Welcome to the President's Office

President’s Address
2018 University Convocation
Monday, Sept. 17, 9 a.m.
Coussoulis Arena

Good morning everyone!

On this beautiful September day, it is my great pleasure to welcome you as we celebrate the beginning of the 2018-19 academic year here at Cal State San Bernardino.

This convocation is the starting point, a traditional gathering where we renew acquaintances, refresh our passion for education and reinforce the proud legacy of this great university.

Each new year has its own distinctive quality, invigorated by expectancy and energy to create an environment brimming with hope and promise. Today we find our campus animated and awash with new places and new faces.

At two o’clock this afternoon we celebrate the grand opening of the new on-campus residence hall and dining commons that are the result of the largest single construction project in our history. Impressively, it was funded by non-state dollars. I invite all of you to come for the official launch of this great addition to campus life.

In the days ahead, we have celebrations for the new Starbucks in Pfau Library and the Einstein Brothers Bagel eatery and convenience store in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Work continues on the Center for Global Innovation, which, once completed, will be the home of our College of Extended and Global Education, bringing much-needed academic and learning venues to our campus.

Expansion plans for the Santos Manuel Student Union will also continue so we can provide more learning, support and recreation space to enrich the CSUSB college experience.

As for new faces, I want to start by adding my greetings to Dr. Sastry Pantula, now dean for the College of Natural Sciences. He is a veteran educator and administrator as well as an internationally recognized leader in statistical sciences.

In addition, we have a group of outstanding professionals who have agreed to serve as interim deans as we conduct national searches.

Dr. Bruce Shepard, former president at Western Washington University and chancellor at the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, is interim dean of the Palm Desert Campus.

Dr. Jake Zhu, longtime professor and administrator in the Jack Brown College, is interim dean for the College of Education.

Dr. Rueyling Chuang, who has been at CSUSB since 2000 as a Communications professor and associate dean, is interim dean for the College of Arts and Letters.

I also want to welcome Harry Le Grande, Vice Chancellor emeritus at the University of California Berkeley, who will be serving as our interim vice president for Student Affairs.

As always, there are new additions to the faculty, staff and administration. Each of you bring an impressive array of knowledge and experience to our vibrant community of outstanding educators, skilled associates and inspiring leaders. I gladly welcome you to our university.

Of course, we also welcome back our students. That includes both the newcomers getting their initial taste of Coyote life and those entering their final months at CSUSB as they work toward graduation and prepare for the next step on their life path.

In addition, joining us for this morning’s festivities is this year’s class of Golden Grads. They are members of the Class of 1968, celebrating their 50th anniversary. As they reaffirm their connection to their alma mater, their presence provides us an intimate link to our past. I ask all our Golden Grads, past and present, to rise so we may acknowledge you and your special bond with this institution.

As we honor our past and recognize our achievements, I believe it is essential to appreciate our progress and continue to build for the future.

Here at Cal State San Bernardino, we are changing lives. We are creating opportunities. And, as we proudly proclaim to the world, We Define The Future!

Recognizing where we started does not restrict that future. Rather it provides a solid foundation from which we can continue our educational mission and expand upon our impressive legacy.

During commencement last June, we reached a historic milestone as CSUSB exceeded 100,000 graduates. Everyone – no matter if you first stepped on this campus five decades ago or just today – can be proud to be part of this tremendous success story.

This year we have plenty of successes to recognize and appreciate. As we enter the fourth year of our five-year strategic plan, we can look back on the many highlights that took place during Year Three.

Let us start with Student Success, the plan’s lead goal, which touches the very heart of our educational mission.

Our students are getting excellent instruction from our exceptional faculty. Many are expanding on that by taking part in study abroad programs and a wide range of internships. These opportunities give them a better understanding of our world and provide valuable experience while also building confidence.

In an effort to encourage our students to advance academically by attending summer session, $1 million was allocated for Graduation Initiative Grants. We saw an immediate impact when all but one of the 415 students awarded grants for summer 2017 qualified to graduate at the end of summer session or that fall.

Under its new name, the Undocumented Student Success Center celebrated its second anniversary with the creation of the Optima Family Services Scholarship, established by two sisters who graduated from CSUSB. Available to graduating high school seniors with a declared major within either the College of Social & Behavioral Sciences or the College of Natural Sciences, Optima scholarships are open to all, with qualifying undocumented students receiving preference.

Last year, CSUSB launched two independent task forces focused on addressing the trends relating to the college-going rates of our two most underserved communities – African Americans and Native Americans. We pulled together some of our best minds, both across campus and throughout the community, to help build a series of recommendations.

Our African American Task Force, co-chaired by the Provost and the Vice President for Student Affairs, has recently sent forward its thoughts, including more deliberate and dedicated outreach efforts to this community, utilizing a wide breadth of internal and external constituents as informal recruitment partners. We will need to invest in those intentional programs and services, which include employing additional retention specialists and multicultural center coordinators, adding mentorship programs, and offering financial assistance to increase retention of students. We must also partner with organizations that already offer college readiness programs designed to increase recruitment, retention and graduation of African-American students.

The Native American Task Force, which launched late last spring, expects to finalize recommendations by the end of the calendar year.

Through the efforts of both task forces, CSUSB will become a national model for the recruitment and retention of these communities.

Promoting student success also calls for us to ensure access to learning. Last year, Services to Students with Disabilities continued their efforts to provide accommodations, assisting more than 1,000 students.

Student success also relies on being able to enhance the educational experience we provide.  Affordable Learning Solutions, a grant program initiated by the CSU, is a collaborative effort of faculty members and Information Technology Services to provide more affordable quality educational materials. Affordable Learning Solutions is influencing our students academically and financially, as you’ll see in this video …

The Affordable Learning Solutions program decreases our students’ immediate financial burden. It allows for expanded access to the latest materials. In addition, along with improving retention and graduation rates, it will decrease the amount of long-term debt students face in the years following graduation.

In looking at the second goal, Faculty and Staff Success, this past year saw a number of advances and achievements that foster innovation, scholarship and discovery.

We received a $125,000 diversity grant from the Chancellor’s Office to assist in diversity advocate training and implement strategies to increase faculty diversity.

The decision to administer summer session on a self-support basis has allowed us to serve many more students, offer more courses, provide nearly $2 million in additional faculty pay, offer an extra $2 million in student financial aid, and distribute more than $650,000 to academic colleges and departments.

Last year saw the creation of Staff Council, a significant addition to shared governance. Dedicated to serving CSUSB, Staff Council is advancing professional development opportunities for those who serve as the backbone of our university.

We also dedicated two central resources for faculty and staff success at CSUSB. The Staff Development Center and the Faculty Center for Excellence are celebrating one-year anniversaries, and the profound effect each has had on our campus community can be seen in this video …

These two centers will continue to innovate and enrich the knowledge and skills of staff and faculty in the years ahead.

The third goal, Resource Sustainability and Expansion, involves making a firm commitment to the current and future infrastructure and capacity of CSUSB.

The university’s master plans for both campuses received approval from the CSU Board of Trustees. We also released a draft of our Resilient Sustainability Plan, which provides a guideline for both campuses in an effort to reduce the university’s carbon footprint.

ITS, in collaboration with the CSU Chancellor’s Office, oversaw an upgrade of our university’s internet connectivity speed. A 100-gigabyte link to the California Research & Education Network will greatly develop capacity and allow for academic research previously unavailable to our faculty and their students.
In terms of advancement and philanthropy, CSUSB is enjoying a level of success it has never before experienced.

The University’s $50 million comprehensive campaign is already the largest single fundraising initiative in our history. As I stand here today, just two years after entering the public phase, we have surpassed $48.5 million, or 97% of our goal.

We have also acquired a record $36.1 million in external funding to support research and sponsored programs. This is a testament to the outstanding work of our faculty and staff, who bring in new and recurring grant opportunities.

The growth of our endowment is just as impressive. This next video will provide not only the numbers but also how they figure into the lives of our students and faculty …

Our commitment to the fourth goal, Community Engagement and Partnerships, remains strong and continues to resonate with our students.

The Office of Community Engagement was again amazingly active throughout the year. From another successful Coyote Cares Day to coordinating service and volunteer hours, it worked closely with student clubs and organizations, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, supporters and numerous community groups and foundations. OCE also launched its Community Engagement Faculty Associate Program, assisting faculty with community engagement in the classroom, in research applications and additional service activities.

The results can be assessed in hours logged and estimated value, but the true worth of this engagement is the positive influence it has on our students as they see for themselves the effect they have on lives and communities, and how we as an institution of higher education are helping improve the quality of living throughout the Inland Empire.

As a university, we also remain committed to our own. The Obershaw DEN food pantry distributed more than 1,500 bags of groceries, 1,250 individual meals and 250 hygiene kits to students seeking help obtaining basic needs.

When it comes to the fifth goal, Identity, we can all take great pride in knowing efforts by individuals and groups across campus have resulted in a tremendous leap in this university’s visibility and perception.

Launching our new identity campaign around “We Define the Future,” has helped create tremendous synergy within our extended campus community as well as throughout the region. Efforts to target key audiences are already showing results in name recognition, recruitment, positive public perception and strengthened reputation. Credit is due to the many constituencies that took part in the creative and confirmation process.

The Office of Strategic Communication has succeeded in enhancing our identity and public perception by focusing on all aspects of the campus community.

Fifteen different issues of the Inside CSUSB video series celebrated faculty and staff success, promoted the strengths and accomplishments of colleges and departments, and showcased our students and alumni.

Their planning and implementation of the university’s “We Define the Future” brand recently earned a Council for Advancement & Support of Education Circle of Excellence Grand Gold Award.

I am confident many more success stories are ahead of us this year.

Our honors program is experiencing unparalleled growth. This fall, 381 students are enrolled, a better than 46 percent increase from just a year ago.

Planning will get underway for the new home for the College of Arts & Letters and a new Performing Arts Center.

The Quarter to Semester conversion is continuing to build momentum, heading toward full implementation in fall 2020.

Sometimes it is easy for us to focus on the immediate picture and forget to step back and see how what we do is influencing the people and communities around us.

Since my first day as President, this university has sought to help students succeed. Beyond what we have done for those enrolled here, our faculty, departments and colleges have done an excellent job collaborating with educators and administrators at the district and county levels. This work with K-12 has helped young people both prepare and aspire to succeed at the college level.

The facts now show that these efforts have – and continue to make – a difference.

Since 2015, high school graduation rates have risen to 83% in San Bernardino County and 89% in Riverside County. The A-G completion rates have improved by 10% in both counties. And the percentage of first-time freshmen requiring math development has dropped by 15% since 2013.

Our efforts involving the CSU Graduation Initiative 2025 are also having an impact. At the finish of the 2018 Summer Session, our four-year graduation rate was up 2% from the previous year. Our two-year graduation rate, up 10% in the past four years, is on track to meet our 2025 target of 45 percent. Statistically, the achievement gap for our two-year graduation rate is almost insignificant between underrepresented students and non-underrepresented student communities.

So it comes as no surprise that, over the past five years, our six-year rate has jumped by 13%!

Such significant improvement is more than just worthy of applause; it is transformative! It means an increase in learning, more opportunities for jobs that will enhance lives and strengthen the economic outlook for the Inland Empire.

While there is still more to be done, it is both encouraging and inspiring to think of how we continue to define the future!

These are exciting times at CSUSB, with plenty of amazing stories still to be written and incredible history still to be made. As long as we believe in each other and work together, we can achieve great things.

I again invite everyone to come to the grand opening of Coyote Village this afternoon at two, immediately followed by a wonderful Convocation reception in the new dining commons.

I also hope to see all of you back here on campus on Saturday, October 27, when we celebrate homecoming 2018.

I want to leave you with a brief look back at some of the highlights that made last year so memorable. Enjoy the video and the many great things to come in the days ahead.

Thank you.