University President Tomás D. Morales celebrated the successes and outlined the challenges facing Cal State San Bernardino as he welcomed new and returning students, faculty and staff during his annual Convocation address on Aug. 17.

The annual event, attended by faculty and staff in Coussoulis Arena, formally kicked off the 2023-24 academic year, which will see the launch of the university’s 2023-28 Strategic Plan, continuation of “Our Defining Moment: The Campaign for CSUSB,” challenges posed by the state budget, and a special recognition event for alumni.

Fall semester classes begin Thursday, Aug. 24, with move-in day for students living on campus on Sunday, Aug. 20, and Saturday classes beginning on Aug. 19.

“For the past several years, during Convocation we have reflected on our achievements through the lens of our strategic plan,” Morales said. “These goals and objectives have framed our efforts since the previous plan was implemented in the fall of 2015.

“This year, I wish to focus on where we are with two major campus initiatives, which were launched at last year’s Convocation: our new 2023-28 strategic plan, which will shape our work and efforts across all segments of the university; and the ongoing ‘Our Defining Moment: The Campaign for CSUSB.’ Its success will also have a tremendous impact on how we are able to grow and serve our students and our region.”

Morales outlined the four thematic goals of the new strategic plan: student success; faculty and staff success; diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI); and internationalization.

  • For student success, the planned objectives are to acknowledge and value students’ cultural, linguistic and social identities; transform students’ understanding of self as agents in a global society; and empower students to apply competencies that enrich their communities.
  • Under faculty and staff success, the planned objectives are to ensure equitable and efficient work; promote a culture of trust and safety that values and integrates human differences and cares for the holistic well-being of staff and faculty; and enhance pathways and guidance for professional advancement.
  • For DEI, the objectives are to uphold an unwavering commitment to an enduring diverse, equitable and inclusive environment; strengthen CSUSB’s culture of belonging, acceptance and appreciation for the unique characteristics and contributions of all students, alumni, faculty, staff and administrators; and promote and support a campus environment that values and affirms human rights and protections for all members of our community.
  • And for internationalization, the planned objectives include enhancing global learning opportunities for the campus community; expanding student, faculty and staff participation in education abroad programs; and growing, diversifying and engaging the international student body. In his remarks, Morales said the university has made progress, pointing to CSUSB’s partnership with Lviv Polytechnic University in Ukraine, which will position the university to be a significant player in rebuilding that nation. “By joining forces, our two esteemed institutions aim to create an environment that fosters innovation, nurtures talent and expands horizons for students and faculty alike in an increasingly interconnected world,” Morales said.

“Each objective will come with planned outcomes and the proposed strategies to achieve them,” Morales said. “This will keep our engagement with the strategic plan fresh and ongoing and will allow us to assess our progress at the conclusion of each academic year and adjust, as necessary. In sum, flexibility and accountability are once again built into our strategic plan, just as they were with the former plan implemented in 2015.”

The president shared an update on the university’s $200 million “blended” campaign, “Our Defining Moment: The Campaign for CSUSB,” which includes philanthropic fundraising and funding for grants and research. Morales said this was the first fully blended campaign ever launched by a public institution of higher education in the nation.

“I am proud to state that we have achieved our overall goal of raising $200 million already,” he said as the audience applauded. “Let’s take a moment to celebrate that this $200 million milestone was achieved and surpassed thanks to the invaluable support of our university’s exceptional faculty and staff, dedicated friends and loyal alumni. Your unwavering belief in CSUSB’s vision has had a profound impact on its future, enabling us – as a higher educational institution here in the Inland Empire – to deliver outstanding academic and transformative experiences to our students.”

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However, the university was still short of meeting its full goal for philanthropic giving, he said. “We are working towards meeting and even exceeding our philanthropic goal. The campaign will therefore remain active until June 30, 2026, providing further opportunities for growth and expansion of its objectives.”

Morales briefly discussed the challenges CSUSB faces in light of the uncertainty surrounding the 2023-24 state budget enacted at the end of June, which in May was reported to have a $31.5 billion shortfall for the new fiscal year that began July 1. The California State University’s budget augmentation remained unchanged from the initial amount, $227.3 million, listed in January.

“The cabinet and I have worked over the summer with all university divisions, including all the academic colleges, to address the budget deficit,” Morales said. “We are currently not planning on furloughs or layoffs. That has not changed since I last communicated with you (in May). We will continue to meet with the University Budget Advisory Committee. And we will be scheduling a budget open forum this fall to give details of the California State budget and its impact on our campus.”

He also said that money from the fundraising campaign could not be used to make up for any shortfall in the operating budget.

Morales took some time to look back on the achievements of the 2022-23 academic year, which provided the foundation for the new year. In addition to the partnership with Lviv Polytechnic University, he highlighted the continued work toward launching CSUSB’s Master of Science in Physician Assistant Program, which received $2 million in federal support through the efforts of U.S. Rep. Pete Aguilar and U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, and $14.3 million secured by state Sen. Richard Roth. Morales said the university anticipates achieving Accreditation-Provisional status in March 2025, and accepting its first class in fall 2025.

Looking into the 2023-24 academic year, Morales pointed to the contributions CSUSB alumni make in the region in business and the economy, in education and even entertainment.

“CSUSB Coyotes are everywhere, making a difference each and every day,” he said. “So I am proud to announce that we will be holding our inaugural all-campus Alumni Hall of Fame celebration early in the Spring Semester. There is so much to celebrate in being a Coyote this academic year.”

The president concluded his address with a reminder of “what it means to be a citizen of Cal State San Bernardino. Regardless of our efforts on campus to be more intentional in diversity, equity and inclusion, the world outside our doors continues to move in ways which do not necessarily accord with our university’s inclusive values.

“Nevertheless, as members of the CSUSB community, we state that the singling out of any community or group for scapegoating is completely unacceptable. These are all acts of ignorance grounded in fear,” Morales said. “This university rejects such behavior and remains committed to denouncing such actions, now and always, regardless of the source. We declare zero tolerance of any such acts or incidents no matter where or when they occur.

“We reject any consideration, including judicial, of women as second-class citizens in our nation. This goes against our basic values and has no place in a democratic republic in the 21st century,” he said. “And we confirm that there is no road to a better future that does not follow the path of social justice, and it will suffer neither color barriers nor cultural, spiritual, gender or sexual restrictions. We truly are all in this together.

“As we begin 2023-24, we do not forget that, together, we must continue to strive to be an inclusive community of diverse students and scholars, committed to the positive impact higher education affords our region. Each of us can make a difference. It is fundamental to all we do and desire to achieve here at CSUSB.”

And, he added, “And I know I speak for the 22 other presidents of the California State University and the chancellery, that we are deeply committed to ensuring that our faculty and staff are appropriately compensated, and that we support the efforts of our faculty and staff to advocate for that equitable compensation.”