A capacity crowd filled the University Theatre Sept. 19 as Interim President Leroy Morishita delivered his first Fall Convocation address at CSUEB. (Photo Stephanie Secrest)
A full house in the University Theatre greeted Interim President Leroy Morishita Monday as he became the fifth president to address Fall Convocation remarks to Cal State East Bay faculty and staff members.
Following opening addresses by Academic Senate Chair Michael Mahoney and Associated Students Inc. President Christopher Prado, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs James Houpis introduced Morishita to the capacity crowd as “someone who will bring a new era of optimism here at CSUEB.”
Prolonged applause and cheers accompanied Morishita’s progress to the podium.
Morishita, who assumed his post July 1, thanked the university community for warmly welcoming him to Cal State East Bay, starting with two facilities workers he met during his first moments on the Hayward campus. He also expressed gratitude for the reception provided to his wife, Barbara Hedani-Morishita, who he asked to stand in recognition along with his oldest son, Kyle.
The interim president outlined his message, saying he’d divided it into three areas: some personal background not found on his resume; his thoughts on “where we are going”; and his acknowledgment of university employees’ “excellent work.”
Like many Cal State East Bay students, Morishita and his siblings were the first in his family to earn college degrees. His grandparents had emigrated from Japan, and his parents’ educations ended at the high school level. Unlike many Japanese American families forcibly moved to internment camps during World War II, however, the Morishitas did not lose their Fresno farm.
“Farming is a hard life, because there is no control over the weather, water availability, and the market,” he said. “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.”
Given his background, perhaps it is no surprise that Morishita expressed particular appreciation for Cal State East Bay’s Latin motto, per aspera ad astra, or “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,” he observed.
Motivated to put opportunity before CSUEB’s students, Morishita said he’d spent “very little time at my desk” in his initial 11 weeks at the university, a period in which cabinet leaders arranged for him to meet with deans, members of ASI and other students, the Academic Senate, emeritus faculty, Education Foundation trustees and campaign volunteers, legislators and community leaders. He’s also toured the colleges, the Concord and Oakland campuses, the University Library and Learning Commons, Pioneer Heights and Student Health and Counseling Services.
He credited the university community for its accomplishments in the past five years under former President Mo Qayoumi’s guidance.
“Collectively, you addressed some of the university’s most challenging problems,” Morishita said. “The important question ahead is: How do we continue to build effectively upon our excellence and institutional distinction?”
The interim president explained his interest in revisiting and reconsidering guiding principles of the university contained in strategic planning documents such as the Framework for the Future and the seven mandates it produced.
He has asked the cabinet to organize a series of “structured conversations” that he described as one-hour listening sessions at which members of the university community will be invited to respond to the following three questions:
While he has invited CSUEB constituents to express their viewpoints as part of the broader university conversation, Morishita also identified six themes he said should factor into efforts to continue Cal State East Bay’s advancement. The themes are: student experience, a successful graduate, STEM-infused education (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics), student engagement, sustainability and revenue generation.
“I am asking you to join me as we define our future together,” Morishita said. “I pledge my energy and service to advancing this university … I ask for your help and support as we move forward.”
At the conclusion of his remarks, the audience responded with a standing ovation.
Staff and faculty members expressed support for messages contained in the convocation address.
“I’m excited,” said two-year employee Alison Richardson, director of Student Academic Services. “(There was) clear acknowledgement of staff – that they have a vital role with students and their success on campus.”
Richardson said she also liked that Morishita did not present a detailed plan but invited community participation in shaping CSUEB’s future direction.
“I’m curious to know what he means by STEM-infused education; it’s important to flesh it out,” said Assistant Professor Lonny Brook, an eight-year faculty member in the Department of Communication.
“It’s a very solid start, especially in support of faculty,” Brook added. “He brings an energy and enthusiasm and humor to the position, and it’s refreshing. I think he wants to continue what we’ve built up.”
Read the full text of the convocation address online.