President’s Address – 2021 University Convocation
Thursday, Aug. 19, 9 a.m.
I am delighted to see so many joining us as we begin the 2021-22 academic year here at Cal State San Bernardino.
I am even more delighted to be welcoming you back for an in-person school year. The way we operate as a university will not look entirely the same as during our pre-pandemic days. However, the fact we will once again be able to interact face-to-face this fall, without a screen in-between us, is a cause for celebration.
For all those who have lost someone through the pandemic, my personal condolences and the deepest sympathies of our campus community. For all of those grappling with Long COVID, you have our collective best wishes for continued healing as the medical and scientific communities learn more effective treatments and remedies as days pass. The amazing speed with which effective vaccines were discovered over this past year gives me hope for the future.
But there remains a caveat: we cannot forget that COVID-19 is still with us, with new variants emerging all the time. The data indicates that the best way to protect against further spread and development of more variants, along with the ability to successfully fight off the current variants, is vaccination.
Therefore, I urge everyone to get one of the vaccines being offered: they are free and easily available. And they are required for all staff, faculty and students here at CSUSB. Know that vaccination means you will not only be protecting yourself, you will be protecting those still too young to be vaccinated and the immunocompromised.
I have been incredibly impressed by the campus community over the past 18 months. You have demonstrated flexibility and the ability to innovate, along with persistence. Many of you were juggling home schooling for your children while also effectively performing your jobs. All of you kept CSUSB an open and vibrant learning community. Thank you.
The fact is, that in order to continue to deliver a quality education for our students and keep them moving forward towards their academic goals, we had no choice but to innovate. And you delivered. What the last year-and-a-half has also shown us is a preview into potential future challenges we might face in a warming world with new weather patterns and new diseases to which we do not have immunity.
Therefore, last academic year we launched a university-wide Post Pandemic Steering Committee, headed by the Provost. This is more than simply ‘what does it look like to return to campus?’ but rather ‘how do we re-imagine our campus in light of the pandemic?’ and ‘how do we conceive of a stronger, more resilient CSUSB which will be able to address future needs and challenges?’
The committee was charged at the end of the academic year and subcommittees appointed to begin their work. Reports are due to me in the spring, and I look forward to seeing them.
We had some good news this summer with the 2021-22 California State budget which not only restored pandemic cuts but also added to the CSU’s general fund and to specific, directed areas. There was good news as well for two of our student aid programs.
The University Budget Advisory Committee, comprised of faculty, staff and student leadership, continues to meet and review budget updates and provide critical feedback and guidance. A budget open forum is being scheduled for the Fall Semester.
The work done over the past year to prepare the campus for our WASC re-accreditation has been excellent. Thank you to the WASC Steering Committee for all that they have done to prepare us. The next step will be the September 22-24 onsite Accreditation Visit. Here is a short video on the process.
Growth and progress as a university requires constant, vigilant review. It is an essential part of our evolving as an educational institution and as a resource to the communities we serve.
And speaking of growth, we have two building projects moving forward on the campus. The first is the expansion of the Santos Manuel Student Union, which is nearing completion and which will have its formal opening early in 2022. The second is the Performing Arts Village, which will have its groundbreaking in Spring 2022, with a scheduled opening planned for the 2024-25 academic year.
We also have some academic program achievements to celebrate. Last year, we highlighted the new School of Entrepreneurship in the Jack H. Brown College of Business and Public Administration. This year, we are applauding the new School of Criminology and Criminal Justice in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. The curriculum will incorporate history, theory and practical skills for those interested in a career in criminal justice and related fields. The curriculum also acknowledges and focuses on the systemic failures to address disparities within the criminal justice system locally and across our country.
Social and Behavioral Sciences has also just added a new department: Child Development. It will house two academic programs: the Child Development B.A. Program, with its two concentrations – Early Childhood Studies and Child and Adolescent Development – and the M.A. in Child Development Program. With over 550 majors, the new department is among the largest and fastest growing in the college.
I am also proud to announce that CSUSB will become the first Southern California public university to establish a Master of Science Physician Assistant program to help address the severe shortage of healthcare professionals serving the Inland Empire. The $1.8 million funding for the MSPA program was part of this year’s California state budget. Our goal is to launch the program in Fall 2024.
In addition, our annual grants and contracts report demonstrated that 2020-21 was a record year for CSUSB PIs and Project Directors, with $41.5 million in grant awards and almost $88 million in proposal submissions. The range of fields and subject matter was robust and dynamic. I am incredibly proud of the state of research at our university.
I want to thank the many faculty and staff who made these and numerous other achievements possible.
I am also excited to announce that, after our extremely successful first comprehensive campaign, the university will be launching its second in the upcoming months. More information will be forthcoming this fall.
And now I am happy to turn to one of my favorite parts of Convocation: welcoming the many new faces joining our campus, especially the additions to our faculty, staff and administration. Each of you bring an impressive array of knowledge and experience to our vibrant community. I am glad you are here at CSUSB.
We also welcome our undergraduate and graduate students. They range from the newcomers getting their initial taste of Coyote life to those entering their final months at CSUSB as they work toward graduation and prepare for the next step on their life path.
During Convocation, we also take time to honor our past and recognize our achievements.
We are continuing to advance the university’s strategic plan. Originally envisioned to cover five years, as a community we have extended the existing plan through 2022. This allows us to build upon the great work already completed and to enhance its effect with new objectives added to the established five goals.
Our lead goal, Student Success, goes to the very heart of our educational mission.
Preliminary results indicate that CSUSB is on track to meet its Graduation Initiative 2025 targets. As this slide shows, the 4-year graduation rate for first-time, first-year students is above our current GI 2025 target of 21.8 percent. For transfer students, the 2-year graduation rate is well above its current target of 38.5 percent.
CSUSB designed and delivered a continuous training program for faculty throughout the academic year, via the Virtual Training Programs and E-Learning Academy, for faculty to develop and deliver quality online courses. From these programs, we have 87 new online courses under development for 2021-22.
The second goal, Faculty and Staff Success, is essential as we maintain our educational mission and foster innovation, scholarship and discovery.
The President’s DEI Board has been launched and the DEI Strategic Plan completed. The first steps in implementing the plan will take place at the Board’s planned retreat this September.
The Faculty Center for Excellence, in collaboration with the Teaching Resource Center and the Untenured Faculty Mentoring Network, served 56.7 percent of CSUSB faculty (both lecturers and tenure-track faculty) through its workshops, cafés, consultations and other programs.
The Staff Development Center continues to be a dynamic partner in supporting our employees. Last year, during a pandemic, they:
- Held 64 one-on-one consultations or appointments;
- Had a total of 2,373 participants in their various special events, programs and training, with some employees taking the opportunity to utilize multiple services; and
- Can boast a 95 percent utilization rate of their services.
The third goal, Resource Sustainability and Expansion, involves our firm commitment to the current and future infrastructure and capacity of this university.
As I described a few minutes ago, we had an outstanding year with grants and contracts. Grant submissions increased by 51 percent over the past year and the total dollar amount of grant awards increased by 41 percent. This is a record high.
As I also mentioned earlier, we are getting ready to launch our second comprehensive campaign.
Commitment to the fourth goal, Community Engagement and Partnerships, remains strong and continues to resonate with our students.
More than 400 students enrolled in 52 course sections that offered virtual service learning. Although there were a limited number of community partners who were able to offer virtual placements, students provided more than 10,000 hours of service to San Bernardino and Riverside county communities, valued at more than $337,000.
The Inland Empire Black Student Success Collaborative was formed. The purpose of this project is to increase equity, specifically in Black communities, and address the achievement gap by providing a three-tiered approach to formal education attainment. The Collaborative consists of more than 40 partners from CSUSB, local community colleges, local school districts and numerous community organizations.
Identity, our fifth goal, has seen a collaborative institution-wide effort resulting in a tremendous leap in CSUSB’s visibility and perception.
We have expanded the current alumni mentoring program to engage alumni and support students with completing their academic goals. The result has been a 53 percent increase in student users and a 23 percent increase in alumni users, with 13 current cohorts.
The Assessment Capability Leadership Institute 2021 was created and launched this summer. Led by the Assessment Capability Collaborative and the Professional Development Subcommittee of the Committee on Learning Assessment and Student Success, the summer ACLI encompassed over 70 faculty and staff participants from all divisions. They came together to develop and share their assessment knowledge and skills and then leveraged those skills to draft and implement plans for department-, unit- or program-level assessment. These plans are expected to create the conditions for meaningful and sustainable outcome assessment. The ultimate goal is improvement of department and program effectiveness and student success.
I am confident our efforts as part of the Strategic Plan will lead to many more success stories and exciting outcomes, especially as we head into the next strategic planning process.
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, we hold these as key to building a welcoming community for all who learn and work at CSUSB. We cannot retreat to an ivory tower as we are part of the larger community which we serve. The injustices and violence we have continued to see over the past year, targeted toward specific communities, cannot be ignored.
I will reiterate what I have said on several occasions over the past year, when groups of individuals were targeted with acts of hatred or injustice. CSUSB continues to stand in support:
- of the Black community;
- of the Asian American community;
- of the Jewish American community;
- of the Muslim American community;
- of the Arab and Palestinian American communities;
- of the Native American communities; and
- of any identified community which is targeted by bigotry or violence.
We also refuse to accept the hatred and disrespect currently focused against this nation’s undocumented as well as visiting international students.
The singling out of any community for scapegoating is fear-based and hateful. These are all acts of ignorance grounded in fear.
In sum, 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.
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 a teaching and learning institution, we will continue to hold teach-ins, special lectures and conversations on human rights and social justice issues.
As we move forward into the next year, I see a great deal of hope and promise:
- That we are returning to in-person and face-to-face interactions;
- That we pioneered innovations last year to increase access which have strengthened our ability to serve our region;
- That we have new programs launching and new buildings either coming online or progressing in their development;
- That we have an energized student body, ready to move their lives forward through the education we can provide them; and
- That we have a beautiful, well-tended pair of campuses to return to.
All of these things are incredibly positive foundations upon which to launch the coming academic year.
As we begin 2021-22, 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 has the opportunity to make a difference. It is fundamental to all we do and desire to achieve here at CSUSB.
I want to leave you with a brief look back at some of the successes and inspirational achievements of our unique and virtual last year. Enjoy the video, and let it remind us that great things and brighter days await us in the coming months.