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2005 Convocation Speech

September 19, 2005

Good morning and welcome back to campus. With the beautiful floral arrangements and pennants on display, you doubtless know that we're beginning our 40th anniversary. We'll use the year to celebrate the vision of the university's founders and the accomplishments of faculty, staff and students along the course of these four decades.

This is an extraordinary university- with 50,000 alums and 3,400 graduates this past June alone. You give students life opportunities that they would not otherwise have. You have so much to be proud of. And during our eight years at Cal State, Marilyn and I have been boosted by your trust and encouragement. I can't imagine a more embracing environment.

The first of the 40th anniversary events is the September 28 celebration of our library's 750,000th volume. Please join us then and also take a close look at the 40th anniversary magazine. Our Public Affairs staff did an outstanding job in describing the road CSUSB has traveled over its 40 years. And please wear the 40th anniversary pin with great pride.

Let's talk about budgets and enrollments. Over the past few years, the university has taken roughly $27 million in State appropriation reductions and unfunded costs. To partially compensate, the CSU nearly doubled fees. But we still had a $10 million effective decrease.

This year looks better with a 6.5 percent increase in the CSU system budget. While this funding doesn't cover past losses, at least it's in the right direction, and it's only the first of a six year compact. Specifically, the budget calls for a 2.5% enrollment increase - giving us a new annual target of 13,728 ftes. It also includes a 3.5% average salary increase - with specific amounts to be negotiated by bargaining units.

Although there was a 10% rise in graduate fees, and an 8% hike for undergraduate and credential students, our fees remain among the lowest in the nation. And because of a set-aside, the 25% neediest students were completely covered. In addition, we have $120 million overall in available student financial aid.

It looks like we'll hit or slightly exceed our enrollment target, which is critical because otherwise we'll be allotted lower growth funding next year. Nonetheless, because of uncertainty about fee revenue, it's still too early to tell how much money we'll have this year.

It's vital to understand that fees are now roughly one-third of our state budget. Therefore, any shortfall in the number of students will hurt us financially - and if the deficit is in international students, who pay non-resident tuition in addition to state fees, or in graduate - or even credential - students, who now pay more than undergraduate students, the fiscal loss will be even more.

Given the significant increases in unfunded personnel benefits and other mandated costs, it isn't likely that there will be much left over. However, if we exceed target and have relatively little loss of non-resident fee income, we may generate as much as $500,000 in uncommitted income. We'll simply know more about the budget on census date, October 12.

Let me chat a bit about the Inland Empire and CSUSB students. Our two counties are growing so quickly that, over the next decade, they'll comprise a third of the increase in California high school graduates. However, despite this growth, a fundamental constraint is the fact that just 16 percent of Inland Empire adults have college degrees; the state percentage is nearly twice as high. Moreover, only 26 percent of regional high school seniors complete the A-G requirements needed to enter the CSU or UC.

In total, 70 percent of our students are first generation to attend college. About 57% of our entering freshmen need remediation in Math and 65 percent in English. Simply put, many students enter with real limitations in their preparation. But as I'll suggest, there is often quite dramatic value added at CSUSB- with clear evidence that our students are not only increasingly, but even formidably, competitive.

For example, many of you know the record of our Model U.N. and Arab League teams in winning "Outstanding Delegation" honors - year in and out - against hundreds of the most highly reputed U.S. and international universities. But there's also the acquired skills of our accounting students, which were apparent in the voluntary program in which they prepared over 1,700 income tax returns for low income families - and had an error rate of less than one-quarter of one percent.

Then there's the Philosophy team's success in the ethics bowl and the Nutrition team's victory last April in the 2005 nutrition bowl against Cal Poly SLO, Berkeley and other universities. And there are so many exceptional undergraduate students such as English major Alba Cruz-Hacker, who carried a 4.0 and has 15 poems in print and an essay already accepted for publication.

Then we have the outstanding record of Biology and Chemistry students being placed in medical and graduate schools - again virtually every year. And there's CSUSB's ongoing record of winning the prestigious Merck scholarship. Though there are only 15 awarded yearly in the nation, a Merck was won again this year by a CSUSB student - Dwain McConnell - for a remarkable third time in six years.

And when it comes to qualifying for scholarships, get ready for this: Of the roughly $300,000 in CSU system scholarships awarded this year, our students - who constitute a scant 4% of the system's enrollments - won 15% of the scholarships, more than any other CSU campus.

In addition, Hispanic Outlook chose CSUSB as one of its "Publisher's Picks"; U.S. News and World Report ranked our campus in the second quartile among western universities; and the Princeton Review rated us among the top 60 western institutions of higher education - one of only five CSU campuses ranked that high.

Finally, to further lift student quality, three years ago we created the Presidential Academic Excellence Scholarship - with $5,000 a year for four years if the student maintains a 3.5 gpa. The scholarship is awarded to students in the top one percent of their graduating class from any high school in San Bernardino County.

Three years ago, at the program's inception, six students accepted the scholarship; two years ago, 15 took it; last year, there were 25; and this year, 32 accepted the scholarship. In all, there will be nearly 70 of these scholars on campus this year, with the growth a clear indicator of CSUSB's rising academic reputation.

Of scholarship holders, almost none have dropped out, though the first to complete her studies, Audra Wise, a biochemistry major, graduated in three years and entered medical school this fall.

I'd like to now turn to ten of the university's major priorities.

Foremost, subsuming all other priorities, I want to sustain the collegiality I've seen over the past eight years - and that I've been particularly impressed by over the last three, with everyone now doing more with somewhat less due to budget cuts.

Our budget cut policy - making early decisions, judiciously employing reserves, spreading reductions over several years, insulating as much as possible the academic side, and protecting our employees' jobs - would have been less meaningful without the good will seen across the university. I'm not suggesting that the cuts caused no strains. What I'm saying is that despite the difficult times, you took up the challenges with far less bickering than I've seen elsewhere under similar circumstances. Thank you.

When I say collegiality, I mean treating one another with decency and concern; allowing participation and input into decisions; and as the handout I've often distributed suggests, having behaviors, processes, and policies that promote the university and empower its personnel. Conversely, I don't mean being nonchalant or allowing progress to be blocked because not everyone loves a proposed outcome. Within collegiality, we need to be faster, friendlier, more flexible, more responsive and more entrepreneurial than other universities. Otherwise, we fail our students and ourselves.

Second, more concretely, I expect to have a revised strategic plan completed by the end of fall quarter. Last spring, I appointed a Strategic Planning Committee, chaired by Provost Fernandez, with representation from each division and the Faculty Senate. I just received a first draft. After I've digested it and offered possible modifications, the draft will circulate widely for comment.

The broad outlines of the current plan are apt to be retained - with emphasis on teaching and learning, offering a wholesome and developmental campus environment, and working to help treat major issues encountered in the communities we serve. There will be some new objectives, however, and we'll publish an assessment of the steps we've taken to address the three major goals of the earlier plan. In addition, Dr. Al Mariam, who serves as Assistant to the President, will head a team that will monitor the plan's implementation.

Faculty recruitment is a third principal priority. Last year, we recruited on 21 lines, and were successful in 16 of the searches. This year, we'll recruit 37 or more faculty to begin to catch-up on tenure-track full-timers, which, due to sharp budget cuts, have been reduced relative to part-timers.

CSUSB's enrollment is now virtually one-half Latino and African American, as well as nearly two-thirds women. We want a representative workforce, including faculty, and it's altogether consistent with proposition 209 to develop diverse pools of candidates from which to choose the best persons possible. I fully expect to work to build faculty diversity this year.

As we've all seen, Inland Empire housing costs have spiraled - up as much as 40 percent - to a median level of $385,000 per house. July figures suggest that only 15% of families in our region have the $80,000 annual income needed to afford a median priced house.

On the other hand, the median priced home nationally is only $188,000 - about one-half our price -and 55 percent of the households nationally have the income needed for a $188,000 home.

That spells major trouble for us, especially over the long haul, in recruiting new faculty. As a consequence, I intend to explore various avenues to see if we can subsidize new faculty housing.

Specifically, we'll probe reduced bank interest rates, local government subsidies of home purchase prices, creation of a fund to subsidize initial monthly payments, purchase of land, and possible use of some of our own land. In many of these scenarios, the university would take a partial equity position in homes that are subsidized.

A fourth goal is the appointment of a University Ombudsperson. We recently combined that role with responsibilities of an Equal Opportunity Officer that are complementary. It will be a full-time post. I look forward to completing the search, hopefully next month - and meeting recommendations made by the WASC accreditation process and University Diversity Committee.

Fifth, CSU Trustees wish to improve student graduation rates, and the Chancellor's Office, working with the Academic Senate, has developed a graduation facilitation plan composed of 22 items. It will be a high priority to complete the board's plan and thereby promote graduation rates. We'll finish most elements by December, for example a web-based roadmap of courses and mandatory advising; elements dependent on the new Student Information System will be delayed.

Sixth, because student fees are now roughly one-third of our state allocation, enrollment management must be a high priority. Student ftes targets remain critical to state appropriations and growth funding. Yet as more of our students have become full-time - with over 85% now taking 12 hours or more per quarter - headcounts have become vital due to the importance of student fee payments.

In addition, as noted a few minutes ago, beyond their intrinsic value, since credential, masters, and international and other non-resident students pay more, there are financial implications to our enrollment mix. Furthermore, with over 1400 residential beds on campus, filling the residence halls becomes another key dimension.

To promote international enrollments, I've funded an additional international recruiter. And I've asked Vice President Frank Rincon to chair a cross-divisional group to examine our recruitment efforts, improve communications between academic and student affairs, and assess whether to separate graduate and undergraduate admissions.

Seventh, besides enrollment management, we'll search for alternate sources of funds. Simply said, even if we excel at enrollment management, state appropriations and fee revenues still won't be enough.

To be more effective in meeting the identified needs of students, faculty and staff, we'll revisit our Development Officer reporting structure. With enhanced fundraising as the goal, we'll also seek to better integrate units in the division and create a new advancement advisory board.

With alternative fund sources as a focus, we'll add support for grants activity - with my office and the Provost each furnishing from overhead funds, for a two-year trial period, one-half the support for the new role of Associate Provost for Research. Over the past several years, we've tripled grant funding and quadrupled overhead returns. But we hope enhanced attention to faculty grants will spur our successes to even higher levels than the $20 million in annual awards now brought to campus.

We'll also continue to use overhead funds as seed capital in investments, e.g., last year we created a Presidential Investment Fund of $250,000 to support larger projects that would produce overhead - and thereby provide ongoing funds into the future. $150,000 is still available.

We'll continue to work for special federal earmarks. One existing award was for several million dollars to create first a web-based MPA program and next a Masters in Criminal Justice. Both will be offered in an executive fee format. And with funds from another earmark, we created the Office of Technology Transfer and Commercialization, which has several million dollars to invest in start-up company R&D and marketing. We'll seek approval to allow equity positions in firms that are supported with these funds.

We'll also pursue cooperative arrangements that can advance university teaching, research and service programs. One excellent model is the recent Riverside Community Hospital-CSUSB Nursing Department agreement that will support 40 additional Nursing students.

Next, as part of an eighth priority, I'm excited about offering new degree programs, including introduction of the Masters of Public Health this fall and the B.S. in Computer Engineering in fall 2006. And I'll work to help assure that the new Ed.D. degree will be approved for a fall 2007 start-up.

The first offerings of the web-based executive MPA, which will meet critical federal workforce training needs training needs in a wide range of positions, will be in winter or spring 2006 . The distance MPA and Criminal Justice programs will thrust the university into a national leadership position and enable us to play a prominent role in online education. Moreover, the Department of Public Administration is developing both a Tribal Management Certificate program and a concentration in the MPA. The Tribal Management concentration will also employ the executive fee model and will reserve some tuition from gaming tribes to offer scholarships to members of less-affluent tribes.

In this coming year we'll also investigate tourism, hospitality and other programs that may be especially meaningful at the Palm Desert Campus.

There's also some wonderful construction taking place across from the university. The Watson Corp. is developing the area to the southwest of campus - with homes from $400,000 to $600,000. The first 31 lots will be completed by next June and another 28 parcels by the end of 2005.

Beyond teaching programs, we must also be attentive to nurturing relatively new centers and institutes, for instance the Institute of Child Development and Family Relations, the Learning Research Institute, and the Literacy Center, as well as successfully launching brand new units, including the Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies and the recent, federally authorized, University Transportation Center, which is funded over the next four years with $2 million in federal funds. We'll soon appoint an advisory board and search for a Center director.

A key ninth priority will be timely and cost-effective completion of building and road construction projects. Due to heavy winter rains, severe increases in the cost of building materials, and the lack of skilled labor, we've experienced difficulty in completing projects on time and within appropriations.

There's some good news: We've taken possession of the Chemical Sciences Building, though more work is needed. Much of the labor is now being undertaken by our own Facilities Services personnel who, I'd add, along with Mail and Procurement Services, rank number one among CSU campuses.

The Office of Technology Transfer and Commercialization building is finished. We've had considerable progress on the Santos Manuel Student Union, with a November expected date of completion. At that point, we'll move units into the facility, and full food service should begin in January. There's less progress on the Student Recreation and Fitness Center, though the project may be finished by spring.

Campus Drive, the new road between Kendall and Northpark near the Corporation Yard, will be finished in November; and by mid-January, Northpark itself will be made into a four-lane street all the way to the west edge of campus. Homes are selling well across Northpark - with 40 now sold without a model or any advertising. The retail area should open by next April or May.

We're planning for renovation of the Biological and Physical Sciences Buildings, with the starting date this fall - and completion by May 2007. And we hope to break ground on the new College of Education Building next February, a little before we start construction on two 750-car parking structures.

By end of the calendar year, we hope to complete fundraising for the Palm Desert Campus' third building, and schematic design planning is already underway. In addition, we'll evaluate the 4.5 acres of unused land on Northpark - next to the last phase of university apartments - for possible commercial, research, housing or other uses. And we'll work with various agencies to finally get two full lanes moving to I-215 South.

Tenth and last, technology must remain a high priority. One key decision will revolve around choosing a permanent Vice President for Information Resources and Technology. In addition, consideration will be given to the membership and a larger role for the Technology Advisory Committee. The IRT division will also run hard to lay in place the technology infrastructure of each new and renovated building, as it has done remarkably well in the Chemical Sciences facility.

There will also be CMS, Human Resources and Finance upgrades, as well as the next steps of the new Student Information System. And we must assure that effective security systems are in place to reduce the likelihood of successful hacking.

It's been a great honor to be president of this university. CSUSB happens to be the right place at the right time. Why? Because you're truly transforming lives by offering opportunities that wouldn't otherwise be available to so many of our students.

The evidence indicates that a degree may mean as much as a million dollars over a lifetime. In this new century, with constantly changing technologies and approaches, a degree will also help assure that the holder remains employed. Of course, there are a host of other outcomes, as well, ranging from self-understanding to a greater sense of civic responsibility.

The university's role is to educate individuals, but this role generates enormous impact on families, communities and ultimately on the larger society. For example, CSUSB's macro effects on the region are striking - from creating 10,000 jobs to generating $533 million in annual spending to producing $4.53 for every dollar the state invests in us.

Education is fuel for the economic engine, but it's also the raw force that can propel us to greater degrees of social justice - a critical dimension given that a considerable majority of our students come from groups that would have been largely denied access to higher education just a few generations ago.

It's been my great privilege to serve as president of a university with such an extraordinary mission and exceptional faculty and staff. I'm proud of you and what you've achieved. When I was hired, I was charged to bring CSUSB to the next level. J.C. Robinson, an icon at CSUSB back in 1997, said it was really my job to convince everyone that we were already at the next level.

I believe he was right, so I try to demonstrate to others that not only are we at that next level, we're approaching the one above it. As you know, in contrast to most institutions of higher education, I believe that this university's best days are still on the horizon. Thanks for all you've done and will yet achieve. My applause!