Top NavTop NavTop Nav

President's Column: An invitation to STEM town hall meetings

  • February 1, 2011

With a new year just under way, as we continue to reflect on the state of the economy, questions about what lies ahead dominate our thinking.

Nationally, recovery from the recession has been slow. Although the U.S. economy shows signs of improving, job growth is still lagging. Unemployment remains stubbornly high, particularly in California. And state and local budgets are under extreme stress. The national dialogue is now clearly focused on the role of innovation and education in restoring and reinvigorating the competitiveness of America’s economy and workforce. Economic recovery, employment, our standard of living, and our standing in world leadership are at stake — as is the future of our state and its economy.

Our most important opportunity

The facts are that in our increasingly global and technological world and marketplace, the economy of the future — along with the jobs and innovations —will be driven by science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Seven out of 10 new jobs are in STEM fields, and of the 25 highest-paying jobs, 16 are STEM related.

Despite the pressures on us, budgetary and otherwise, due to the deepest economic recession in more than 60 years, Cal State East Bay’s pioneering drive to reinvent STEM education could not come at a better time. The emphasis on a STEM-centric education flows naturally from our mission and values. After all, our vision and our work are fundamentally connected to our regional stewardship role, which is meeting the workforce, economic and social needs of our communities.

And nowhere in the country has more potential to fuel recovery with a concentration in STEM and green jobs than we do here in the Bay Area. Despite the serious near-term challenges we face, this is Cal State East Bay’s greatest opportunity — and the means to ensuring our place in the future.

Next steps for CSUEB — STEM town hall meetings

Last year I shared a series of columns involving my conversations with university academic leaders and administrators about our STEM education focus. My intention was to make it clear that although our plans are in a formative stage, a considerable amount of deliberation and planning, as well as change, is already underway. Now I want to broaden the conversation and hear your thoughts and ideas about STEM-centeredness and the future of CSUEB.

As announced to the university community in a communiqué on Feb. 1, next week I will host a series of town hall meetings on STEM education, held on Tuesday, Feb. 8 and Wednesday, Feb. 9. I have invited each college and division to a dedicated meeting, where all members of our community are welcome to share their perspectives and voice their concerns.

These are the questions I'm asking you to be prepared to discuss:

  • What do you know — and what do you think — about CSUEB's becoming an increasingly STEM-centered university? Tell us what STEM-centeredness means to you, and how you think our students will benefit in the short term and the long term. What do you perceive as negative components of being STEM centered?
  • How will becoming a STEM-centered university align with Cal State East Bay's core values and mission? How is it consistent with the direction needed by our region and country?
  • How might this change our work, how we teach, our scholarship, and what and how our students learn?
  • What should be CSUEB's most important priorities for the next five years in terms of student success (during and after college), regional stewardship, and other areas?

Please refer to the communiqué for further details, including times and locations for your department or division. I hope to see many of you at these meetings. If you are unable to attend, I encourage you to share your responses with me via e-mail.

I am confident that through this discussion we can develop a clearer vision and shared understanding of what becoming a more STEM-centered university means for CSUEB and for each of us.

Long-term planning and addressing budget cuts

Along with STEM and the economic recovery, it’s inevitable that financial matters are never far from our minds — from Washington, D.C. to Sacramento to the Chancellor’s office in Long Beach. Although it is important to keep our energies focused on what’s most important — the opportunities ahead of us — we must also face the reality that state support for higher education is once again threatened.

Following the release of the new governor’s budget proposal, we now know what we had already suspected — 2011-12 will be another year of extraordinary challenges.

With a proposed $500 million cut to the CSU system for 2011-12, it will take some time to form concrete plans. The Chancellor’s office must first determine each campus’s share of the cuts, then we will address how best to deal with CSUEB’s cut in state support. Once we have more details, we will be able to begin an informed discussion about next year’s budget.

However difficult it will be to set those worries aside, I hope you will join me at the town hall meetings to further our collective understanding of STEM education. Just as the looming budget cuts are designed to drive transformative changes, our focus on STEM education is intended as an enduring shift in the way we serve our students and how we deliver on our mission.

By playing a central role in ensuring access to a high quality education and preparing our students for a place in tomorrow’s STEM-centric workforce, we also assure ourselves an indispensable role in the future of our regional, state, and ultimately, our national economy.

President Qayoumi invites and welcomes your comments. Share your feedback here. Submissions are not published on the news site but are sent directly to, and read by, the president.

© California State University, East Bay. All Rights Reserved.