Convocation is a unique opportunity for faculty and staff to come together to welcome new colleagues, celebrate recent achievements and share ideas as we look to the future. On Friday, Aug. 22 approximately 950 people gathered at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center to mark the beginning of the academic year and welcome President Jane Close Conoley to campus.
President Jane Close Conoley
One of the complexities all great universities face now is how to preserve the best of what they are while evolving to meet the new opportunities and demands of our times. We are the stewards of our world’s history in science, arts, mathematics, health, business and economics, medicine, leadership, education, literature, music, and so on. This is an awesome responsibility that we cannot abandon.
Having the information is less than half the challenge, however. Our responsibility as a university is to transform this information into deep learning opportunities for our students and for us. New technologies make information retrieval quite easy, but we know that close, meaningful relationships are the basis for deep learning. How do we stay accessible and responsive to exploding populations of college-ready Californians and maintain the conditions that enable great teaching and learning?
We’ll have to create that solution. No one has figured it out entirely.
Certainly we need more faculty, more staff, and improved/additional physical facilities to serve additional students. We will have to test the efficacy of enhancing our courses with electronic resources that are designed to enable innovative scheduling and virtual collaborations. We’ll have to take a hard look at our curriculum, not from disciplinary silos, but from the perspective of promoting coherent learning experiences for students. We can build on the knowledge students bring to every experience by linking them to their peers in meaningful collaborative efforts that produce transformational learning.
In my view, universities have a rather sacred mission: provide a path toward life success for all who are in the community. This is a big job. We don’t manufacture widgets (although our engineers do some pretty spectacular stuff). We do create environments, conditions, incentives, experiences, and expectations that push us all to build on our strengths and do better for our city, state, country, world, and for ourselves. We must invent a future that is sustainable, informed, healthy, artistic, civic minded, and optimistic. We create knowledge. There’s nothing more important to the future of our planet. What we do is just that big.
What are your ideas about our future in building accessibility and excellence?
Provost David Dowell
The State of the University
On September 28, 1949 a new institution called Los Angeles-Orange County State College offered 25 classes taught by with 13 faculty to just over 150 students. Today, just for a moment, let’s remember the past.
While the language might have been a little different, the mission in 1949 was the same: graduating students with highly valued degrees. However since then, a great deal has been accomplished and we have much of which to be proud.
We can be proud that CSULB is increasingly being recognized for excellence and value. As you saw in that video, Time Magazine reported that we are 14th in the nation based on the Obama administration’s criteria of graduation rates, service to low income students and affordability.
- U. S. News, Princeton Review and Kiplinger’s continue to rank us highly.
- Victory Media calls us a top “Military Friendly School.”
- Security Magazine tells us something parents will want to know: we are one of the most secure campuses in the nation.
- Diverse Issues in Higher Education ranks us highly on degrees to minority students.
- We graduate our students with nearly the least loan debt of any four-year institution in the U.S.
- Payscale.com ranks us in the top one-fifth in earnings of graduates compared to over 1,000 U.S. institutions of all types and we are in the top 13% of public institutions.
There is a lot in the media questioning higher education these days but there is something the media seems to miss: Universities are not all the same: at CSULB our combination of quality, affordability and student success adds up to value; we advertise a highly valued degree and we deliver.
We are proud of our diverse, talented and determined students.
Some chose us over more prestigious UCs and privates. For some, we are their only affordable, local opportunity. If you were here last year, you learned that all three of my daughters chose CSULB for college. Their experiences give me additional perspectives on our campus. I can tell you that each of them – like all of our students I think – arrived on campus trusting us to provide them with a valuable education, to open pathways to a successful future that includes a career, graduate school options, and appreciation of arts, sciences, and societies. I am committed to ensuring that the University provides students with the highly valued degrees that are, in fact, pathways to successful futures for each of our students.
We are a place of remarkable diversity and we are proud of it. We are designated as both a Hispanic and Asian and Pacific Islander Serving institution. We host an annual Native American Pow Wow. We host graduation celebrations for all of these groups as well as for African Americans, Filipinos and a Lavender celebration. We have 2,700 international students. Our diversity adds tremendous richness and helps make Long Beach special. Our students have developed and implemented over 360 student organizations including more than 35 cultural organizations.
Our students are diverse in origins, cultures and in academic preparation. About half of our students are low-income by federal definition.
Our students have brought us many distinctions this past year in arts, sciences, forensics, business, health fields, education and more. We are proud of their accomplishments.
We can be especially proud that last year we awarded over 9,000 bachelor, master, and doctoral degrees. Interesting factoid: we had more graduates than 85% of four-year colleges in the U.S. have enrollments. Data we have just compiled show that our freshman graduation rate has reached yet another new record high along with our rate for transfer students. Please join me in a round of applause in appreciation of the accomplishments of our students.
This past year Academic Affairs recognized several departments for high student success performance. Recognition was accompanied by $10,000 awards. Awards were provided in two categories, “Highest Achievement in Student Success” and “Improvement in Student Success.” A few departments were recognized in both categories. Awards went to the following departments:
Anthropology Communication Studies Film & Electronic Arts Human Development Linguistics Marketing Psychology Recreation and Leisure Studies Social Work Sociology Theater Arts Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies Speech-Language Pathology Electrical Engineering Family & Consumer Sciences Geography Liberal Studies Nursing, and Religious Studies
In addition to funding, these departments will receive a plaque for their offices. We expect to offer another round of awards this coming year. Please join me in a round of applause to recognize the faculty and staff in these departments for their exemplary efforts on behalf of students.
We can be justly proud of our most important result: graduates with highly valued degrees, more than 293,000 alumni. These alumni are our pride and joy. Many continue to support CSULB, for which we are truly grateful. Please join me in a round of applause in appreciation for our alumni and their continued support.
Ours is a remarkable and dedicated faculty, committed to excellence and to graduating students with highly valued degrees.
Each tenure track hire is a very significant investment. Data distributed recently by the statewide Academic Senate to the Board of Trustees shows that of all the CSU campuses, Long Beach, although not the largest in enrollment, has the most tenure track faculty – by a sizable margin of 48 – and the most total faculty – by an even larger margin of 120. These are remarkable leads. We apparently have done a better job of keeping our resources in faculty.
Last year I announced a significant increase in the number of tenure track faculty to be hired this fall and today it is my great pleasure to introduce our outstanding new faculty. We hired 59 new faculty members, although two will start in spring and one next fall. This is an exceptional group who will be highly effective with our diverse students. These scholars and creative artists will have a positive and lasting impact on campus. Will the new faculty please stand and be recognized? We are delighted that you are here.
I am pleased to report that we are on track for a similarly large cohort next fall. These new tenure line faculty members join our existing very strong faculty, dedicated to the success of our students. Please join me in a round of applause in appreciation of our entire tenured and tenure track faculty.
I also want to recognize the accomplishments of our lecturers. About half of our curriculum, from the point of view of students, is delivered by capable and often long-serving lecturers. The quality of our student outcomes depends heavily on their efforts. For the coming year, I have asked our Faculty Center for Professional Development, under the able leadership of Terre Allen, to expand support for our lecturer faculty who contribute so much. Please join me in a round of applause in appreciation of our lecturer faculty.
Speaking of Faculty Development, I also want to acknowledge some remarkable results from our course redesign projects. Several faculty teams collaborated intensively to improve outcomes for some of our most challenging gateway courses. Now, results are in and several of these collaborations were very successful. Two in particular in Chemistry and Biology made remarkable improvements in student learning and course completion. These faculty teams teach us that transforming instruction to reach more students in challenging gateway courses is difficult but within our reach. I am grateful to all of the faculty teams who put forth strenuous efforts on behalf of our students. Please join me in a round of applause in recognition of these teams who worked hard to improve learning for our students.
I also want to note the highly valued contributions of our emeriti faculty. Some remain very involved in the university through the emeritus association. We truly stand on the shoulders of giants. Please join me in a round of applause for emeriti faculty.
Research, Scholarly, and Creative Activities
Basic research pushes back the frontiers of knowledge; applied research helps solve human problems; creative endeavors inspire and probe our humanity. Involving students in working with faculty on research, scholarly, and creative activities is one of our most powerful pedagogies.
Our faculty has earned many RSCA distinctions. As you came into the Carpenter Center this morning you saw in our slide show faculty members recognized last spring at our awards ceremony for outstanding achievement in scholarly and creative achievement, community service and leadership. Their accomplishments are truly impressive.
Despite the bleak budget of recent years, CSULB, unlike many sister campuses, has maintained a sizable investment in RSCA; last year we invested about $1m in campus resources in support of faculty RSCA. I am pleased to announce that this coming year, we have earmarked about $2m for RSCA support. Awards for faculty assigned time have already been announced. We supported summer research assistants this past summer. We are supporting research assistants this academic year as well. We again are providing incentives for faculty to prepare proposals for external funding including multidisciplinary grants.
It would take all day to provide a listing of additional faculty honors and awards earned in the past year and in the interest of protecting time for our new president’s remarks, I am not going to attempt even a sampling. However, please join me in a round of applause for faculty accomplishments.
Achievements in External Funding
We can be proud of faculty achievements in external funding. This past year we increased the number of proposals submitted to 285, a 20% increase, and we nearly doubled the dollar value of proposals submitted to $125m. I am especially impressed that quite a few of these proposals were large institutional collaborative grants that, if awarded, will be excellent for our students. Please join me in a round of applause for accomplishments in external grants and contracts.
Finally regarding faculty, I have mentioned to you our leading position in tenure track faculty and total faculty, our continued increased hiring of tenure track faculty, our increase in support for RSCA, and our intention to expand support for lecturers. I think of these initiatives collectively as our Faculty Success Program parallel to and in support of our Student Success efforts. I want to express my appreciation to all of our outstanding faculty.
Everything we accomplish has been supported by our staff in some way. Advisors are critical to student success. Office staff support the work of departments. Fiscal staff manage our expenditures. Custodians, who often go unnoticed because they work at night, tidy up our environments. Grounds staff do such a good job of keeping this a beautiful park-like environment. I ask that all staff in attendance please stand and that the audience join me in a round of applause for their contributions.
For this fall, the Chancellor’s Office asked us to grow. At the same time, we chose to increase the numbers of international students on campus. As a result, this fall we will experience a marked increase in the number of students on campus. We are likely to experience some sense of crowding.
The Chancellor’s Office may again ask us to grow for the next fall – or direct us to grow without choice. A key issue before us is how to handle the possible growth. We need to explore options for handling growth without reducing either quality instruction or quality of life. We need to explore the role of digital technologies in helping us. This is a key challenge.
Last year we successfully implemented a new admission plan linking academic preparation with majors. Like everything we do, this change was aimed at boosting student success and is being emulated by other CSUs. This change seems to be working quite well for the campus and for students. We hope and expect for continued rises in retention and graduation and quicker time to degree. Our admissions tools increase our control over the future.
In recent years, as a result of a number of national studies, universities now have much more information about student outcomes such as degree completion, graduate school participation, employment, underemployment, unemployment, and early and mid-career earnings. A few states such as Virginia have built data systems to display these outcomes by institution and major to any Web user. Recently, Senator Bob Huff introduced a bill into the Legislature that would create a similar information resource for California and we can be sure that legislators will be looking at this. Over the summer, the Campaign for College Opportunity came out with a report critical of long time to degree in both community colleges and CSUs, noting the excess costs to students that longer time to degree creates. California spends about $26b per year on public higher education. Understandably, lawmakers are quite interested in these outcomes.
More importantly, our students have a reasonable expectation that we are constantly focused on the value of the degrees we provide. In a competitive job market, a valuable degree is a key asset. It is our responsibility as educators to learn to use information about value to improve our curricula and guide our decision making. And, we have a great story to tell. We will continue to focus on the value of our degrees.
This year our new augmented Student Excellence Fee began in full. My office allocated nearly $6m new dollars for technology that touches students. These resources will make a big difference. Already our high tech instructional environments are extremely popular. This fall two more will open in Education. Next Spring with the completion of the Liberal Arts remodel, 23 new classrooms will come online – in both senses. This summer our faculty created and offered many more online courses. Some have found blended instruction – with both face-to-face and online components — to be effective. Our approach to digital instruction is guided, like everything we do, by the principle of what works best for students. We are carefully using the new digital tools to enhance the quality of instruction.
Take a moment to think about all the global issues in front of us every single day: Ukraine, Palestine, Iran, Syria, Ebola, immigrant children and much more. Every college graduate needs a global perspective to be well educated. This past summer CSULB students studied abroad in more than 16 countries including Mexico, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Italy, Japan, Scotland, Germany, England, Cambodia, Korea, China, Taiwan, France, New Zealand, Italy, and South Africa. Students are always broadened and often profoundly affected by these experiences. Our continuing efforts to infuse a global perspective into our curriculum have well-positioned us to prepare our students for an increasingly global future.
Last year I announced that the President and I would partner to launch a Leadership Fellows Program. Dr. Karen Nakai, Executive Assistant to the President and Senate Chair Dan O’Connor led this project last year with a group of now-and-future–leaders. This program has been a resounding success. Every fellow has told me that the experience has been a life changing, eye-opening, growth experience. Karen Nakai and Dan O’Connor are to be congratulated for this remarkable success. Being complete workaholics, they are currently soliciting a new cohort of faculty and staff this fall.
I am delighted to let you know that our budget outlook is fairly positive. The Governor followed through on his multi-year plan to modestly increase funding for the CSU. Our augmented Student Excellence Fee brings much-needed support for student learning technology. I am delighted to report that we will be providing increased funding to colleges and departments this year.
Last year collective bargaining brought a very modest pay rise for faculty and staff. Collective bargaining is once again underway and we are hopeful that negotiations will bring a larger rise in pay for faculty and staff this year. I am also hopeful that some portion of a pay rise will be available to address the distortions in salary of which we are acutely aware. The current contract has been extended to September 30th but it is my understanding that both sides are optimistic of an agreement fairly soon.
At this time, we can be very optimistic. As we move into the coming year, we have welcome budget improvement. We have resources to invest more in faculty, in students, in staff and infrastructure. We can be proud that we continue to be a diverse, student-centered, globally-engaged public university offering high-value education. We can take pride in the fact that what we do matters. We really are changing lives for a changing world. I told the new faculty earlier this week that Long Beach is a very special campus and I truly believe that. It is special because of thousands of people who have worked to make it the best it can be. It is special because we prize our diversity. We cultivate an atmosphere of respect and civility. It is special because we support our students who trust us to offer them a high value education.
I am honored to serve as Provost because CSULB is a great and special public university. Thank you for all that you do to contribute to the special nature of The Beach.
Academic Senate Chair Praveen Soni
Thank you, Provost Dowell, for inviting me to share some reflections on this important occasion in the life of the university.
More than anything this morning, I wish to convey my heartiest welcome to President Jane Close Conoley. We are so very excited about your selection as our president and we all look forward to working together across all campus constituencies, along with our school district partners and our city leaders, to continue to move this university forward.
I am invited to speak this morning because of my role as Chair of the Academic Senate. Long Beach State is a campus where the Senate includes representatives from all campus constituencies, including faculty, staff, administrators, and students. I am proud to serve with my colleagues and I would like to recognize the members of the Academic Senate who are with us this morning. Will you please rise?
Thank you for your service.
II. Renewal and hope
Ladies and gentlemen, Long Beach State is now 65 years old, and as you know, that is the official retirement age. But I am sure that you’ll agree that we are better described as 65 years young. Rather than retirement, I believe a better concept for describing the moment in which this university finds itself is renewal. As members of educational communities, we have the unique opportunity every year of starting over, of renewing our commitment to education.
And with renewal comes hope. I want to share with you some signs of renewal that I have witnessed around campus and also some hopes that I have for the year ahead.
As I’ve walked across campus the last few weeks, I’ve noticed the renewal of many of the buildings and structures: the Liberal Arts buildings are receiving a significant makeover, across campus classrooms are being renovated and modernized, the grounds beautified, trees planted, and pathways expanded and made safer. One of my hopes for this year is that we will each choose to spend more time on campus – hang out, go to the library, be seen, be heard. And while you’re here, thank a gardener or facilities person, a custodian, or that techie who just helped you resolve the latest glitch.
And speaking of which, I find signs of renewal in our campus’s commitment to improving our technology infrastructure and service. As a result, students and faculty are working with the most advanced technologies to map ocean weather systems, diagnose diseases, and engineer better airplane cockpits. Technology is changing our ability to serve students with new and exciting modes of instruction. My hope is that as we adopt and adapt to the latest technologies, that we will always remember the importance of relationships in teaching the relationship between faculty and students, and the relationships that students have among their peers as they are all engaged in the learning process.
If you were on campus this summer, you likely would have encountered some of the 8500 new students who were participating in SOAR, the summer orientation, advising, and registration program. These are students who are renewing their commitment to improving themselves and their life opportunities by attending this great university. And waiting to serve them both at SOAR and throughout the year is the most professional, well prepared, and creative advising and support staff using the most advanced E-advising tools available. My hope is that as we employ technology to better advise our students and help them reach their educational and life goals we remember that it is the personal interactions with their advisors that will make a difference in their lives. Hey, technology is cool, but it’s the relationships that matter.
We have a faculty who are renewing their commitments to their scholarship, to expanding knowledge within their disciplines, and to exploring new pedagogies in order to help students develop the disciplinary habits of mind that will allow them to think like historians, mathematicians, scientists, engineers, nurses, entrepreneurs and artists.
Events like today are important symbolic rituals where the university community comes together to celebrate and renew its commitment to the educational enterprise. We are doing great things at this university; we have so much of which to be proud! We have so much to declare. My hope is that throughout the year ahead we will do so often, as programs, as departments, as colleges, and as a whole. Let’s celebrate and tell the world what we are up to. Hey, the world out there wants to be a part of this; 84,000 applicants can’t be wrong!
The role of the Academic Senate is to provide a civil and collegial space for considered debate that allows students, faculty, administration, and staff to build consensus about how to fulfill our mission as a public institution. My hope is that we will all renew our commitment to this ideal of collegiality, to recognizing that we can work so much more effectively when we work together.
Let’s get to work!
ASI President Joe Philips
Good morning, Long Beach. It is an honor to speak in front of all of you at this year’s convocation. My name is Joseph Phillips, and I am the ASI President and representative of the multitude of students who attend this university. I am lucky enough to have been elected in the same year that we have received such a great leader to our campus, President Jane Close Conoley. What I must say to you all about her is that I am very thankful to have her in our highest office, because I know that she will stick up for my peers regardless of their background and cultureâ€”and honor our diversity on this campus.
Over the next year, the students at Long Beach State are looking forward to the continuance of shared governance in our campus institutions. As the students are the ultimate shareholders for whom we all work, it is incredibly important that they continue to have their voices heard in all major decision making at this university whether it is talks of re-branding our institution or as seemingly trivial as voting on matters related to faculty-student relationships. What we want from the campus community is mutual respect, and for the Associated Students to be seen as a symbiotic yet self-governing part of the University. We seek to innovate and change the world, and to make this campus our ideal.
It is fair to say that the Associated Students, or ASI, has never been better. Following our success in last year’s fee referendum, we have already began a great number of new and exciting projects that will enhance the lives of our students and help make them more marketable in a global job market. By the first day of school, we will have opened our 24 Hour Study Center which will be operational Monday to Friday. We are also nearing completion on our study abroad scholarships program which will help make this endeavor more affordable for the average student. Those are just two examples of the many great services that ASI is now able to provide to our campus community.
I have served ASI for three years now, and I am proud of our accomplishments and those yet to come. I also know that when my time is over and I graduate this spring, that my successor and the thousands that she or he represents will be in good hands with President Conoley and her vision for this campus.