New CSUEB President Lives Like a Freshman

  • July 10, 2006

Ask Mo Qayoumi about Cal State East Bay's top "feeder" high schools, and he can rattle them off like the days of the week. The percentage of veterans who use the GI Bill to attend college? No problem.

Even before he was named the fourth president of California State University, East Bay, Qayoumi displayed an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the university, its budget and its surrounding communities.

Now, during his first days on the job, he is working to put that information into context - "peeling the layers of the onion," as he calls it.

He started by moving into the dorms.

"Usually, we just see the university during the daytime," he said. "Living here, 7/24, you get a sense of different aspects of the campus."

On Tuesday, Qayoumi watched as thousands of area residents ascended the Hayward hills and filled the campus parking lot for a good view of the Fourth of July fireworks. Last weekend, he dropped by the Fiji Festival, which was expected to draw thousands of Pacific Islanders from the region. This week, he expects to take part in the freshman orientation activities.

"The university is a major enterprise as a cultural center, entertainment center and intellectual center," Qayoumi said as he walked the quiet campus last week. "How we serve the community, in different roles, is sometimes forgotten or not really articulated."

Qayoumi won't be a permanent resident

of Pioneer Heights; he expects to stay in the student housing facility until he and his wife Najia Karim - the two are moving from Southern California - find a home in the area. Although unassuming about his decision to live on campus (the university spokesman raised the subject), he seems to be sending the right message.

"We think it's wonderful. The students are excited about it," said Sonjia Redmond, vice president of Student Affairs. She added, "He seems like the type of president we're going to see about a lot."

An energetic, visible president is certainly what the students ordered. Faculty and staff, meanwhile, have called for a leader who will help the university figure out how to attract more students. For Qayoumi, those two things are connected.

At a July 3 meeting of his executive staff, the new president outlined three priorities, starting with "meeting the needs of prospective students." How can the university connect with more high school and community college students? How can it simplify its enrollment process? How easily can students access the financial aid and get the answers and the courses they need?

One of Qayoumi's first tasks is to search for an interim assistant vice president of enrollment management, a position that has recently been juggled by the director of international programs. He also is exploring whether that department should report to the provost, as it now does - or to student affairs, to business affairs, or directly to the president's office.

"I would like to get as many people as possible involved in really forging an approach that will meet the needs of the campus," he said.

Then he cited another statistic: In

12 years the university has had seven people in charge of enrollment management.

Next on the list is financial stability - which is closely linked to enrollment, since state funding is roughly determined by the number of students per campus. Qayoumi also wants to look at ways to increase grants and contracts for faculty members, possibly by providing more technical support. The fiscal impact of programs that don't receive state funding, such as continuing education, will come under the microscope as well.

Finally, Qayoumi said, the campus needs to increase the number of tenure-track faculty and staff positions. That, said Henry Reichman, the new chairman of the Faculty Senate, is "something we are desperately in need of."

Reichman, who attended the Monday meeting and who was part of the search advisory committee that interviewed Qayoumi, said he felt the campus community would embrace the direction its new leader has outlined.

"I think the new president will have a good deal of a honeymoon period," he said.

But it's clear that the Qayoumi - who called the executive meeting during the holiday weekend - isn't inclined to waste much time.

"He's somebody who moves quickly, that's very clear," Reichman said.

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