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University Convocation address 2006

  • September 25, 2006

Let me begin by expressing my heartfelt thanks and gratitude to those of you who met with me personally or sent me notes, welcoming me to Cal State East Bay and wishing me success. Many of you also shared your ideas and concerns for our future as well as, your deeply held passion for the University. I was especially moved by how many of you simply asked, "What can I do to help?" I could not have imagined a warmer, more inspiring, or earnest welcome. Thank you!

I assumed responsibility as President of CSU East Bay on July 1st, and in my first 90 days I have worked closely with my cabinet team who have ably assisted my transition, and more importantly-- who I rely upon daily for counsel.
I would like to now introduce and recognize the members of my Cabinet:

• Dr. Fred Dorer, Interim Provost and Vice President, Academic Affairs
• Dr. Sonjia Redmond, Vice President, Student Affairs
• Mr. Dick Metz, Vice President, Administration and Business Affairs
• Mr. Bob Burt, Vice President, University Advancement
• Mr. John Charles, Chief Information Officer
• Dr. Don Sawyer, Chief of Staff to the President

The fall convocation address is a long held tradition at many universities. It is an occasion to mark the beginning of a new academic year, reflect upon the accomplishments of the past year, and to discuss the challenges and opportunities of the upcoming year. I have asked Associated Students Chair, Ms. Chantel Johnson, and Chair of the Academic Senate, Dr. Hank Reichman, to join me on the platform, today, to emphasize the point that the university community needs a shared process by which we can collectively work through major challenges and make key decisions that will advance the University. Our ability to make the right decisions and choices for Cal State East Bay and to work through the major challenges we face depends upon an earnest commitment to open communication and shared governance.

Past achievements. As president, I've made it a priority to learn as much as I can about the people, programs, and everyday activities that make up the life and character of Cal State East Bay. I have been overjoyed - and inspired - to see for myself the remarkable quality of our academic programs and instruction, the impressive scholarly activities of our faculty, and the dedicated work of our staff. The process of learning about our University and meeting its wonderful faculty, staff, and students has been one of the most gratifying aspects of my new role. While time will not permit me to properly recognize all of our exceptional achievements let me share with you a few representative examples:

Dr. Jane Lopus, Professor of Economics, was named Outstanding Professor of the year for 2006-07, in recognition of her exemplary teaching, scholarly contributions and service to the University and Community. Dr. Lopus, congratulations on your selection by the faculty, and we thank you for your outstanding contributions to the continuing success of the University.

Four CSU East Bay students won awards at the 20th Annual CSU Research Competition held last spring at Channel Islands. Carla Jeffries (Communications) and Xiaoyin Zhong (Math) won first place awards. Ashley Williamson (Psychology) and Patricia Michele Tirado (History) won second place awards. The high achievement of these students placed CSUEB in the top three (3) of all CSU institutions. Congratulations to our students and their faculty advisors.

Student Academic Services recently launched its Renaissance Scholars Program. With the assistance of University Advancement, we hope to receive over $300,000 from the Walter S. Johnson Foundation to provide services to some of the 140 emancipated foster youth who attend our university. Special thanks to Diana Balgas and the EOP staff as well as Sandy Sanders from University Advancement for their work on this project This program reflects our strongly held core value namely, providing access to all students and the support system to ensure student success. California Assemblyman Mark Leno recently presented a Certificate of Recognition to the University honoring this exceptional program.

In response to the state's severe nursing shortage, the Nursing Program, under the leadership of the Chair, Dr. Carolyn Fong, will double our nursing majors from 56 to 130 in the next three years. We are currently entering the second year of expansion. This plan includes the development of a full Nursing Program at the Concord Campus with 65 majors. Thus, far, the Nursing program has received $1.7 million dollars of private support from the John Muir Diablo Health System.

The Department of Social Work, Masters Degree Program, has been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education for 2003-10. This program received special recognition for its diverse faculty and curriculum representing a multicultural perspective including social justice and social change. This exemplary program is another example of the University responding quickly to meet an identified community need for well prepared social workers.

The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders has not only secured accreditation until 2012, from the American Speech- Language Hearing Association, it also received commendation and recognition as an outstanding program.

In response to regional industry needs a new option in Hospitality Management was added to the Department of Leadership in Hospitality and Leisure Services. The Department has experienced a 300% increase in enrollment over the last three years through offering online courses and alternative modes of instructional delivery to meet the increased student demand.

The College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences (CLASS) has raised over $5 million dollars.
Our fundraising efforts were further highlighted with the announcement of the Wang Family Professorship, the first endowed professorship in the university's history.

After five years of extraordinary effort on the part of many individuals at the University, next quarter we will open the first new academic structure on this campus in over thirty years. The $28 million dollar Wayne and Gladys Valley Business and Technology Center will begin housing faculty in November and classes in January.

Our planning to expand campus student housing comes to fruition this week with the opening of three new residence halls. The $33 million dollar project is being completed on time and budget. The new residence halls are built in a learning-living style that will enable us to further increase both our freshman enrollment and co-curricular activities.

In conjunction with the opening of the new residence halls we have just completed the expansion of the Student Union. The new facility will add greatly to student life at the University, and provide much needed space in support of the thousands of activities that go on our campus each year.

Lastly, we have begun planning for the renovation of the library to ensure our ability to deliver services commensurate with the needs of a learning-centered university.

Again, these are but a few examples of the wonderful achievements of our University colleagues. Congratulations to all of you.

As the above examples show the participation of faculty, staff, and students signifies our recognition that only by our collective and truly collaborative efforts can we deliver on our core institutional mission, namely student success. In other words, our university is fundamentally a community of students, faculty, and staff who are engaged in achieving the common goal of student success.

Concept of community. Let me speak further about this essential and fundamental concept of community. As we teach in many of our courses in organizational behavior, the German sociologist, Max Weber, developed two models for communities. The first, which Weber called "Gessellshaft," is based on contractual and business arrangements that connect individuals with institutions through a set of defined roles and obligations. Although this model identifies an important legal or contractual relationship, it falls short of describing the more organic or humanistic relationship that we all have with the University. Weber's second model, "Gemeinshaft," defines a community with a sense of belonging, solidarity, and common purpose. This latter model, in my view, describes most effectively our individual and collective roles in pursuit of a shared vision for the University. It is, however, by integrating and embracing these two models seamlessly that the full nature of our relationship with the University can truly emerge and our roles in nurturing the spirit of true community become clear. My hope is that we will all work to create a Cal State East Bay as a community that works well together to effect academic excellence.

As we begin our first academic year of working together, it is important that we get to know and understand each other in terms of our values, principles, goals and aspirations,-- all important aspects of our character and actions. I therefore want to share with you, briefly, some aspects of my background and beliefs.

Coming from a modest working-class family, I experienced, first hand, the power of higher education to profoundly transform an individual's life. I deeply value and embrace the multicultural nature of the community that we serve and the quality education we offer our students. And I am committed to pluralism that recognizes and celebrates differences. I have been a strong advocate for quality instruction, faculty governance and service, intellectual discovery and scholarly work- and the joy and intrinsic reward it brings to the participant. I embrace the academic mission of the University and the democratic value system in which it is rooted.

President's role. After my appointment, last May, I continued my research into the core responsibilities of a university president. The results provided me a cluster of roles and responsibilities. Let me share with you my understanding of my role, and what I will strive to do-- to the best of my ability as President of CSUEB:
I will--
Lead, manage, and govern wisely
Nurture the spirit of academic community
Defend the core values of the institution
Pursue mission fulfillment by identifying and achieving strategic goals and priorities
Lead change and continuous improvement
Serve as an ethical compass, and protect the integrity of the institution
Model being an educator leading an academic community

Armed with this understanding, I assumed my role in July. On my first morning as President, I walked to my office from my temporary home at Pioneer Heights, reflecting on the future of the University and the awesome challenge of the presidency. At noon that day, over lunch with Vice President Redmond at a Chinese restaurant close to the campus, I opened my fortune cookie and the message read, "With perseverance, one can succeed in the most difficult tasks."

Challenges we face. Today we face a number of major challenges. Higher education is subject to a plethora of changing economic and market conditions, shifting community needs and student expectations, and an increasingly competitive environment. Though this is true generally, it is particularly true for Cal State East bay. Our institutional survival depends upon our willingness to accept shared responsibility for its operation and our ability to plan effectively for the future. We need to be clear about our role, our mission, and our competitive position in an increasingly market-driven environment. In the words of Leonard Sweet, theologian, author, and futurist: "The future is not something we enter, the future is something we create."

Today, the drivers of change in higher education as well as the pressures and challenges that we face include:

Continuing erosion of public funding with a rising demand for more accountability
Demand for faster, more responsive, and convenient students services on a "24/7" basis
Increasingly complex business processes with growing demand for transparency and ease of use

Given these pressures, one might well conclude that the future of higher education - as we know it today - is most uncertain. There is, however, another way to look at it. The most definite way to predict our future is to create our own. Therefore, what you and I must commit to do is: Take responsibility for creating the future of Cal State East Bay - starting now.

Priorities set. To ensure the future of CSUEB, we must concentrate our efforts on three priorities:

Enrollment Growth and Management
Financial Stability
Increasing Tenured-track Faculty

Allow me to outline what each of these priorities involves.

Enrollment management must be our first priority.
In contrast to the dramatic growth in the region we serve - the East Bay -and across the state, our enrollment has remained stagnant for the past three decades. The Hayward campus was planned to accommodate approximately 20,000 students and the Concord campus another 5,000 students or more. Yet, today, our actual enrollment is approximately 12,500 roughly the same as it was in 1971. If our enrollment had simply kept pace with growth in our service area, our enrollment today would be roughly 18,000 students or more.

It is quite clear that we have not grown our enrollment; it is also clear that we have not effectively managed the enrollment we have sustained. As a result, our enrollment is also seriously out-of-balance. We have one of the lowest ratio of lower-division to upper-division students-- and we also have one of the highest ratio of graduates to undergraduates in the CSU. In fact in comparison to the other CSU campuses we have the smallest percentage of our enrollment in first time freshman. This not only threatens the academic health and financial stability of the University, it is out of compliance with standards set by the State education code, the CSU, and the California Postsecondary Education Commission.

In addition, we have not paid adequate attention to meet the expectations and the needs of the communities and taxpayers who have invested in us. It has also resulted in significant enrollment target shortfalls with serious budgetary implications. Given our current situation, this University finds itself at a pivotal moment in its history. Simply put, We either grow in enrollment or we will perish.

I cannot overemphasize the need for a sustainable enrollment strategy aligned with the University's strategic goals. As such, we have begun immediate steps to address a number of the issues:

Given the mission-critical role of Enrollment Services, the position of Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Services has been upgraded to Vice President for Planning and Enrollment Management. With the assistance and cooperation of the Executive Committee of the Academic Senate, we have been able to expedite the search process for this key position and the search Committee will be reviewing a list of qualified candidates, shortly.

Dave Travis has agreed to serve as interim AVP of Enrollment Services, in order to help expedite the implementation of the PeopleSoft Student Administration module. He is also overseeing a review of key Enrollment Services business processes to identify bottlenecks, enhance our response time, and improve applicant and student satisfaction.

We are reevaluating our recruitment resources and priorities with the objective of improving our reach and presence in high schools and community colleges throughout the East Bay - Alameda and Contra Costa Counties - as well as in adjoining counties. This increased outreach effort includes underserved urban communities as well as newer, high-growth suburban areas.

We are seeking new ways to get our message out into high schools and community colleges. We need even more effective means of telling the Cal State East Bay story to prospective students and their influencers, including families, teachers, and counselors. Cal State East Bay offers students of all background quality higher education that's uniquely accessible to everyone in our service area. Each of us must take the responsibility for communicating this message.

As we communicate the East Bay story, we must also ask our students and the community, including potential employers, how we can better educate our students to enter the workforce and achieve their personal success. This will involve reinvigorating our curriculum and offerings, mode of delivery, and faculty research and scholarly interests.

Finally, we must make a priority of identifying the means of growing enrollment at our Concord Campus. This will require a serious and strategic review of Concord course offerings, instructional capabilities - and local needs and requirements. We must also come to grips with the funding model and investment required to underpin, facilitate, and sustain enrollment growth at this campus.

Next, let me speak about financial stability, our second key priority.
Cal State East Bay has not had the benefit of a truly transparent budgeting process. This has masked the depth and breath of our financial challenges. Due to the lack of a transparent, sound, and systematic budget-planning framework, the University now faces financial challenges more serious than commonly understood.

In the past, the University addressed its budgetary matters in an ad hoc fashion, thus failing to face the structural issues effectively in a timely manner. Let us face our financial situation realistically by developing a sustainable budget model. Let us also recognize the inseparability of enrollment growth and strategic planning as prerequisites for financial stability.

On a bright note, thanks to the efforts of Academic Senate's Standing Committee, COBRA, the Committee on Budget and Resource Allocation, there has been an increased understanding of, and appreciation for, the financial challenges that we face due to the budget cuts of the past few years. This understanding should be shared more widely across the University. Although all CSU campuses experienced these budget cuts, many have been able to bounce back due to their strong enrollment growth. In the case of Cal State East Bay, our enrollment drop worsened an already fragile situation. A close review of the university finances reveals that like our structural problem in several of our buildings, we have a similar structural problem in our university finances.

Here are some of the steps we are taking to improve our financial stability:

We will share financial information more broadly, so every member of the University community has a better appreciation of our financial condition. In the words of Tom Peters, "There are fewer more liberating forces than the sharing of information."

We are developing plans to address the structural issues of our budget and replace the culture of deficits with a culture of responsibility and accountability.

We will pursue initiatives - some already underway - to reduce expenses in areas such as energy, risk insurance premiums, and technology.

We have committed to an open and transparent budgeting framework that links resource allocations clearly to University plans and priorities

By identifying the proper balance between misleading oversimplification and unhelpful complexity, we can design and generate more useful, meaningful - and more easily understood - financial management reports.

Finally, I wish to speak about our third top priority: increasing tenured-track faculty.
It would be hard to overemphasize the importance and the pivotal role of tenured-track faculty in the health of the University. Our faculty members not only deliver on the university's mission, they are also the measurement by which our quality is most often judged. I am glad to see that 42 new tenure-track faculty joined the University this past academic year. The colleges are planning to recruit for an additional 30 tenure-track positions, this year. Together, these trends emphasize our commitment to mission and quality academic programs. As we recruit new tenure-track faculty we should try to increase our outreach efforts in hiring practices to attract diverse pools of qualified applicants that reflect the population of the region we serve.

To ensure that the hiring of tenure-track faculty meets the needs of the University as well as, the expectations and requirements of our constituents, it must be carefully linked to a formal Academic Planning process. Such a process defines our current needs, future opportunities, and resource requirements, and is also aligned with the University's strategic plan. To this end, Interim Provost Fred Dorer has begun working with the college deans to develop a five-year plan that will not only significantly increase the percentage of tenure-track faculty but also ensure the achievement of core strategic objectives.

Of course, if we succeed in our efforts to increase enrollment, not only will we be in a position to grow the faculty but also to add staff in key areas. At the same time, we need to increase our investment in staff training and development. In the words of an ancient Chinese proverb:
If you want one year of prosperity, grow grains.
If you want ten years of prosperity, grow trees.
If you want 100 years of prosperity, grow people.

In addition to Enrollment Growth, Financial Stability, and Increasing Tenure-Track Faculty, there are two other key objectives, which I feel strongly will determine our ability to achieve our goals and deliver on our mission. These are enhancing physical conditions and our regional stewardship.

First our physical environment has a significant impact on our ability to attract and retain students, faculty, and staff - not to mention its affect on our everyday morale. The continual and significant budget cuts in plant operations have resulted in poorly maintained and even dilapidated buildings and grounds. Our physical infrastructure - namely the parts and systems invisible to most of us - is in even worse shape and requires significant and costly repairs. Continuing neglect will result in major failures that will impact our ability to meet the University's mission. Therefore, immediate focus and attention is needed in these areas.

A university campus should be an inspiring and memorable setting for students, visitors, faculty, and staff - as well as a point of pride for the community. Both of our East Bay campuses are blessed with breath-taking views and natural settings - invaluable assets. Let us all commit to working together for preserving, restoring, and maintaining beautiful campuses to match our beautiful views.

Public engagement. Let me briefly address our Regional Stewardship and Public Engagement.
State universities have long served as vehicles to accomplish broader social and economic objectives. As a regional public university, we have a unique responsibility - and an opportunity - to help address the many needs of the Bay Area in general and the East Bay in particular. The East Bay is home to a diverse population that is dynamic, growing, and changing. As a result, our region faces complex challenges ranging from housing, employment, and transportation to education, economic opportunity, and multicultural inclusion. To help solve these issues, CSUEB must go beyond a mere commitment to regional service to one of leadership, embracing our role as a regional steward with new programs, expanded reach, and growing involvement in the lives - and the futures - of the communities we serve.

Deeper engagement with the 33 communities that make up the East Bay also means more visibility for CSUEB. As a result, the 2.5 million residents of the region will see and experience Cal State East Bay as the University that works for the entire East Bay. With this will come increased awareness as well as, enhanced public interest and political support - together with valuable, tangible benefits such as enrollment growth, increased private financial support, and opportunities for faculty research and student service-learning.

Regional stewardship is our greatest opportunity. It is the key to a secure future and the means to achieving our foremost goal, which is to be the region's high-access and high quality public university of choice.

Accomplishing the priorities and objectives I have presented today will require an earnest and effective strategic planning process. Such a process will provide a framework for envisioning and describing the future of our institution. It will engage internal and external University constituents in a meaningful dialogue. And, I will provide a forum that encourages inclusive conversation, the architecture for developing a shared vision, and a structure for decision-making.

This planning process will also allow us to examine and understand the true nature of our competitive position, gaining a clearer understanding of our core strengths, our weaknesses, the threats we face, and the opportunities that await us. Moreover, it will provide a platform for healthy, open debate, constructive conflict, and - most importantly - the sharing and testing of new ideas and approaches. Finally, a strategic plan will offer the means to identify and preserve what we value from our educational and scholarly perspectives while adopting new paradigms grounded in evidence.

I realize that the University has recently invested a great deal of time and effort in developing a list of university Goals and Objectives as the first step towards the development of a strategic planning process. However, this process cannot be successful without a clearly and commonly understood purpose and direction which is currently lacking.

I am proposing to reinvigorate the University's strategic planning process by building upon this initial work with a new series of structured conversations or "town hall" meetings with faculty, students, staff, and alumni. These meetings will start next month in October. At the conclusion of these meetings, we will synthesize the collective opinions, views, and thinking to create and enunciate a shared vision for the future of Cal State East Bay by the end of the fall quarter. From this, we will generate the goals. Every University division will be expected to develop an annual action plans, measures and targets that support these goals.

As we continue our dialogue about our shared vision, we should imagine a vibrant future. Let us imagine new heights that will be the distinguishing features of CSU East Bay; elements that will elevate the University as the crown jewel of the CSU, the pride of the East Bay, and a destination university that enables all students to realize their full potential. In other words, a university that will be a model of excellence in higher education distinguished by its academic programs, commitment to life-long learning, and engaged in the well-being of our community. Finally, let us become a university that celebrates its multicultural diversity, builds on its diversity as a key strategic strength that prepares students to acquire relevant and sought after skills and knowledge, and most importantly their degrees.

Town hall themes. To work toward this goal, let me propose the following preliminary signature themes for our upcoming "Town Hall meetings" to stimulate discussion and conversation:

Commitment to access, coupled with creating opportunities for student success.

Pursue excellence that is grounded in a culture of accountability and evidence.

Enhancing an environment conducive to active and self-directed learning.

Emphasis on information competency for a learning to learn environment

Regional stewardship with strong engagement in public issues of the East Bay.

Once we have a clear shared vision and a strategic plan to support the above, we must acquire and implement our plan and hold ourselves accountable to it. Successful implementation will depend upon three key processes: a people process, a strategy process, and an operations process. To ensure success, these processes must be clearly integrated and aligned. This means we must align University activities with our priorities. Finally, in order to transform our vision into reality, we must demonstrate the emotional fortitude to execute our plan with unwavering focus and discipline. Our success will be determined on how well we align and link our ideas, vision, plans, and actions. The strength of the strands we weave to bind us together will also determine the strength of our university. I cannot overemphasize the importance of alignment among our vision, plans, and action. This is the only way we can be sure of significant progress towards our envisioned future.

Let us remind ourselves that while invention may be an individual endeavor, innovation is a team achievement. Thus, building a winning team is the prerequisite for building a great future. I am developing such a team, here at Cal State East Bay, by evaluating the performance of my cabinet members, based in part on the success of their own units and in part on their contribution to the success of other team members.

To jump start a culture of success, I urge you to keep the Pioneer spirit alive and well at Cal State East Bay. A pioneer, unlike a settler, does not follow the beaten path, but instead finds new pathways and pushes for new frontiers. We recognize that new frontiers can be confusing, volatile, and unpredictable. Yet, it is only by pushing fearlessly into new, uncharted territory - as Pioneers do - that we can challenge and overcome the structural inertia that holds us back and impedes our progress and success.

In this spirit, I ask that you continue to read my columns in the View - and continue to send me your comments. If you have not yet read my first column, "Imagining New Possibilities for the CSUEB," or my second column, "Foundation for a New CSUEB," please do - they can be accessed on the University Web site - and let me know what you think.

In closing, allow me to quote T.S. Elliot's "Little Giddings," which so eloquently expresses my vision of ongoing exploration and discovery for all of us pioneers at this fine university:

"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."

I wish you an enjoyable and productive academic year!

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