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Becoming the 'University of Possibilities'

  • March 22, 2008

Fall 2008 Convocation Address California State University, East Bay

By President Mo Qayoumi

Good morning.

Today's convocation marks the beginning of my third academic year as President of this great University. It has truly been an honor and privilege to work with such a dedicated faculty and staff.

The Princeton Review for the fifth consecutive year has identified us as a "Best in the West" institution. The reason for our increasing recognition and success is clear. It is due to you-the faculty and staff-- who work tirelessly in ensuring our students' success.

Fall Convocation provides the opportunity for us to come together to reflect on our past accomplishments; identify emerging issues; and discuss priorities for the coming year.

But first, I would also like to recognize our forty-one (41) new tenure track faculty members who have joined us. These individuals bring a wealth of knowledge, talent, diversity and global awareness to our University. We look forward to their contributions in support of our great University.

I would also like to welcome the many new staff members who have joined the University recently. Ensuring student success is indeed the responsibility of everyone. We look forward to their important contributions. Words cannot express how proud I am to work with all of you. I would like to thank each and every one of you for your commitment and valued contributions.

In review of the last two years it is easy to conclude that our University has gained a great deal of momentum where we are quickly reaching a point of inflection. We are progressing rapidly to become a destination university. During this past year we worked diligently to implement the seven mandates which provide a robust framework for our strategic planning.

With these mandates in mind we identified a number of critical priorities for last year. These included a WASC re-accreditation, an Academic Plan, and development of the Hayward Campus Physical Master Plan.

Leading our list of accomplishments for the 2007-08 academic year was a 10-year accreditation, the highest possible evaluation to be given an institution by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). The WASC letter was extremely complimentary and recognized the quality work we are doing here at CSUEB. I want to thank everyone for their outstanding effort.

At the beginning of last year the Executive Committee of the Academic Senate appointed six faculty members to the Provost's Academic Planning Task Force. This task force co-sponsored a series of workforce roundtables and forums at our Hayward and Concord campuses and the Oakland Center. The Taskforce synthesized the material and information into a draft that was widely circulated for comment in January.

In February, the Senate unanimously endorsed the proposed Academic Plan. Importantly, the Academic Plan provides a direction for the future, including appropriate roles for Hayward, Concord, Oakland, and Online-- teaching and learning.

In response to our mandate of strong and steady enrollment growth we have increased our total enrollment by approximately 12 percent over the past three years. In 2005 our freshman class size was 735, and this fall we expect almost double that number. At the same time, we continue to see strong enrollments by students transferring from community colleges, and in our graduate programs.

Enrollment is indeed everyone's business and we all should take pride in these impressive accomplishments.

As part of our mandate to develop a vibrant university village, our resident population has tripled in the last three years. We have grown from 400 beds to our present capacity of 1,200. We are on track for a resident population of over 2,000 in the next several years.

We have also received approval from the NCAA to move our Intercollegiate Athletic Program to Division II. We have been accepted into the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA), a conference of primarily CSU institutions.

The increased visibility and competitiveness of our athletic program joining the CCAA, combined with our outstanding cultural activities in the arts, music, theatre, dance, and increased programming of Associated Students, will create a vibrant university village.

Last year we refurbished all of our instructional spaces at Hayward and Concord, and we replaced all the classroom furniture. The Library is also receiving much needed updating, including new carpet and furniture. You may notice the continuing activities in landscaping and signage have provided important additions to enhancing our physical environment. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our maintenance, custodial, and grounds personnel for their valued service in making Cal State East Bay a welcoming and attractive place to work and learn.

Other physical changes will make important contributions to advancing our mandates. The capital outlay projects in design or construction at Hayward and Concord will exceed $100 million this academic year. This is just the beginning of a much needed physical renewal and expansion for our University.

The mandates are also guiding the strategic planning process. Cal State East Bay's Strategic Plan is the alignment of all these dynamic efforts so that we can address both current and emerging needs. The campus summarized the results of our planning to date into an initial set of priorities for implementation that we will pursue this year. The next phase will include plans for increasing student retention, fundraising, and the physical development of the Hayward and Concord campuses, as well as a university diversity plan.

As we enter this year we are on track to close our structural financial deficit. The California budget situation this year will require an additional year to fully close the budget structural gap, but it is obvious that we are headed in the right direction.

As a part of our regional stewardship to meet workforce needs, last year Cal State East Bay co-sponsored close to a dozen business round-tables with the Bay Area Council, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Contra Costa Business Council and East Bay Economic Development Alliance. The results of these meetings were published in a report that was widely distributed and the findings were integrated into the university's Academic Plan. The Hayward Economic Summit, co-sponsored with the City of Hayward, was yet another example of our expanding partnerships in the community.

There are several other initiatives that deserve special recognition:

• We launched our first independent doctoral program in Educational Leadership for Social Justice.

• We expanded our nursing program and starting the first pre-nursing cohort at Concord. The program also received a $2.1 million grant from John Muir Health.

• We offered three Algebra Academies for middle and high school students and a Silicon Valley Tech Academy, and

• We hosted the 22nd Annual CSU Research Competition where two of our students, Nancy Yuen, and Melita Fogle, won awards.

• Dr. Jed DeVaro joins the faculty as the Wang Family Professor of Management and Economics. 

Several faculty and staff members received special recognition for their work:

• Dr. Jane Lopus, Professor of Economics, received the prestigious CSU Wang Family Faculty Excellence Award, the first to do so from CSUEB.

• Dr. Bijan Gillani, Professor of Teacher Education, was selected as this year's recipient of the Miriam and James Phillip Outstanding Professor Award, and

• Mr. Stephen Faletti received the Vivian Cunniffe Award, as the university's outstanding staff member.

Issues on the Horizon

As we continue to implement our seven mandates we must also carefully scan the external factors that will impact the University. Addressing these factors will be essential in our quest for distinction. I believe our success will depend upon our fidelity to our Academic Plan and how effective we are in preparing our students to successfully enter the workforce and solve the issues facing the region.

One of the most challenging of issues facing us is the emerging imperative for a green economy. Sustainability is fundamentally altering the future of our businesses. This is a paradigm shift similar to the beginning of the industrial age. Fighting global warming and transforming the United States into a green economy is a massive and defining challenge for our time. Cal State East Bay should seek ways to reduce its carbon footprint. More importantly, we must offer academic programs to meet these workforce needs.

In last year's convocation address I spoke about the issues related to global urbanization. As an urban-serving university we discussed what knowledge and types of skills were needed by our graduates to address the challenges presented by mega-cities.
The creation of sustainable urban centers will be the only practical means to provide a quality environment and lifestyle for the generations to follow. The question at hand is: Do we have the "ecomagination" to rise to this challenge?

Global Competition and Labor Arbitrage

The "death of distance," as Frances Cairncross points out, has fundamentally changed business. Business transactions no longer require physical proximity. For instance, currently a significant number of U.S. tax returns are prepared by accountants in India; many architectural drawings for U.S. projects are developed in Argentina; and many CAT scans performed in the U.S. are read by radiologists in Australia or India. Today, "labor arbitrage"- the off-shoring of jobs- has continually moved up the value chain including highly technical, and knowledge-intensive jobs.

According to an estimate by Alan Blinder, the former vice-chair of the Federal Reserve Board, roughly 50 million current jobs in the U.S. could potentially be sent off shore. Many think this number is underestimated. We must recognize that the dynamics of transnational and global competition have dramatically altered the marketplace. Business today seeks out intellectual capital wherever it is available and cost-effective.

Studies indicate that college graduates today are projected to have 10 to 14 jobs before they are 40. It is clear that our graduates will need to have agility, resilience, tenacity, and "hyper-flexibility" as basic survival skills in today's highly competitive business environment. In the words of Charles Darwin: "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change."

So, does the education we offer our students today prepare them for such an environment?

One of the most consistent themes we hear from business and industry leaders is the need for a technologically competent workforce. We have used the term "technological fluency" to describe the ability to acquire and manage data and information in order to make informed decisions.

The questions of today are complex and require information from multiple sources. The explosion of interdisciplinary knowledge, in large part, is due to advances in technologies. The ability of our students to understand and use these technologies will be pivotal in their future success.

Some economists estimate that roughly half of our growth in the gross domestic product (GDP) during the past two decades is attributed to our nation's achievements in science, technology, engineering, and math-the STEM disciplines. Moreover, jobs that require technical skills will grow five times faster than non-technical skills. Therefore, to maintain and expand these job opportunities, we need to prepare graduates with strong technical skills in the STEM areas. 

Plans for the Upcoming Year: STEM Education as Key Theme

Our Academic Plan adopted in February identified STEM as an area of need, as well as a program of distinction. In response to this need for graduates in the STEM areas, Provost Mahoney and the College Deans, working in concert with our faculty, have elevated STEM education as a key strategic priority for the future.

We will continue our inter-segmental collaboration with our K-12, community colleges, national labs, and industry partners in our outreach efforts to develop pathways to radically increase the number of our graduates in the STEM fields. No matter what our students major in, --whether it is in the arts, humanities, social or natural sciences,--knowledge, skills, and competencies in the STEM areas will be essential to their ability to pursue meaningful careers, and become socially responsible contributors to their communities both locally and globally.

As a part of our regional stewardship, training math and science teachers is an important priority for CSUEB. Although we graduate the highest number of teachers in math and science in the CSU, our colleges of science and education are committed to developing strategies and pathways to double our numbers within the next few years.

Our Academic Plan drives four key strategic commitments: academic distinction, student access, student success, and regional stewardship. We intend to make major investments in these four areas in the years ahead, principally through the University's first comprehensive campaign. A preliminary list of projects, including STEM education, requiring private support has been created. We will be discussing with you the details with you in the coming year.

This fall, we will see a draft of our new physical master plan for the Hayward campus. Our consultants began working with our steering committee consisting of faculty, students, staff, and community representatives last year. I urge you to participate in the meetings we will be scheduling in November. The plan will guide us in the physical transformation of the Hayward campus into a truly vibrant university village in the coming years.

Cal State East Bay recognizes that online education is an essential delivery mechanism for some of our students. In accordance with the strategic initiative described in our Academic Plan we have created an online campus. This fall we will offer five online degrees and we plan to add 6 more by Fall 2009. These programs have been developed and will be overseen by the faculty just like any other degree programs at CSUEB.

I would like to compliment the faculty leadership for their foresight, support and guidance in helping advance this important university initiative. An advisory committee with faculty representation from the four colleges and the library has been established with the participation of the Academic Senate's Executive Committee to help guide our Online Campus development and implementation.

To complement our recruitment efforts, the Student Success Assessment committee co-chaired by Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, and Planning and Enrollment Management, has prepared the first phase of a retention action plan focusing on improvements in student orientation and advisement, including online services. In addition, the deans, working with department chairs, are looking at ways to increase students' engagement with their major departments. National studies show that students are more successful when they feel closely connected to their academic programs.

As we begin our academic year, I believe that that we have the most challenging, but satisfying, of jobs. Preparing our graduates to pursue meaningful careers and become socially responsible leaders to their communities is truly gratifying.

We accomplish this good work-- through the professionalism, dedication, and commitment of you our outstanding faculty and staff. Bill Gates, in a commencement address, eloquently pointed out that "humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries,--but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity. Whether through democracy, strong public education, quality health care, or broad economic opportunity-reducing inequity is the highest human achievement."

At Cal State East Bay, we are reducing this inequity-by providing a rich learning environment to support student success.

It is not enough to look back and celebrate how far we have come during the past two years. More importantly, we must have the audacity of imagination and demonstrate the courage and firm leadership to move forward with a fierce sense of urgency. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."

Let us continue to work together to help our students realize their dreams and make Cal State East Bay a place where their possibilities not only come into view, but become their reality. Let us become the "university of possibilities," where all of our students major in  solutions for tomorrow.

Thank you for your dedication and commitment to our students. I wish each of you a successful and productive year!

Go Pioneers!

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