'Concord Fete a First for CSU Site'

  • June 9, 2005

Cal State East Bay's Concord campus will celebrate its first graduation tonight, but don't call it a commencement, or even a ceremony.

The carefully worded event at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek will be simply a celebration. Commencement, when school administrators bestow degrees on graduates, will be Saturday in Hayward.

The semantics lesson is indicative of the still-tenuous relationship between the 13-year-old Concord campus and its better-known companion site in Hayward, where the university's top administrators work. But students and Concord campus officials say today's event is a sign the Contra Costa County site is coming of age.

"Things are coming around," said Concord resident Dennison Seelinger, who will receive his teaching credential this week. "I used to feel like we were the cousin nobody wanted to talk about."

Nearly a quarter of the 5,020 Cal State East Bay students who will graduate this week took at least one class in Concord. More than 680 of those graduates completed 25 or more credits at the Contra Costa campus.

Administrators on both campuses have worked in the past year to boost enrollment and morale at the Concord site, where both have lagged in past years.

In January, California State University trustees ditched the 33-year-old Cal State Hayward moniker in favor of the East Bay title, in part to attract students from Contra Costa County and the Livermore and San Ramon valleys. University officials are also trying to improve student services and send permanent faculty members to the Concord campus.
Concord campus leaders might push for their own commencement eventually, but even today's low-key event is considered a victory.

"It's a major breakthrough just to have a celebration," said Peter Wilson, dean of the Concord site. "It's a step toward our maturing as a campus."

Wilson hopes students eventually will be able to complete their degrees without ever having to take classes in Hayward. With class offerings still relatively limited, nearly all Concord campus students spend some time in Hayward.

Because few students can call the Concord campus home while at least 12,000 attend the Hayward site, it makes sense to hold commencement in Hayward for now, said university President Norma Rees. But Concord may have its own ceremony one day, she said.

"I would never say never," Rees said. "It would depend on enrollment growth and it would depend on which programs and classes are being offered."

Contra Costa County Supervisor Mark DeSaulnier, who has advocated making the Concord campus its own university, said he believes the Hayward-based administrators have become more earnest about improving the Contra Costa site.

"They're finally getting a sense of what an underdeveloped asset they have there," said DeSaulnier, who will speak at tonight's event.

Pittsburg resident Miguel Castaneda, who will receive two master's degrees this week, also said the university seems serious about attracting more students to Concord. Allowing the graduation celebration is a nod toward the campus's burgeoning identity, he said.

"They're getting the sense that this is an entity that stands alone," said Castaneda, who will be the inaugural president of the new Concord campus alumni association. "We understand there's a process and red tape we need to go through, but we feel like this is our ceremony."

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