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A watershed year for CSUEB

  • December 8, 2008

As I expressed in my first View column of this year, 2008 was destined to be a watershed year for Cal State East Bay. We began the academic year by making history with a record-breaking fall enrollment of more than 14,000, the University's largest ever. Among the scores of new students - many the first in their family to attend college - who we welcomed to our Hayward and Concord campuses was yet another record-breaking freshman class, an increase of more than 30 percent over last fall. And with growing recognition, including The Princeton Review "Best in the West College" and "Best Business School" designations for 2009, it's clear that word of Cal State East Bay's academic quality and distinctively personal, professional, and achievable college experience is continuing to spread across the region and beyond.

A Culture of Confidence

Today, Cal State East Bay is characterized by a growing culture of confidence, grounded in the knowledge that, over the past two and one-half years, we've made remarkable progress in rethinking, rebuilding, and reinventing the University. To put this into perspective, consider the critical needs I identified as key priorities when I joined the University in July 2006:

• Enrollment growth
• Improved financial stability and transparency
• Increased tenure track faculty, and
• Enhanced facilities and campus physical maintenance

As you will recall, in my very first View column, I invited the entire University community to join me in envisioning new possibilities and new heights of distinction for Cal State East Bay. This was followed by a series of "town hall meetings" in fall 2006, leading to development of a shared vision for the future of Cal State East Bay. The outcome included a number of University-community "mandates" calling for academic innovation, growth, enhanced campus life, regional stewardship, and distinction.

Now, consider just a few of our many achievements to illustrate how far we have come in the following strategic areas with these mandates as our guide:

Academic Innovation
• Adopted an innovative, forward-looking academic plan

• Hired 114 new tenure-track faculty

• Created new curriculum in sustainability and initiated planning for new engineering degrees, including one focused on energy management

• Launched an online campus supporting nine percent of our total enrollment, making CSUEB a frontrunner in the CSU for e-learning programs and solutions, including those designed to serve veterans

• Increased enrollment by 12 percent - our first sustained growth in 40 years

• Developed an enrollment management plan to increase the number and percentage of first-time freshmen, together with new retention strategies

• Nearly doubled the number of freshmen enrolled, up from only 735 in fall 2005

• Welcomed our first cohort of freshmen pre-nursing students at our Concord campus

University Life
• More than tripled on-campus student residency from 400 to nearly 1,300

• Opened our first residential dining facility

• Began design of a new recreation and wellness center to open in 2009-2010

• Received approval to move to NCAA Division II intercollegiate athletics and joined the California Collegiate Athletics Association

Stewardship and Outreach
• Expanded our outreach efforts to underserved communities with well-attended African-American and Latino education summits

• Hosted workforce development roundtables with leaders in government, industry, and education to generate input to our academic and strategic planning

• Increased cooperation with regional partners in K-12 education, community colleges, government, national labs, business, and industry

• Initiated planning to become a center of innovation for both teaching and outreach in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education fields

Cal State East Bay in 2020

Recognizing our newfound momentum and confidence, allow me to describe what I believe is possible for Cal State East Bay by the year 2020 - just a dozen years from now:

• Fast approaching our enrollment ceiling of 25,000 with more than 20,000 students

• Campuses that are "vibrant university villages" with more than 4,000 students residing at Hayward and faculty housing in close proximity

• NCAA Division II athletics powerhouse

• National demonstration site for innovation in STEM education, underpinning our region's economic vibrancy

• Model of, and a teaching center for, sustainability - America's new frontier

• Hub of educational reform, innovation, and transformative learning models

• Center of partnerships aligning the work of K-12, community colleges, national labs, and business and industry partners in meeting regional workforce needs

• Ranked among the best business programs in the region for curriculum that prepares technologically competent leaders and entrepreneurs

• Choice of highly qualified faculty with extraordinary talent and accomplishments

The University of Possibilities

What I have described is the vision of a distinguished, vibrant, and innovative learning community - an ideagora for the new century- where the quality and exchange of argument, evidence, and reasoning resolve complex problems and issues. This is the vision of a community of deeply engaged students with an incandescent passion for learning, who are committed to seeking solutions to tomorrow's challenges, today. An institution in which core ethics and civic values infuse the learning, teaching, thinking, and work of our students, faculty, and staff, as well as the ongoing contributions of our alumni. A university where the Pioneer spirit is truly alive.

But this is much more than merely a dream. This is the promise and the potential of Cal State East Bay - the legacy of its founders and of successive generations of faculty, students, staff, alumni, and friends. What we have in common is our passion for the institution and its mission, and a deep abiding belief in its possibilities. Together we are the framers and builders of the Cal State East Bay of tomorrow - of the University of Possibilities.

No Time for Small Plans

As I've discussed with you in the past, and as I'm sure you're keenly aware, state funding for higher education is continuing to decline. And given today's troubling economic and budgetary outlook, the prospects for reversing this trend are bleak. At the same time, however, the need for increased access to a new model of higher education is more critical than ever. Without access to higher education that is more flexible, responsive, and earnestly forward-looking, coming generations of East Bay youth will be deprived of the knowledge, skills, and insights required for success and prosperity in our increasingly competitive and technological society. No less than the future economic and social vibrancy of our region depends upon an increasingly well-educated and technologically skilled workforce.

Clearly, if Cal State East Bay is to become the institution we envision and achieve the level of excellence and distinction that our vision calls for, we will require support well beyond what the state can provide. In fact, the only way we can deliver on our commitment to higher education that is not only broadly accessible, but also cutting-edge and truly transformative, is with greatly increased private support.

The Courage of Our Vision
While the current short-term global economic climate is discouraging, we must not be deterred in our aspirations, planning, and preparation for the long term. Thus, we are moving ahead with plans for a major fundraising campaign. This campaign offers us a unique opportunity to secure the resources required to launch the vision I have shared with you in this column. It will also provide the permanent endowment necessary to sustain this vision well into the future. Most importantly, it will allow us to be both creative and rigorous in pursuit of our ambitious vision to become The University of Possibilities - a hub of science, technology, engineering, and math education, and a keystone of regional economic and social progress.

In considering the timing of a campaign, we must also recognize that it will not be a sprint but a marathon that we will run together. Campaigns such as this typically have a life cycle of up to eight years - a span that will surely exceed the life of the current economic downturn. Thus, our expectation is that the first phase of this campaign - the "quiet phase," in which we turn to our staunchest supporters for initial leadership gifts - may begin as early as 2009.

Because the work of a great university is never done, and because the vision, aspiration, and confidence of this great institution are now unfettered, this campaign will provide CSUEB with the capital for a truly ambitious and innovative future. I am confident that with your continuing hard work and commitment, Cal State East Bay will make history with a campaign transforming it into The University of Possibilities, where all of our students major in solutions for tomorrow.

Reflecting upon our journey together and our many achievements along the way, let us pause to celebrate how far we've come. But let us also have the audacity of imagination and the courage of vision to move our great university forward with a resolute sense of urgency, purpose, and destiny - despite the challenges of our times. Let us recognize that now is our time.

Thank you for your continuing support and for joining me in fearlessly envisioning new heights and new possibilities for Cal State East Bay.

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