comprised of faculty, staff, students and administrators, will meet regularly during the fall and winter quarters to gather and analyze information regarding programs and activities, leading to recommendations to be made during Spring Quarter 2013.  Any recommendations that affect academic programs or activities which fall within the purview of the faculty will be forwarded to the Academic Senate for consideration by that body according to the Senate’s organizational practices and policies.

Through our prioritization process we will face challenges as to how we can provide a stable and sustainable infrastructure of faculty and staff, technology, facilities, and funding to assure educational quality for our students.   Together, we must find ways to re-invest in our distinctive academic programs and support services to ensure that we have quality programs and activities so our students can meet our Institutional Learning Outcomes.  We must commit to institutional processes that will help us make informed and timely decisions that, in turn, will assist us in the effective operations of the University, and provide transparency and accountability in how we use our resources.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this next part of our journey together.  As we begin our Planning for Distinction:  Program Prioritization process, we must hold ourselves accountable.   Successful implementation will depend upon three key processes:   Effective communication, an inclusive and transparent process, and clearly articulated implementation plans.  This is the only way we can be sure of significant progress towards crystalizing our shared vision and aspirations for our collective future.

Our history as a university community to be engaged and work effectively together will allow us to emerge from this process as a revitalized and stronger institution, better able to achieve our mission.  In order to fulfill our responsibility to our students we must be vigilant in summoning our strengths and supporting each other so that Cal State East Bay can achieve its highest aspirations.  We need to be faithful to our University motto:  “Per Aspera Ad Astra”-- “through adversity to the stars”. 

I look forward to the coming academic year with confidence and the conviction that our hard work will be repaid with continued success in all of our endeavors.  Again, I want to thank each of you for your valued contributions in making Cal State East Bay a great place to learn, live and work.  

As you know, on October 12th we will be celebrating our annual faculty honors convocation, my investiture, and our al Fresco celebration.  They will be preceded by a week of service including a community service project at Harder Elementary School on Saturday, October 6.  As part of my investiture, I will share a broader vision for the future of Cal State East Bay.  I hope you will be able to participate in these activities.

I wish you a productive and rewarding year.

Thank you, and Go Pioneers!

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