Fall 2014 Convocation Address

September 22, 2014

President Morishita giving his convocation speech in Fall 2014

Thank you and good morning.  Let me officially welcome you, the Cal State East Bay community, back to campus as we begin our 2014-15 academic year.  I hope that you are rested and ready to welcome our students for the new academic year – I know that I am.

I would like to thank Mr. Thamer Alhathal, President of Associated Students Inc., Dr. Michael Hedrick, Chair of the Academic Senate, and Dr. James Houpis, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, for joining me on the stage this morning.  We are successful because of our commitment to work collegially and collaboratively, and I look forward to continuing that success with this new team.

Upon this, my fourth convocation address, I will be reviewing the past year’s accomplishments, talk about the challenges ahead and discuss new initiatives that I hope you will help me address this year.

I will begin by acknowledging the members of my cabinet, the academic and administrative leaders in our many divisions, as well as the members of the Academic Senate, for all the work they do throughout the academic year to support the students of this University.  I am extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to work with such talented colleagues.

Let me now introduce a new member of my cabinet, Interim Vice President for University Advancement, Lee Blitch.  Vice President Blitch comes to us with over 35 years of experience as a manager and Vice President in the corporate world, along with over a decade of experience in the non-profit and higher education world.  Mr. Blitch has agreed to serve as the interim Vice President while we undergo a nationwide search for a permanent Vice President for University Advancement.   Interim Vice President Blitch, will you please stand and be recognized?

I would also like to recognize other members of our Cal State East Bay family who have assumed permanent or new administrative roles.  I would ask those administrators who are here for the first time or have taken on new roles over the past year to please stand, if able, or wave.  Please help me welcome and congratulate these colleagues.

I will now introduce my wife, Barbara Hedani-Morishita.  She is my greatest supporter, confidant, and critic and enjoys this university, you and the rest of the students, faculty and staff almost as much as me.  Barbara, would you please stand and be recognized?

I want to thank the faculty for all of the great work you do for the CSUEB community.  You educate our students both in and out of the classroom, you conduct research and remain active in your field to advance in your discipline, you are engaged with our community, and serve the university through work in various committees and activities.  You are outstanding!

I would also like to update you now on a goal I told you about in my first convocation. At that time, the Provost and I set out to increase the number of tenured faculty here at CSUEB. I am proud to announce, that as I begin my fourth academic year, 24 new tenure-track faculty are joining us, resulting in a total of 69 new faculty hires in my three years as President. In addition, I have authorized an additional 25 searches, plus four hold-over searches, for a total of 29 searches this year. As the Provost mentioned, this year’s group of new faculty are very impressive scholars and teachers, covering a wide range of expertise.

I personally welcome these new faculty members to CSUEB family.  You join a distinguished faculty who have brought great pride and recognition to the University.  I wish each of you success as you begin your professional journey as part of the Cal State East Bay family and we look forward to your contributions in advancing the University.

This University has a strong and committed staff, all making valued contributions to an inclusive, vibrant learning environment that prioritizes the needs of our students.  For those new staff who have joined us over the past year, I offer my warmest welcome to you.  Would you please stand, if able, or wave and be recognized?  Thank you all for your dedication, hard work and commitment to the success of our students and the university.

As is our tradition at Fall Convocation, I am going to recognize individuals who have been honored by the University community over this past year.  Each year a faculty member is selected to receive the George and Miriam Phillips Outstanding Professor Award and a staff member is selected to receive the Vivian Cunniffe Award for the outstanding staff employee.  In addition, five Provost’s awards were presented during this year’s Week of Scholarship:  Provost’s Award for Outstanding Faculty Mentor of Students, Outstanding Researcher—Tenured, and Outstanding Researcher—Untenured, Outstanding Contributor to Community Engagement, and Outstanding Scholar on Issues of Diversity, Social Justice and Multiculturalism.

I invite the following to stand (and remain standing) and be recognized:

  • Dr. Eileen Barrett, Professor and Graduate Coordinator of the Department of English and recipient of the George and Miriam Phillips Outstanding Professor award;
  • Dr. Luz Calvo, Professor, Department of Ethnic Studies, recipient of the Outstanding Contributor to Community Engagement award;
  • Dr. Sinan Goktan, Associate Professor, Department of Accounting and Finance, recipient of Outstanding Researcher—Untenured award;
  • Dr. Michael Groziak, Professor, Department of Chemistry, recipient of the Outstanding Faculty Mentor of Students award;
  • Dr. Rita Liberti, Professor, Department of Kinesiology, Outstanding Scholar on Issues of Diversity, Social Justice and Multiculturalism;
  • Dr. Christopher Moreman, Chair and Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, recipient of the Outstanding Researcher—Tenured award; and,
  • Staff member Mr. Fernando Coronado, Custodian, Department of Facilities Management, recipient of the Vivian Cunniffe award.

Please join me in congratulating our recipients. Thank you for your valued contributions and congratulations!

While I have much I want to say to you today, I want to address something that may be foremost on your mind.  I am referring to the recent discovery of an unauthorized access of personal information that occurred last year which was announced in a press release, campus e-mail, and individual letters sent to those of you affected.  I am sure you were surprised and are concerned about possible theft of your identity, as am I.

We live in a very different age and time when so much personal information and data can be accessed by those who would seek to use our data for illegal purposes.  But, please know that we are doing all that we can to ensure the protection of your personal information.  However, I do encourage everyone to remain vigilant and to protect against possible identity theft by signing up for the free 12-month ProtectMyID offered by the University.  Also, take other steps such as reviewing your financial account statements on a regular basis, monitoring your credit reports, and placing an initial fraud alert on your credit files, which tells creditors to contact you personally before they open any new accounts.  It is important for all of us to guard against these types of illegal activities, which, unfortunately, are becoming more and more prevalent.

For the second consecutive year, the Governor and the legislature increased funding for the CSU. Even though we didn’t receive all that we asked for in the budget, this increase in our budget is welcomed and reflects the tremendous advocacy of the campus community who were in Sacramento meeting with lawmakers about California’s need to reinvest in the CSU. I am thankful to all of you who advocated on Cal State East Bay’s behalf.

The increase of $142 million in funding for the CSU will enable us to serve more students without raising tuition fees – the fourth year in a row without a tuition increase.  This budget will also enable the CSU to begin addressing a backlog of deferred maintenance projects across the system. In addition, CSUEU is voting on a three-year agreement that includes a 3% compensation increase for this year, while APC has ratified their agreement. The other collective bargaining units including CFA continue to negotiate what is hoped to be a three-year agreement.

This is welcome news after 5 years of difficult budget circumstances; however, we still face many challenges.  The CSU is still serving 40,000 more students per year with 500 million less dollars.  We must continue to seek additional revenue sources from the State or through foundations and donors who support our efforts to provide access to a high quality education. 

The University strives to support every student along the path to graduation; we must support them during every step of that path. And that path often starts even before applicants make their decisions to apply to CSUEB.  This involves working with students and teachers throughout the K-12 grades and in preschool.

Our enrollment has continued to climb, and with demand as high as it has ever been with fully eligible applicants, we must be more strategic.  The Fall 2015 application cycle, which begins on October 1st, includes an important milestone in managing that growth.  The Priority Application Filing Period for all of the CSU is October 1st through November 30th.  Cal State East Bay deadlines have historically been much later than November 30th, but every year, as our outreach and enrollment efforts have improved, resulting in increased demand, CSUEB application deadlines have been set earlier and earlier.  CSUEB has now reached the point that the Fall 2015 deadline for Undergraduate Applications has been set at November 30th.  Setting this earlier closing date will keep us closer to our budgeted enrollment target and will allow our enrollment services offices to continue better meeting the needs of our applicants in admitting and enrolling them in a timely manner.  

While we will continue to generate interest in our outstanding university with qualified and diverse applicants, we are also focusing on building a better foundation for our students’ success and graduation.

I now want to acknowledge some of the many wonderful things happening on our campus.

  • The Princeton Review rated Cal State East Bay a "Best in the West" college for 2014 – the tenth consecutive year the University has been so recognized.
  • This year, A2E2 provided nearly $2.4 million towards multiple service and student-focused activities and programs to enrich the academic and co-curricular life of our students and support our faculty in their activities.  A new Writing Center, a Quantitative and Reasoning Center, and an online advising position in the Academic Advising and Career Center were funded this year.
  • As you probably have seen, construction of our new Academic Services and Faculty Offices building is moving forward quickly.  When we complete this building in late spring, we will begin moving various units and people into the new building.  Ultimately, we will be able to vacate all of our temporary buildings on campus, which will permit us to remove them, enhancing the look of the campus further, and having our staff and faculty in permanent buildings.  Also, as part of our continuing effort to eliminate deferred maintenance, this summer we replaced the roofs on the Library, Science buildings and Old Student Union.
  • On the Concord campus, a new 3,300 square foot science laboratory opened last fall, now housing the largest organic chemistry lab at the university.
  • I would like to recognize Dr. Sue Opp and the many faculty and staff who have served (and continue to serve) on the WASC committees for their tremendous efforts and leadership in producing the self-study report and leading the re-accreditation activities on campus.  This was a tremendous amount of effort by a lot of people and I thank each and every one of you.  On April 8-10 next year, a WASC visiting team will come to our university for our reaccreditation review.  I am optimistic that we will have a favorable review and be reaccredited.
  • The Leadership and Employee Enrichment Program (better known as LEEP) continues to thrive, with over 424 staff, faculty, and community members involved in more than 300 activities this past year.

In our continuing efforts in support of an inclusive community:

  • We work as a campus to create a climate that is welcoming, caring and responsive to all members of the community.  We conducted a Campus Climate Survey of both the students and the faculty and staff in the last year.  The data are being analyzed and the findings will be shared with the campus. I can offer you an early preview.  Overall respondents indicated a positive attitude across all factors surveyed.  These data will allow us to reinforce and strengthen what is working, and address areas where respondents have told us there is room for improvement.
  • I am creating a University Ombuds position, reporting to the University Diversity Office. The Ombuds will provide a neutral, informal and independent resource for those who seek to resolve University-related transgressions, concerns or disputes.
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education Almanac lists Cal State East Bay as the 5th most diverse campus in the country.  Only the four University of Hawaii campuses are ranked ahead of us.  We have achieved success in matching the ethnic composition of California, plus over half of our students are 1st generation college students and a large number are 1st and 2nd generation immigrants.
  • I am very pleased that this past April, Cal State East Bay was designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution by the US Department of Education.  This HSI status allows us to apply for grants to expand educational opportunities for, and improve the attainment of Latino and Latina students.  This designation, along with the University’s Asian American, Native American, and Pacific Islander Serving Institution designation (AANAPISI), places Cal State East Bay in unique company as one of only a handful of four-year universities with more than one designation based upon the federal government’s Minority Serving Institution criteria.
  • Just last week, you may have read that Cal State East Bay was awarded the INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine’s Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award!  The HEED Award recognizes our outstanding efforts and success in the area of diversity and inclusion.  The application was rigorous and comprehensive and we should be very proud of the work we are doing and will continue to promote diversity and inclusion among our students, faculty, staff, and community.
  • The Center for Sport and Social Justice, The Office of Diversity, and ASI among others sponsored outstanding speakers.  Among others, these included the family of Henrietta Lacks, environmentalist and activist Winona LaDuke, and Dr. Angela Davis.
  • The Office of Diversity established a Week of Inclusive Excellence as part of its programming.  This annual event is comprised of a series of workshops, events, discussions and film screenings that enhance mutual understanding of issues related to race, gender, sexuality, ability and class.

Community service learning is also expanding as a hallmark of our University.

  • The Center for Community Engagement was established to support community-engaged teaching, learning, and scholarship as well as to build and promote community partnerships for curricular and co-curricular community engagement.  The Center is planning to host a student leadership for community engagement program and collaborate with other campus entities to support quality community engagement experiences for students and community partners.
  • Earlier this year, over a dozen CSUEB students volunteered for the Global Brigades Medical/Dental program.  Global Brigades is the world’s largest student-led health and development organization.  Through the University’s Global Brigades chapter, our students raised funds to help cover the costs for their 10-day trip to Matagalpa, Nicaragua, where they shadowed doctors and dentists to provide health care in this rural community.  Students were empowered with real-world experiences serving an under-resourced community to resolve global health and economic disparities.
  • Our partnership with Hayward Promise Neighborhood continues to support our local communities.  This year, Cal State East Bay Service Learning students significantly increased mentoring, tutoring and leadership, serving 2,000 Hayward Unified School District students at six target schools.  I am also pleased to report an Advisory Board comprised of local residents, parents, and community leaders has formed to strengthen community engagement and provide essential perspective to this important project.
  • Once again, Cal State East Bay students provided invaluable service and community engagement gaining important experience working with our regional communities.  4,246 students provided 275,000 hours of service in 258 courses—a 38% increase from last year.  A big thank you to our Director of Community Engagement, Mary D’Alleva for her leadership in this area.
  • Finally, freshmen Day of Service in Spring 2014 saw 1,198 freshmen participating in 85 community service projects including working with food banks, youth organizations and environmental agencies.

While not a comprehensive list of the outstanding accomplishments of our faculty, staff and students, these collective achievements demonstrate our ability to excel.  I would like to thank each of you for your dedication and commitment to our students and the University.

You heard my call last year and worked diligently to help our students who are trying to graduate, and importantly, trying to adjust to their first year of college.  I am pleased to announce that our first year retention rate has increased to 82%, up from 78% the year before.  And our three-year graduation rate for transfer students is nearly 65%.  These are promising starts and while we still have much work to do, the early work that you are doing and that of the Provost’s Council on Retention and Graduation give me hope that collectively we can reach our 2020 goals.

Now, I would like to address three priorities for the upcoming year – combating Sexual Violence on Campus, our Planning for Distinction efforts and the Quarter to Semester Conversion.

I am deeply committed to educating our entire University Community on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment. Towards this end, we are hiring a new full-time Title IX officer to help implement a comprehensive program to address sexual harassment and violence on campus.  We have expanded our awareness program, providing literature, posters and presentations to help ensure that the campus community is ready to respond.  I have asked for new and engaging training programs required for our students, staff and faculty so that all can respond to and report incidents of sexual harassment and violence to appropriate personnel.  Our community, especially our students, will be safer as a result.

Research and data show that those who work most closely with students – such as faculty, residence advisors, athletics coaches and staff, and other student services staff – are more likely to witness or receive complaints of sexual violence and harassment.  On our campus, these first points of contact will be trained on both how to recognize and, more importantly, how to interact appropriately with victims to encourage them to report and seek help. 

It is critical that Cal State East Bay foster a safe, professional and academic environment, especially for the populations most vulnerable on campus.  By creating a community of responsibility, where we all share in the goal of teaching bystanders, including ourselves, how to intervene safely and effectively, we can work together to put an end to sexual violence and sexual harassment on this campus.  Working to ensure that bystanders are not silent encourages us to work together to end the silence and to hold each other accountable.

No one should have to live in fear of violence, especially on this campus, and the changes I have proposed today, hopefully, affirm that belief. These changes are intended to ensure that every one of us on this campus are prepared to provide the resources and assistance to victims of violence or harassment they so importantly deserve. Our campus will be better off for it, and, our society will as well.

After nearly two years of work, the two Task Groups for Planning for Distinction completed their work this past spring and their reports provide direction for the University to ensure we continue to provide “academically rich, culturally relevant, learning experiences that prepare students to apply their education to meaningful lifework, and to be socially responsible contributors to society.”  I commend the faculty and staff who were involved with this exceptional effort for their commitment, time, and scholarly effort.  The reports and final recommendations of the two task groups and the steering committee were submitted to my Cabinet last spring. 

The Cabinet has reviewed the reports and concurred with the recommendations.  The reports, recommendations and observations from the three groups are available to all on the web.  The recommendations that relate to academic programs or activities fall within the purview of the Academic Senate, and will be considered by that body according to the Senate’s organizational practices and policies.  We are already seeing results from the Support recommendations.  As part of the budget process, we have asked each division to make proposals for one-time and ongoing funding that respond to the priorities identified in the support report. These requests will be discussed at the Fall UPABC meeting.

In addition, in response to one of the key recommendations, key data about the quality of our support services will be made widely available and these data will inform decisions about support services. The Data Warehouse Steering Committee is implementing a comprehensive approach to make such data available. The first pilot dashboard, focusing on Admissions information, will be presented to the committee at the next meeting and then made available campus-wide shortly thereafter.

A critical strategic priority that we will begin to implement this year is the conversion from a quarter to semester academic calendar.  With help from the Chancellor’s Office, we are one of several quarter campuses that will be converting to the semester system.  The first campuses to convert will be CSU Los Angeles and CSU Bakersfield who plan to launch Fall 2016.  CSUEB and Cal Poly Pomona will launch in Fall 2018.  Beginning this quarter, we will be establishing various committees to manage the conversion process.

The benefits of conversion to a semester calendar are very clear, especially in supporting our student success initiatives and strategic priorities.  The semester system allows for more in-depth projects, richer learning experiences, and closer relationships between faculty and students.  The semester, which is normally fifteen weeks, also permits the opportunity for a student who has difficulty with the course material as indicated by a midterm exam or paper, to seek help, to speak with the professor and make the adjustments to succeed in the course.  In a ten-week term, there is less opportunity to make such adjustments.  Further, the semester calendar better aligns us with other colleges and universities, in particular the 108 California community colleges on semesters.  This will enable students to transfer course credits more easily and apply them towards degree completion.

While the transition will be challenging, it will provide a unique opportunity to examine the entire curriculum of the university.  We will need to concentrate on what is best for our students and focus on quality curriculum and co-curricular activities that will improve our students’ learning.  The transition will also allow us to bring life and further our commitment to our Institutional Learning Outcomes, or ILOs.  Our ILOs state clearly what we expect our graduating students to have achieved.  At the end of the transition, it will be clear how our ILOs are taught across the curriculum. 

Importantly, I want this conversion to be done as best as possible so that the effect on our students will be minimal and will not impede their progress towards degree.  Student advising both before and following the conversion will be key to ensure continued student success.  In actuality, after the conversion, I believe our students will be better positioned for success. Cost estimates from the recent experience of universities that have converted range from $7 million to $14 million.  The Chancellor’s Office is sharing some of the costs, but there will be campus resource commitments to the process as well.  We hope that the experiences and steps taken at CSULA and CSUB will be instructive as well as help defray some of our costs.  Presently, we are well positioned to make this change.  

As I indicated, transitioning to semesters will be a lengthy and intensive process.   Our highest priority will be improved learning and the continuing success of our students.  Conversion to semesters will demand the engagement and dedication of our entire educational community.  I encourage and ask you to get involved in this important process.

As I enter my fourth year as President of CSUEB, I reflect upon all that I have learned from you and our students.  Our University is a very special and unique place that has afforded many students an opportunity to grow, learn and to achieve many, if not all of their dreams, hopes, and aspirations.  As I have stated a number of times, our Latin motto, per aspera ad astra (through adversity to the stars), is emblematic of the transformation that our students go through at CSUEB. 

All of your outstanding efforts, whether they be in making our grounds look so attractive and inviting to all that come here or in the helpful and supportive interactions students have or in the high quality of instruction afforded our students, have benefitted each of our graduates, their loved ones and families, our region, State, nation and in a number of instances the world.  We will continue to intensify our efforts to highlight everything that makes CSUEB a great university that serves our region so well.  We no longer want to be the “hidden gem” or the “best kept secret.” 

Thank you for all that you do to help our students succeed and to make Cal State East Bay the most welcoming and inviting University where a student can receive a high quality education and not only reach for the stars, but grab them.

Thank you.  And Go Pioneers!