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President's convocation address celebrates successes, introduces coming initiatives


President Leroy M. Morishita

  • September 25, 2012

President Leroy M. Morishita ushered in the new academic year Sept. 24 to a full house of faculty and staff members gathered for Fall 2012 Convocation in the University Theatre.

The occasion marked the President’s second convocation address to the university community and his first since the California State University board of trustees appointed him Cal State East Bay’s fifth president in January. Previously, he had filled the post on an interim basis for six months.

“This convocation provides the opportunity for us to reflect on last year’s accomplishments, talk about the challenges ahead and discuss critical initiatives that we must address this year,” Morishita said.

Before delving into what lies ahead for Cal State East Bay in 2012-13 –– a year that promises budget challenges to CSUEB and public institutions statewide –– 20 new tenure-track CSUEB faculty members were invited to stand as Provost James Houpis introduced each to the assembly. Likewise, new staff members were applauded as they stood to be recognized.

Morishita noted that in his inaugural convocation address he had stated that “doing what is best for our students” was his No. 1 priority, an objective that it is “essential” to continue reinforcing in the coming year, he said. Faculty and staff are key to accomplishing this objective, he added.

“If we are to advance on our aspirations in the areas of academic excellence, institutional distinction and regional influence, we must continue to invest in our tenure track faculty and our staff,” he said.

In support of this aim, the President announced he has given Provost James Houpis the go-ahead to conduct 30 tenure-track faculty searches, news that was well received by those in attendance.

Among highlights of the previous year’s accomplishments, the President listed 15 listening sessions that resulted in a revised mission statement and eight shared strategic commitments for the university. Through a collaborative process initiated by the Academic Senate, a set of Institutional Learning Outcomes for CSUEB students also was identified.

“Together, our mission statement, our Shared Commitments and our Institutional Learning Outcomes, provide a means for us to explain to our public who we are and what it means to be a Cal State East Bay graduate,” Morishita said. “What an exciting culmination of my first year as President …”

Also recognized during the program were the 2011-12 George and Miriam Phillips Outstanding Professor, Derek Kimball, associate professor of physics; and Vivian Cunniffe Award recipient for top employee, Derrick Lobo, parking services coordinator.

A strong, collective track record for CSUEB in the previous year, however, will not shield the university from further legislative budget reductions, which have resulted in 35 percent less state support than received in 1998. “We are now forced to make some difficult and painful decisions,” Morishita said. “We can not continue to do business as usual.”

The President introduced two campuswide planning initiatives scheduled for discussion and consideration during 2012-13.

The first, initiated by the CSU, will begin the process of exploring what it would take for the six CSU campuses on the quarter system to convert to the semester system. The switch, which would take at least three years, is considered desirable for teaching reasons and would make it easier for students transferring from community colleges. Morishita emphasized that in the coming year, CSUEB would be in only a beginning planning phase.

“And all six presidents have agreed that without financial support from the Chancellor’s Office, we cannot afford to implement the initiative,” he said.

Before introducing the second campuswide initiative coming to CSUEB, the President reviewed the uncertain state budget environment. In the November election, he reminded audience members, voters will consider the governor’s tax initiative, Proposition 30. If the proposition does not pass, the CSU will be subject to a $250 million “trigger cut,” as of January. For Cal State East Bay, the proposition’s failure would result in an approximately $9 million cut.

Given the dramatic change in state support for public higher education, the President also is introducing a process called Planning for Distinction: Program Prioritization, which calls for a “comprehensive institutional review” of academic and administrative programs.

“The process will then lead to a set of recommendations to increase resources supporting our highest priority and distinctive programs, maintain steady funding for programs central to our mission and eight shared strategic commitments and consolidate or reduce funding for those programs that are determined to be of lower priority,” he explained.

He expressed confidence that the university community’s history will allow it to emerge from the process as a “revitalized and stronger institution.”

“In order to fulfill our responsibility to our students we must be vigilant in summoning our strengths and supporting each other so that Cal State East Bay can achieve its highest aspirations,” Morishita said. “We need to be faithful to our University motto: per aspera ad astra -- `through adversity to the stars.’”

Following the convocation address, seven-year CSUEB faculty member Rolla Lewis said he welcomes the prospect of switching from an academic quarter system to a semester schedule.

“I personally found that exciting, because it would bring about renewal,” said Lewis, a professor of educational psychology and coordinator of the school counseling program. “You have to do things to renew organizations, and this is an opportunity to review and revitalize.”
Lewis expressed less certainty about how the program prioritization process the President outlined would work. “Does that mean justification of programs or celebration of excellence?” he said.

On the other side of the University Theatre, 16-year CSUEB employee Kathleen DeWitt chatted with a colleague following the President’s address. She, too, embraces the thought of moving to the semester system, saying it would bring improved efficiencies to her work as information technology service desk manager. She’s also interested in learning more about the Planning for Distinction process.

“It was interesting that we didn’t hear about the STEM initiative,” DeWitt said. “I’d like to find out how they’re going to prioritize these high visibility projects. I’d be interested in finding out what those are.”

“So far I’m really impressed with President Morishita,” she said. “He’s just so open.”

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