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Shaping our world with optimism and change

  • April 2, 2009

In his first address to Congress and the nation, President Barack Obama challenged Americans to unite to help the country overcome today’s hard times and observed that, "in our hands lies the ability to shape our world for good or ill."

The president's words of encouragement can be taken to heart at Cal State East Bay, where we have in our hands the ability to shape a "University of possibilities" despite many of the daunting challenges he described. As the fiscal condition for the state and the nation worsened, the University community achieved a string of accomplishments unprecedented for our campuses.

During one of the most severe economic downturns in California history, Cal State East Bay actually accelerated its pace toward meeting a new series of commitments to the region. We developed our "seven mandates" created the Academic Plan, accommodated record-high student enrollment, and built new student housing and a dining commons, among many other achievements.

Also during this period, an accreditation team from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges noted in its report that Cal State East Bay is "alive with optimism and change." Recently, CSU Chancellor Charles Reed praised our campuses for their "energy, planning, tangible gains and optimism for the future."

What was striking to hear from the accreditation team was its precise observations about our unique university community, where students, faculty, and staff draw strength from one another as we focus on a core mission of service to the region. This serves us well in a harsh budget environment, as we must make hard choices together and set priorities for the future.

`A future full of opportunity'

The strength of an organization, or a country, can be measured by how it reacts to challenges. Cal State East Bay is responding to the economic crisis with cooperation and dynamism thanks in considerable measure to the efforts of our University Planning, Assessment and Budget Committee. It has made some tough decisions regarding our budget, but has allowed us to set priorities for a future full of opportunity. For example:

•    We are preparing to present to the CSU Board of Trustees a master plan to guide Cal State East Bay into the next 20 years.
•    Our outreach efforts and services to veterans are being enhanced.
•    We continue to develop new approaches toward becoming one of the state’s leading institutions in teaching, learning and research in the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math.
•    The University continues to prepare for its first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign, which will take place over a number of years.

There is more good news. We have restarted work on the Student Services and Administration building, which was halted when the issuance of bond funds was curtailed during the state’s budget crisis. Spring quarter will also see the beginning of construction on the new Recreation and Wellness Center, and planning continues for a new 600-bed addition to the Pioneer Heights student residence complex in 2010.

And the University has not stopped envisioning its future role in regional stewardship, continuing to work with business, industry, government and community partners. One exciting partnership we are exploring is participation in the Clinton Global Initiative, an effort by former President Bill Clinton to forge collaborations between the private sector, non-governmental organizations and world leaders. An element of the initiative that holds particular interest for us is CGI University, a forum to engage college students in global citizenship.

Cal State East Bay has submitted a “commitment to action” for President Clinton's endorsement involving scaling up our summer algebra academies to enable more school-age African American students to master this college gateway mathematics requirement.

These efforts are building blocks for the future, preparations for an upswing in the economy that history says will follow this downturn. Cal State East Bay will kick in a powerful economic stimulus package of its own by continuing to generate more than 5,000 graduates a year, a workforce that will play a major role in re-energizing the region's economy.

`Cradles of hope'

Universities, by their nature, have been cradles of hope to the families they serve and to a society that depends on the optimism and energy of college graduates for revitalization. At Cal State East Bay we have decided to be bold in preparing for the future, and our recent accomplishments have shown us to be on the right course.

In 1968, U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, gave a eulogy for Robert F. Kennedy in which he quoted his brother:

"Some men see things as they are and say, `Why?' I dream things that never were and say, `Why not?'"

The University is the perfect enclave of exploration for those with that same dream, students who want more than just “things as they are” for themselves and their families. On a large scale, a university's efforts ensure the economic and cultural vibrancy of a region such as the East Bay. Fundamentally, what we value most as an institution is helping our students achieve their dreams.

Those dreams are why we keep looking to, and planning for, a bright future.

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