Presidential Investiture Address

Cal State East Bay — A model for regionally-engaged learning in the 21st century

President Leroy M. Morishita
October 12, 2012

Good Morning.

Distinguished members of the Cal State East Bay family, Trustees, Chancellor,  University colleagues, community, government and business partners, my friends and family.

I am overwhelmed by your presence here today—my sincere gratitude not only for your warm welcome since my arrival at the University, but most especially for your continuing  support, dedication and commitment in advancing or helping to advance Cal State East Bay’s institutional excellence, distinction and regional influence.

Chair Linscheid and to your fellow trustees, thank you for your confidence in me and for giving me this wonderful opportunity to serve. 

Chancellor Reed, I appreciate greatly your support and encouragement and most importantly, your leadership in advancing the CSU in becoming the premier system we are today.  On behalf of the Cal State East Bay community, I want to thank you for your tireless commitment to the mission of the CSU and for your relentless pursuit of access, inclusion, and opportunity for the citizens of California to pursue and attain baccalaureate and post-baccalaureate degrees.

With profound feelings of honor, humility, privilege and joy, I stand before you today as the fifth President of this great University.  I stand here as President of Cal State East Bay on the shoulders of countless individuals who have nurtured, guided, and assisted me along my personal and professional journey.  Growing up in the small farming community of Del Rey, near Fresno, my family gave me strong support and laid the foundation of my core values. 

The family core values of hard work, individual and mutual responsibility, integrity, optimism and respect for others, has guided me throughout my life. I endeavor to bring these values with me as we work together at Cal State East Bay.  I grew up in an extended family environment that included my parents, grandparents, three siblings, three first cousins who are like siblings to me, and many aunts, uncles and cousins.  This family now includes in-laws, nieces and nephews. Many in this extended family are here with me today.   Thank you, I love you all.

My immediate family begins with my wife Barbara Hedani-Morishita, who is my strongest supporter and critic and our two sons, Kyle and Derek.   Barbara provides balance to my professional and personal life along with our sons, now successful young men, who have grown up to be a deep source of pride and joy for us and our families.

The other shoulders upon which I stand include many good friends and colleagues, whom I have met through Barbara’s and my educational, professional, community, and personal activities.  Many of them are here today and I —only hope that they don’t share too many “personal and PRIVATE” stories about me with my new colleagues at Cal State East Bay.  

I would like to acknowledge my colleagues from San Francisco State University, the Chancellor’s Office and other CSU campuses who helped me  grow  professionally, who taught me what it was to lead and work in the California State University,-- thank you, I am very grateful to all of you.  I would particularly like to recognize and thank Dr. Robert Corrigan, my mentor and recently retired President at San Francisco State, for his friendship, counsel, support, encouragement and leadership which greatly influenced my journey to this podium today.  Thank you Bob!

I am happy and honored to celebrate my investiture with the distinguished faculty recognized and honored today.  To these faculty who achieved tenure, promotion, 25 years of service, or emeriti status, I extend sincere congratulations and best wishes for your continued success or much deserved retirement.  Thank you for your commitment to Cal State East Bay’s students and alumni.

To our new and returning East Bay students, welcome back!   I am pleased that you have joined today’s celebration.  In Cal State East Bay’s fifty-five year history the faculty and staff have provided educational opportunities for 120,000 graduates, enabling them to make important contributions to the quality of life in our communities. We are confident that you will be equipped to be productive members of the community when you graduate, too!

I want to acknowledge the outstanding work done by my predecessors.  These include founding President Dr. Fred Harcleroad, who passed away earlier this summer just weeks before Barbara and I were scheduled to travel out of state to meet him; the late Dr. Ellis McCune with whom I had the pleasure to work here as a CSU Administrative Fellow in AY 1987-88; Dr. Norma Rees, whom I came to know during her presidency; and most recently, my former CFO colleague and now presidential colleague, Dr. Mohammad Qayoumi, the current President of San Jose State University.  Because of their excellent leadership and the faculty and staff they hired, Cal State East Bay is emerging as the region’s intellectual, cultural and economic heart, enhancing and influencing the communities we serve.  Thank you, Norma and Mo.

In the past year I have learned about Cal State East Bay’s unique community, traditions, history and culture.  This is an educational community dedicated to delivering on our University’s Mission, printed in your program.  The University Mission describes the University’s and my first priority, our students – their academic development and success.

Our accomplished and distinguished faculty are the energy that propels the University. The recognition our faculty have brought to the institution speaks to the quality and excellence of their teaching, research, scholarly and creative activities, and service.  What I find distinctive about our faculty is their accessibility to our students, and their commitment to engaging both undergraduate and graduate students in research, scholarly and creative activities.  It is clear to me that our faculty are driven by passion and curiosity, are forward thinking, and have an unwavering commitment to our students, the community, and the University’s future.

Additionally, our staff members at Cal State East Bay are truly the face of the University to our students and visitors.  As I observe our outstanding staff at work, I am reminded daily that they address the many needs and issues that face our students.  They are on the front lines, removing barriers and assisting students on their educational journey.  I cannot emphasize enough the critical importance of having a caring and outstanding staff.  As with the faculty, I have been extremely pleased to meet such deeply committed and hard-working staff members loyal to our students and the University.  

California’s Master Plan for Higher Education in the 1960s captured and embodied higher education as a public good among the ideals and dreams of the citizens of California. Education fulfills the public trust by providing access to college for generations of students to achieve their educational and professional dreams, thus helping to ensure the strength of California’s future.  In this historic commitment the people of California invested their resources with their hearts, minds and pocketbooks. 

Over the past six decades, the Cal State System, including California State University, East Bay, has created a legacy of academic excellence in preparing graduates who have entered the California workforce to contribute to – what was once the world’s 7th largest economic engine. Our Cal State East Bay faculty and alumni have helped to create and lead companies in health-care, biotech, leading edge technology, as well as to provide cultural enrichment and leadership in social and public agencies in addressing and solving our most pressing social, environmental, scientific, and healthcare problems.

I think the citizens of California and the East Bay communities can be proud of the record of the CSU, and Cal State East Bay, in particular, in fulfilling the expectations – and the ideal – of the Master Plan for Higher Education.  

During the past decade we have seen a devastating economic disinvestment by the State in public higher education.   Ten years ago, the State provided 2/3 of CSUEB’s operating budget and 1/3 was provided by student fees.  If Proposition 30 fails, which is on the November ballot, our operating budget will be 1/3 State support and 2/3 student fees.   State support has fallen to the level that we received in the 1990s.  Clearly, continuing to advocate for State support for the CSU must continue to be a priority for us.  However, even as the economy recovers, we do not expect support from the State to reach former funding levels. Our challenge is that we need competitive resources to attract and retain quality faculty and staff, and provide the support needed to educate our students. 

In addition, we must commit ourselves to continue to develop and provide state of the art learning spaces, support services and a rich campus life that will be essential to attracting, retaining and graduating our students.  Given that increased funding from the State appears unlikely, we must find resources for the flexibility required to advance our mission to be a model institution for regionally-engaged learning in the 21st century.

One of the most distinctive features of Cal State East Bay is our primary service region.   This region is broadly defined by two counties, Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, which include 33 cities and a combined population of 2.5 million residents.  Over 36% of the Bay Area’s population and workforce reside in the East Bay. The major employment sectors include education, health-care, manufacturing, technology, biotechnology, logistics, retail sales, pharmaceuticals, and research and development.

Our primary service region includes 36 School Districts serving approximately 400,000 students, representing roughly one-third of all Bay Area students. We have four Community College Districts in our service region, with a total of 8 campuses serving over 161,000 students.  In addition, we are almost directly in the center of 5 national laboratories, Lawrence Livermore, Lawrence Berkeley, Sandia, NASA-AMES, and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.

Cal State East Bay clearly resides in an environment rich with outstanding opportunities.  Our ability to contribute to enhancing the quality of life for our region’s citizens will depend greatly upon our ability to expand and develop our relationships and partnerships with K-12 Districts, Community Colleges, business and industry, and community and public agencies. 

Preparing our graduates to become future leaders who apply their education to meaningful lifework and to be socially responsible contributors to society will require an educational experience very different from our past.  We must prepare our graduates for a more complex, diverse, and globally interdependent and instantaneously-connected world and marketplace. 

If we are to be an innovative and creative leader in public higher education, we must provide our students with an educational experience that responds to the needs of our communities and prepares our students for a globally competitive world.   If we are to move to the leading edge of education, our teaching, in addition to being infused with science, technology, engineering and math across the curriculum, must also integrate current and future pedagogies and technologies into our classrooms, and our support services must respond to the changing needs and expectations for ensuring success for our students.

The students of today— are vastly different from prior generations.  Our students have grown up with a myriad of electronic devices close at hand for learning, problem solving, social interaction, and entertainment.  Information technology is ubiquitous in our everyday life and has moved from being a novelty to a commodity that is a basic expectation of today’s students.  

Here at Cal State East Bay our students have the capacity to learn from instructional modalities ranging from traditional face-to-face format, to totally online instruction, or hybrid instruction which is a combination of these two.  Over one-third of our students take at least one course online each term, distinguishing Cal State East Bay as a leader in online instruction in the CSU system.  Currently, we have 11 fully online degree completion programs and over 16 percent of our Full Time Equivalent instruction occurs online. 

While not all students desire online classes, these programs provide critical access for those who may be place bound or are working professionals otherwise unable to participate in traditional programs.  What is clear is that demand for online instruction and hybrid instruction continues to grow, and CSUEB will meet this demand for multiple pronged learning approaches for our students.

As I noted earlier, in preparing our graduates for today’s global marketplace, we will need to provide our students an educational experience very different from our past.  Students and their future employers crave applied and engaged learning experiences that align course content and field work with internships and service learning.  At my very first convocation address to the University Community, I spoke to the importance of focusing our energy on the quality of our students’ experiences, and adopting best pedagogical practices in engaged learning strategies.  Such strategies rely heavily on experiences that promote effective team building and leadership skills. 

CEOs in business and industry are asking for disciplinary knowledge and technical skills; and beyond that, they expect our graduates to think critically, problem solve, communicate effectively both orally and in writing, work well in teams, and possess a global perspective.   These are, at minimum, the outcomes of engaged learning strategies. 

I am pleased with our faculty’s advancement in developing innovative and creative engaged learning strategies through our newly created Programmatic Excellence and Innovation Learning program.   This last year, faculty and staff proposed 10 cross-disciplinary projects which are presently being implemented.  These programs provide high impact engaged learning experiences for our students, which dramatically increase student learning, retention and graduation.  Moreover, engaged learning strategies provide the opportunity for us to continue to develop and embed our programs within the communities we serve to help enhance the quality of life of our citizens-- a public university in service for the public good.

During my first twelve months, we refreshed and reaffirmed our institutional direction. Our new Mission Statement, Shared Strategic Commitments, and Institutional Learning Outcomes, which can all be found in your program, collectively represent our vision for the university – a model for Regionally-Engaged Learning in the 21st Century. 

This model expands on Cal State East Bay’s strengths – our diverse community, our pedagogy of engaged learning, and our regional partnerships – and suggests how we can contribute as an innovative and creative leader in higher education.  I see the future of Cal State East Bay asthe University of choice for our students, the University engaged with our regional community – indeed, the University that serves as the intellectual, social, cultural, and economic heart of the East Bay. 

As our name implies, we are a regional University with campuses in Hayward, Concord and Oakland.   If we are to meet our responsibility as a regional public institution we must provide our students with an educational experience that responds to the needs of our communities and prepares our students for a globally competitive world.  We need to strengthen our efforts in the science, technology, engineering and math fields (commonly referred to as STEM), as well as to provide a strong infrastructure for the humanities, arts, and social sciences to enrich and deepen the student experience.  Much like the sections of a great symphony, all working in harmony, together these disciplines provide the fundamental knowledge and skills underlying our desired student learning outcomes.

As a regional public University committed to serving the public good, we possess both the organizational capacity and understanding to engage private business, government agencies, laboratories, social services, and educational entities at all levels to address the needs of students and their families. 

Two examples of the University actively bringing community partners together to collectively address major problems facing our region are the Gateways East Bay STEM Network and the Hayward Promise Neighborhood Initiative.  Both projects collaborate with community-based partners using a collective impact model that provides wrap around public and private support to students and their families in removing barriers to students’ educational success. 

The Gateways East Bay STEM Network has been formed to increase student success, high school completion and the number and diversity of students pursuing STEM related college and career pathways.  The network encompasses Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, and includes over 150 partners in public and private sectors helping students overcome challenges they face in STEM as they move from preschool to college.

The Hayward Promise Neighborhood Initiative is a five-year, $25 million grant awarded by U.S. Department of Education to Cal State East Bay – one of only five such inaugural projects in the country.  Working closely with the Hayward Unified School District, the City of Hayward, Chabot College and fourteen other community-based agencies, a continuum of cradle-to-career support systems will be built to revitalize the educational opportunities and quality of life for 10,600 students and their families in Hayward’s Jackson Triangle neighborhood.

The vision for both of these programs is for our youth to have access to great schools and strong systems of family and community support that will help them attain an excellent education and successfully transition to college – and ultimately a successful career.  To make systemic, lasting change, our University must continue to seek out other such opportunities for regional partnerships and collaboration.  We must build on these experiences as a University, working to increase our community engagement and service –a public University in service for the public good. 

Today, public higher education institutions, including Cal State East Bay, are at the crossroads of a very challenging journey.  The path we take together in the coming years will have a transformative influence on the nature and future of our University.    In this context many people have asked two basic questions of me, “Why would you want to be a University President in these times?  And, “Why do you want to be President at Cal State East Bay?”

Let me address them together.  Without the opportunity to attend college, I would not be standing before you today.  The profound changes that the college experience provided for me and my family, professionally and personally, are similar for many of you.  It was our parents’ dream that my siblings and I would graduate from college and have a better life. 

Some of you know my family’s history--that my father left school after 9th grade to work in the fields of the Central Valley; that my parents celebrated their first wedding anniversary on a train to the Gila River internment camp in 1942; that they returned to the forty acre family farm after WW II to work and raise a family; and that their children would all become first generation college graduates.

 This is why I bring with me a passion for, and a deep commitment to the CSU Mission and the unique role of Cal State East Bay in service to the students and citizens of our region.  I deeply value and embrace social justice, the diversity and inclusive nature of the communities we serve and the quality of the education we provide our students.  One of my most enjoyable experiences last year was shaking hands with our graduates at commencement. Many were first generation college students and others were children of alumni; I could see the sheer joy and delight on their faces as they walked across the stage.

When I interviewed to become a CSU President I was asked why I wanted the job in these times and this is what I told them.  “It is easy to be a President when the times are good.  It’s when the times are difficult that people need to step forward.  I have chosen to step forward.” These times require committed leadership and a willingness to take on directly the acute problems facing higher education.  As Cal State East Bay’s fifth President, I understand and accept my responsibility to lead our exceptional faculty, staff and students in addressing these formidable challenges.

Growing up on our family’s farm, I learned to focus on what you can control – on the farm my father had no control over the weather, the water, or the market.  In our journey together we must focus on what we have control over as we face challenges both internal and external to the University.  In these difficult and exigent financial times, if we are to continue to advance our collective shared vision for the future, we must remain committed to providing effective stewardship of our resources.

To advance on our Mission, our eight Shared Strategic Commitments and Institutional Learning Outcomes, we must find stable funding to invest in an effective and sustainable infrastructure of faculty and staff, technology, and facilities, as well as financial assistance and support services for our students. We must also commit to open institutional processes that will help us make informed, accountable decisions.  It is clear that we cannot continue to do business as usual, and advance our excellence, distinction or regional influence, and attain our shared vision for the future without such an investment.

This is why, in my convocation speech opening the new academic year on September 24th, I outlined a process called Planning for Distinction: Program Prioritization.  This process involves a rigorous and deliberate review of all our academic and administrative programs with broad participation of the entire university community.  Given the budget reductions we have endured the past five years, we must take this opportunity as a University community to prioritize all of our administrative and academic activities and programs. Together, we will ensure that we are spending our resources in support of our most critical and important activities and distinctive programs.

This comprehensive institutional review by faculty, staff, administrators and students will establish criteria for analyzing each program based upon the values identified in our mission statement and new shared commitments.  Task groups will meet regularly through the fall and winter quarters to gather and analyze information, leading to recommendations to be made by the spring quarter.  Any recommendations that affect academic programs which fall within the purview of the faculty will be forwarded to the Academic Senate for consideration by that body.  Together we must find ways to re-invest in our distinctive academic programs and support services to build capacity to ensure that we have sufficient resources so our students can meet our Institutional Learning Outcomes.

Our history as a university community to be engaged and work effectively together will allow us to emerge from this process as a revitalized and stronger institution, better able to achieve our mission.  In order to fulfill our responsibilities 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.  We must be faithful to our University Motto at this critical time in our history.  Our University motto: “Per Aspera Ad Astra,” literally translated from the Latin means “through adversity to the stars.”

An investiture is an occasion of hope and promise for the future of our University.  The reality of the financial challenges confronting California’s public universities brings with it uncertainties but also opportunities to creatively develop strategies to provide access to a quality college education.  I am confident that we can address these challenges because of who we are and how we work together.  To become the institution we are capable of becoming, we must continue to believe what we do as individuals and as a community is critical and essential to serving our students, our region, our society, and the State of California.

I am excited to be here and I am extremely proud and honored to have been chosen for this very important leadership role. I am committed to those values and principles that are the foundation of public higher education: shared governance, access-diversity-inclusion, free-speech, accountability and transparency.  And I will work diligently to uphold them.  

Thank you for joining me today.  Let us celebrate together the greatness that is Cal State East Bay, its students, its faculty, its staff and administration, its friends, alumni and community and what CSUEB will become in the years ahead.  The months ahead will truly be a defining time.  Let us invoke our legacy as Pioneers to create a model for public higher education that defines Regionally-Engaged Learning in the 21st Century.  Cal State East Bay will be the University of choice for our students, the University engaged with our regional community – indeed, the University that serves as the intellectual, social, cultural, and economic heart of the East Bay.

Thank you, and Go Pioneers!