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Fall 2011 Convocation Address


President Morishita addresses faculty and staff at Fall Convocation Sept. 19. (Photo: Stephanie Secrest)

  • September 19, 2011

Thank you for such a warm welcome. 

Good morning.

I thank ASI President Mr. Christopher Prado, Academic Senate Chair Dr. Michael Mahoney, and Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. James Houpis for joining me on the stage this morning.   Their presence is symbolic of my commitment to collectively working together to advance Cal State East Bay.  Our ability to do so will depend upon our commitment to open communication and a collegial, shared governance relationship between faculty and administration.

As I begin my remarks this morning, I express my sincere gratitude to those of you who have met with me, sent notes, and wished me success.  I could not have asked for a warmer welcome for my wife, Barbara, and me.  Thank you.

I am pleased to introduce my wife, Barbara Hedani-Morishita.  Barbara worked most of her career as a social worker and more recently as an administrator for Alameda County.  She is looking forward to meeting you. (Barbara, would you please stand?) (My oldest son, Kyle, is also here today.

Today, my talk is divided into three areas: 1) providing some background about myself you did not see in my curriculum vitae and what I have been doing since July 1; 2) sharing my thoughts about where we are going; and 3) acknowledging your excellent work.

I think that many of you are here out of curiosity to find out more about this Leroy Morishita person!  As some of you know, I am not a stranger to Cal State East Bay.  In 1987-88 I was a CSU administrative fellow working with Provost Maury Dance.   Here are some things you may not know.

I grew up on a small family farm near Fresno.  My grandparents immigrated from Japan.  After completing the 9th grade, my father was taken out of school by my grandfather to work in the fields.  My parents celebrated their first wedding anniversary in 1942 on a train to an internment camp for Japanese Americans during WWII.  My parents did not talk about this period of their lives until I was in college and heard about this in an Asian American Studies class.  With the assistance of some wonderful people my parents met in St. Louis, MO during the war they were able to maintain ownership of the 40 acre family farm.  They returned to the farm in 1946 resuming their lives-- working and raising our family.

There I grew up in an extended family environment that included grandparents, three siblings, and three first cousins, whose parents were killed in a tragic automobile accident.  We all worked on the farm and our parents expected us to contribute to the family and our community.  Farming is a hard life because there is no control over the weather, water availability, and the market.  All you can do is focus on what you have control over.  This was an important lesson that I learned and use in all aspects of my life.

My parents emphasized to us the importance of doing well in school and it was their dream that we would graduate from college and have a better life than they did.  All my siblings graduated from college, and we were the first generation in our family to do so.

I grew up with the values of loyalty, responsibility, trust, integrity, civility, and respect for others.  These are the values and principles that guide me in my professional and personal life and I endeavor to bring them with me in our work together.

Without the opportunity to attend college, I would not be standing before you today.   The profound changes that the college experience provided for me and my family, personally and professionally, are similar for many of you.  And that is what all of us have seen with the thousands of students we have helped during their educational journeys.

In the K-12 public schools I attended, about half of the students were Chicano, the rest Caucasian and a few Asians.  Many of my friends were capable of succeeding in college, but were directed to careers in farming and vocational trades.   I thought this unfair and I wanted to assist students, especially students from traditionally underrepresented populations, to have the opportunity to attend college so that they could pursue their dreams. This led me to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Psychology at UC Berkeley followed by a Master’s degree in Counseling from San Francisco State.

This is why I bring with me a passion for, and a deep commitment to, the CSU mission and the unique role of Cal State East Bay in service to the students and citizens of our region.  I deeply value and embrace the diversity and multicultural nature of the communities that we serve and the quality of education we provide our students.  I have a deep abiding commitment to social justice & equity and the need to recognize, nurture and celebrate our differences.

I hope this gives you some insight about who I am and why I am here.

I assumed my responsibilities at Cal State East Bay on July 1, and today marks my 81st day here.   In coming to this university, my charge from the Chancellor and Board of Trustees is quite direct:  provide leadership continuity to the progress accomplished thus far, and build a sustainable pathway to enhance Cal State East Bay’s excellence and distinction.  The charge is a welcome but truly formidable task that can only be accomplished with the commitment, assistance and contribution of each one of you.

As we begin our work together, it is important for you to know my number one priority -- our students.   The actions we will take together will be based on what is best for our students AND the learning and growth experiences we are able to provide for them.  We must continue to build on our diversity, in its broadest sense, as a key strength.  To this end, I ask your help in making Cal State East Bay one of the most welcoming, engaging, and inspiring places to learn and work for all of us.

We have several new members on the administrative team who I would like to introduce and welcome:

Mr. Brad Wells, Interim Vice President for Administration and Finance and Chief Financial Officer;

Dr. Amber Machamer, Associate Vice President, Planning and Institutional Research;

Mr. Borre Ulrichsen, Associate Vice President, IT Application Development and User Support; and

Ms. Denise Needleman, Interim Associate Vice President, Human Resources.

Since coming to Cal State East Bay, I have attempted to learn as much as I can about the faculty, staff, students, alumni, friends, our academic program offerings, sponsored activities and your rich history.    Coming from an institution where I served for 29 years— in my first two days here I was very frustrated that I did not know all the people and the details about Cal State East Bay as I did at my former institution.   On the third day (being a quick learner), I decided that it might take a little more time than a few days.  Having met and learned from many of you I know much more about the University and feel much more at home.   One of the things I learned is the English translation of the Latin motto on our seal – “Per Aspera Ad Astra.”  Literally translated, it means “through adversity to the stars”.  This motto really resonates with what I believe should be the opportunity that everyone in California should have to reach for their dreams.

You may be wondering what I have been doing the last eleven weeks.  Thanks to the schedule my cabinet has put together for me I have spent very little time at my desk!

  • Each of the Vice Presidents has provided a tour of their respective divisions so I could meet many staff members this summer. 
  • I met with each of the Deans, toured their colleges, and met their respective staffs, the summer faculty, and their students.
  • I visited the Concord Campus, and the Oakland Center.
  • I toured our library, the learning commons, and SCAA center where I met faculty, staff, and students.
  • I saw our Student Health Center and Student Housing.   I met many new students and -families at orientations.
  • I met with the ASI Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of the Academic Senate.
  • I met with Educational Foundation members, alumni, emeriti faculty and benefactors.
  • I met with many of our legislative leaders, and attended regional business and economic alliance meetings, and
  • I spoke with many key business and community leaders who are important University partners.

In all of these interactions, the enthusiasm, engagement and motivation of everyone I have met inspired me.   What is clear to me is how deeply committed and dedicated people are to this University, our students, and the community. 

In reviewing University materials, I have been impressed with the scope and quality of your achievements over the past five years.  President Mo Qayoumi’s legacy and imprint on Cal State East Bay is obvious and indelible.   He and the leadership team through the good work of you, the faculty, staff, and students have accomplished much and positioned the University well for the future.  There is much to build on.

Collectively, you addressed some of the University’s most challenging problems. Today, enrollment is robust, the budget is balanced, the physical environment and learning spaces are much improved, and the strategic academic and physical master plans are being implemented and realized through our seven mandates.  Throughout this region and far beyond, the profile of the University has been elevated and is increasingly associated with regional stewardship. . . .access to excellence and opportunity . . . and educational innovation.  We must stay the course on all of these fronts.  The important question ahead is:  how do we continue to build effectively upon our excellence and institutional distinction? 

I know many of you are wondering about the direction we will take as we move forward.  I see us building upon the solid foundation that all of you have worked so hard to establish.  I have found that universities and organizations are most effective when they have a well-articulated, ambitious vision for the future.  This has definitely been the culture here. 

The process for developing a shared vision is a dynamic and interactive one. A shared vision can only be accomplished by many people working together.  I strongly believe we can, and must, be inclusive of the various interests and constituencies of the University and community and align these diverse interests in a coherent and ambitious vision for our collective future.  However, this is easier said than done.

I reviewed the strategic planning documents, particularly the Framework for the Future, which produced the seven university mandates.  These documents are now close to five years old.  Now is an excellent time to revisit them as part of our continuous strategic planning process.  There are many questions we must ask ourselves in the weeks ahead:

  • How do we build on the great successes of the past five years?
  • What opportunities exist to move our University forward and enhance our students’ ability to learn, as well as our status in The CSU and in our region?
  • While the seven University mandates are impressive, do any of them need to be refreshed or revised?
  • How do we develop new opportunities for revenue generation? And,
  • How do we set priorities?

As part of the process to help reaffirm and refresh a shared collective vision for the future, I have asked the cabinet to establish a series of structured conversations throughout the university that will allow me the opportunity to “listen” to faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors and friends.   These “listening sessions” will be one hour in length, led by a facilitator who will present three basic questions:

  • What do you like most about the University and view as our greatest strength?
  • Which of the seven mandates continues to be most important?
  • Within the seven mandates, which, if any, should be rephrased or adjusted to reflect changing circumstances and new opportunities?

I think everyone in the room recognizes that there is much we can—and should—do to extend our excellence, institutional distinction and regional influence.  While I have posed a number of questions, there are six themes I believe should factor into our thinking going forward and become part of a broader conversation on how we advance Cal State East Bay.  These six themes are Student Experience, A Successful Graduate, Stem-infused Education, Student Engagement, Sustainability, and Revenue Generation.

# 1) Student Experience

In thinking about the student experience at Cal State East Bay, we may want to expand our view to be more holistic.  To enhance student success, retention and graduation, we must focus on the integration of student life and student services with our academic programs.  This is particularly true for students from historically under-served populations, and those at critical turning points in their lives.

We offer an exemplary first-year experience for first time freshmen but after this, we need to ensure our students have the skills and support they need to fulfill their lower division general education program and progress in their majors.  Transfer students comprise the majority of our new undergraduates each year.  We must be attentive to their transitional needs as they adjust to the quarter calendar and the expectations of a four-year university.  Many upper division and post-baccalaureate students have more responsibilities away from campus than our freshmen. Nonetheless, we still need to make certain that they have appropriate opportunities to engage in all aspects of campus life.  As we direct more attention to rounding out our students’ learning experience this year, I will be seeking your ideas about what more we can and should do to enhance Cal State East Bay as a welcoming, engaging and inspiring place for our students to learn.

# 2) A Successful Graduate

The Academic Plan, adopted in 2008, broadly addresses what our students need to know and what we want our graduates to be able to do.   We need to continue to think deeply about what our students’ academic experience must include.  Not only disciplinary content but an understanding of sustainability, global engagement, and essential skills including effective verbal and written communication, critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, problem solving, teamwork and leadership skills.  I commend the Academic Senate, faculty and staff for their initiative and work towards developing Institutional Learning Outcomes for our students.  This work product will be an invaluable tool to help us explain to our community what it means to be a Cal State East Bay graduate.    As we communicate the Cal State East Bay story, I hope that we can explain to our students, the community, and potential employers that students who are fully engaged in all aspects of their college education are best prepared for life and work.

# 3) STEM Infused Education

I have read and heard much about the work you have been doing in the last several years on STEM education and workforce development. We need more professionals with preparation in STEM-based and STEM-related fields.

We need graduates who will be responsive to the spiraling knowledge and literacies that are growing logarithmically each year.  Few will argue that quantitative literacy, scientific knowledge and technical reasoning are essential aspects of problem solving for all citizens and workers in the 21st century.

As we continue our work in this area, we need to think of a conceptual broadening of STEM education to what I would describe as a STEM-infused education.  Just as we talk about writing across the curriculum, we should be considering as equally important, STEM infusion across the curriculum in response to the needs for an informed citizenry and globally competitive workforce.  We need our graduates to be multidisciplinary thinkers and problem solvers who possess the skills associated with qualitative and quantitative reasoning. 

# 4) Student Engagement  

As we continue to interweave global engagement, diversity, writing skills, the arts and humanities, and quantitative reasoning across the curriculum, we need to consider best practices in pedagogy in delivering instruction to optimize our students’ learning.    I have asked Provost Houpis and Senate Chair Mahoney to investigate with the faculty the development and implementation of engaged learning strategies.  These strategies require students to synthesize knowledge and draw from both classroom and real world experiences.   In addition, with engaged learning strategies, course objectives are achieved by working on projects with community partners.  

As we integrate well designed, problem based assignments in team projects, we challenge students to pool their knowledge from multi-disciplinary sources for integrated solutions.  This type of pedagogy relies heavily on team-work that promotes effective team building and leadership skills.  High impact engaged learning experiences have been found to dramatically increase student retention and graduation, as well as reduce the graduation gap. 

# 5) Sustainability

A vital component of our students’ education, as well as that of all of us, is to be engaged and knowledgeable about sustainability.  Sustainable development is often viewed as having three components:  Healthy Environment, Social Justice, and Economic Growth, and at the center-- a sustainable society.  At Cal State East Bay we need to consider ways that all of us can embrace the values and principles of sustainability in our daily lives.  How can we integrate sustainable practices into the University’s planning and policies, academics, operations, and student activities?  We have a wonderful learning environment here at CSUEB with solar panels generating electricity, a new fuel cell plant opening which will help us conserve energy consumption via the waste heat that is generated from it, recycling activities and other green practices.  We have scholars who will help us enhance our efforts and commitment to social justice and equity.  And we can explore ways that economic growth and development in the United States and across the globe can be enhanced so that greater numbers of people can live healthy and productive lives in safe and sustainable communities.  I strongly support efforts that we make both in and out of the classroom to learn, teach and practice sustainability at the University and in our everyday lives.

# 6) Revenue Generation

Careful financial planning has positioned Cal State East Bay well during the ongoing budget crisis.  State revenues are continuing to decline and it is likely that a mid-year reduction of approximately $100M for the CSU system will be triggered.  We need to be cautious in the use of our resources as we work to address a potential $3.7M reduction for us in this year’s budget.  Higher enrollment may aid in alleviating part of this problem.  I will keep you apprised as there is more clarity about this pending issue.     More than ever we need to continue to work together to utilize our resources in the most efficient and effective manner possible.

As we have come through the budget exigencies of the last five years, it is clear that State funding to the CSU will not return to earlier levels any time soon.   Increases in student tuition have filled some of the gaps of our recent reductions.  We need to look for more partners to help us sustain and enhance the quality of our academic programs and student services.  I have asked the cabinet to assist in identifying possible revenue streams, such as enhanced productivity in research and sponsored programs, self-support and entrepreneurial programs. 

As we enter the third year of our University of Possibilities comprehensive fundraising campaign, we have seen a dramatic increase in private support for the campaign’s objectives.  So a great deal of my time and energy, a great deal of the time and energy of your deans,  those of you at the department level, and the development officers, will be devoted to securing private support for the extra measure of excellence we seek.  The budget reality for public higher education is that we cannot rely solely on the State any longer, and we need to plan effectively and utilize our limited resources wisely in attracting private and public support, as well as developing new revenue streams.

I present these six themes of Student Experience, A Successful Graduate, Stem-infused Education, Student Engagement, Sustainability, and Revenue Generation in the hope that they help stimulate discussion and become part of our broader conversation during the next few months as we seek to advance Cal State East Bay’s excellence and distinction.

Just as students are our first priority, our most important resource is our educational community and family, -- you the faculty and staff.  You provide and support the student experience here at Cal State East Bay.  For the eighth consecutive year, The Princeton Review has identified Cal State East Bay as a “Best in the West” institution.  Also Diverse Issues in Higher Education recognized us as one of the top 100 institutions in the nation for degrees awarded to students of color.  The reason for this increasing recognition and success is clear.  It is due to you, the faculty and staff—who work tirelessly in support of our students’ success. 

The past five years have posed a great number of challenges and hardships to our employees.   The hardships of furloughs and the reductions in workforce for both staff and faculty have taken a toll on all of us.  In learning about your achievements during the past several years, especially in the context of the budget, I am absolutely amazed.   What is clear to me is that Cal State East Bay is blessed with a community of faculty and staff dedicated to its students and the institution.

I would now like to take a moment to address the staff.  You are truly the “face of the campus” to our students and visitors.  You, are often the first ones they see and encounter, and it is you who provide the first impression of Cal State East Bay.  On my first day to this campus after I was named Interim President, I was coming in from the parking lot when two facilities personnel recognized me and stopped their work to welcome me to the campus.  In fact, they were the first to call me “Mr. President.”  I cannot tell you how special and welcome they made me feel.   As I observe staff members at work, I am reminded daily that you  address the many needs and issues that face our students.  You are on the front lines, removing barriers and assisting students on their educational journey.  First impressions set a tone and my hope is that we will make every person who sets foot on this campus feel welcomed, much as I did on my first visit here.

In recognition of the needs of the staff, I have asked Interim Vice President Wells to work with Human Resources in developing and implementing a professional development program for staff members, especially as it relates to your work in enhancing the student experience.  Further, as funding becomes available, we will continue to add staff in key strategic positions.  I want to thank each and every staff member for your commitment and valued service to our students and to the university.

Now, I would like to take a moment to address the faculty.   Cal State East Bay is today an institution on the move.  The energy that propels the university emanates from you, our accomplished faculty.   One way that I began to understand the level of excellence and commitment of our faculty was by reviewing the resident experts section on our webpage.  The honor and recognition faculty members have brought to the University speaks volumes to the quality and excellence of your teaching, research, scholarly and creative activities, and service.  What I find amazingly distinctive about Cal State East Bay faculty is how accessible you are to your students.   It is gratifying to see undergraduate students, as well as graduate students engaged in research, scholarly and creative activities with their faculty.  I have been at lunch several times now where I have seen faculty bring their students to continue their dialogue.   The learning during these special opportunities may be as valuable as what they learn in formal class settings.   It is clear to me that our faculty are driven by passion, curiosity, forward thinking and an unwavering commitment to their students, the community, and the University’s future.  

Tenure-track faculty are essential to provide a quality education.  While 20 faculty searches have been approved for this year, I have charged Provost Houpis to develop a multi-year plan for hiring new tenure track faculty, with appropriate start-up support.  We must replace the tenured & tenure-track faculty who have retired or left Cal State East Bay.  In addition, I have asked the Provost to allocate resources in support of our evolving approaches to teaching and learning.  As we continue to seek excellence and distinction, we must support the faculty in providing the resources necessary to conduct research and creative activities, leading edge instruction, and professional development.  Thank you, faculty members, for your great work and commitment to our students.

I now acknowledge two people who have been specially recognized this past year.  Each year, a faculty member is selected to receive the Miriam and James Phillips Outstanding Professor award, and a staff member is selected to receive the Vivian Cuniffe Award.  I ask Dr. Stephen Gutierrez, the Phillips Outstanding Professor and Professor of English, and Ms. Lisa Booker the Cuniffe Award recipient and Logistics & Special Projects Coordinator for Procurement & Support Services, to stand and be recognized.  Please join me in congratulating our recipients.  Thank you both for your valued contributions, and congratulations!

As I conclude my remarks, you will note that I am not placing a plan before you.  I am asking you to join me as we define our future together.  Today I am placing a challenge before you -- take your place in the process and become engaged.   I will commence our listening sessions to get the process underway.  I ask you to give some thought to the issues and outcomes, because you have an important role in defining the future of Cal State East Bay. 

I am extremely proud and honored to have been chosen for this very important leadership role.  I am excited to be here and pledge my energy in service to advancing this great university.  I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to work with such a dedicated and committed community of faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors and friends.  I ask for your support and help as we move forward. 

I wish each of you an enjoyable and productive year.  Thank you for joining me this morning, and GO Pioneers!

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