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Convocation

Convocation is our annual celebration bringing faculty and staff together on the Friday before the start of the new academic school year. Held at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, we welcome in new colleagues, highlight recent achievements and share ideas as we look to the future.

President Conoley's Remarks

President Conoley speaks at ConvocationI am so pleased to be with you in this beautiful and increasingly accessible (thank you Megan Kline Crockett) setting for the fourth time and to be welcoming you to the 2017-18 academic year. A special welcome to our President’s Scholars and their families – the Scholars are proud new members of our notable University Honors Program. Thank you Professor Deborah Thien. I’m so glad you are here.

I hope everyone has enjoyed the pictures of some of our new faculty and staff who have recently started their careers at the Beach. New faculty and staff members who are here: we look forward to supporting your success and look forward to how you will change us for the better.

Returning faculty and staff you remain the heart and soul of all we offer to our students.

I see the deans of our colleges here this morning. Thank you very much for coming by. Special welcome of, course, to Curt Bennett, our newest dean and first holder of the Richard D. Green Endowed Deanship.

Here this morning is Dr. Collie Conoley, who after 44 years of friendship and marriage remains my best friend and most enthusiastic supporter. Thank you Collie.

Let me introduce Andy Fee who joined us in May as our new Athletic Director and who has already shown terrific leadership. Andy is from UC Santa Barbara and emerged as the favorite from a very large group of applicants because of his knowledge of collegiate sports and most importantly his commitment to academic excellence for our student athletes, who already, by the way, lead the campus in graduation rates. Over half our student athletes qualify as academic all stars, deans’ lists, and president’s list scholars. So, way to go student athletes and wonderful coaches and advisors from the Bickerstaff Academic Center who offer such expert guidance.

Finally, let me introduce Detecting K 9 officer Avery who is the newest member of our Beach team. She is a two and a half year old yellow lab who is an expert at sniffing out explosives and making people just feel better. Her handler is Sergeant Ray Gonzalez. He will be introducing Avery around campus, so contact our University Police Department and, as duties permit, Avery can visit student, staff and faculty groups. She will, of course, bring Sergeant Ray along with her.

I’ve been reflecting a lot about what to speak about with you this morning. There’s so much happening at The Beach. My speech today will cover a lot of territory because, as I mentioned in an earlier address to you, we’re living in VUCA land – volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous opportunities and threats surround us. So consider this speech a window into many of the things I spend time thinking about.

But before I focus our attention toward just our campus – fascinating as it is – I want to say a few words about the tragedy in Charlottesville two weeks ago. I am fully aware there are multiple interpretations of this event. There is one clear and present danger that confronts our campus and most campuses across the nation. We must guard against any erosion of First Amendment rights while at the same time protecting our community – our people and our property. We must challenge each other to listen, debate with civility, and re-affirm American values. I remind you of Abraham Lincoln’s words:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, … to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Neo-Nazis, Identity Evropa, KKK, White supremacists, and white nationalists are not working to bind up the nation’s wounds or achieve a lasting peace among the diverse groups who make up this great nation. Quite the contrary! Their beliefs, which they can freely share because of our Constitution, are un-American. Their beliefs dishonor all who have lived and died for a democracy with liberty and justice for all.

At the request of and as a courtesy to faculty and staff (thank you Professor Kelly Young), my team of communicators and our legal counsel have put together a two page resource sheet, should you wish to discuss the intersections of free speech, ideological divides, violence, and legality in your classrooms and other places of guidance for students.

Now, back to The Beach.

I think it’s typical to start the year off with optimistic statements about the future. Certainly all the victories just described by Provost Brian Jersky speak to our abilities to excel even in constrained financial times. The next two slides indicate that every part of our campus has received special notice for excellence.

And make no mistake; I am very optimistic about the future of our university. We face today some looming challenges, but we have faced looming challenges every year for the past 67 years or so I imagine. And as the old song celebrates (with a pronoun change), we’re “still here,” and here in great style.

In addition to a history of success, my optimism is based on the conviction that we can continue to build on our commitments to student success, embrace challenges with innovative and entrepreneurial strategies, and maintain and improve our position as one of the nation’s great comprehensive universities. We have shown the persistence and dedication to get hard things done.

So today, I will share what I’ve been thinking about:

  • Optimism
  • Challenges that face us on and off campus with some emphasis on money
  • Growth versus fixed mindsets
  • Inclusive Excellence at a SMART campus
  • Removing barriers
  • Strategic planning that I anticipate will tackle our most important questions as we march, dance, run, jump or skip to 2025
  • Some personal aspirations I have for the next year

This past year I supported a research effort (thank you Andy Hoang and his team) to uncover strengths of our university that deserve more emphasis so we could develop better communication strategies to attract more support, especially from our 310,000+ alumni. You will not be surprised that the excellence of our faculty, staff, and academic programs along with our beautiful location (thank you everyone who works on our grounds and keeps our buildings in working order) emerged as items that deserve more attention when we discuss The Beach. Something else that emerged was a campus ethos that was described by the researchers as an “insane” commitment to removing barriers that prevent others, especially students, from succeeding.

Thank you all very much for that insane commitment! I think it illustrates our belief that with the right environment, evidence-based pedagogies, high expectations, and compassionate interactions, all the students we admit (our standards are very high) can achieve a Beach degree.

I consider student success, by the way, a very complex metric that certainly includes timely graduation, but is so much more. Our students should leave us as thinkers, doers, great communicators, compassionate and civically engaged community members, leaders in their chosen professions and well prepared to be critical and skeptical consumers of information.

I think as we embrace an18-month process of strategic planning starting this fall we will be in an even better place to propel our students forward toward lives of success. I’ll come back to strategic planning.

There are, however, challenges looming that are somewhat out of our campus’ control, but can have significant effects on our abilities to add the edge of excellence each of our students deserve.

For example, the good and bad news is that birthrates are plummeting. At least for a while, the country is running out of teenagers. Did you know that in just a few years there will be 5,000 fewer Long Beach Unified School District 12th graders? Did you know that the sheer number of universities and colleges continues to decline (mainly among ‘for profit’ and small liberal arts colleges that suspend operations or merge with other entities) because of financial exigencies mainly caused by plummeting enrollment? But don’t overlook the draconian cuts in public higher education happening in Wisconsin, Illinois, Arizona, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania to name just a few.

Did you know that in 2023, when applications are predicted to begin to edge up across the country, those who apply would be significantly more economically distressed than previous cohorts?

A police officer with Avery as discussed in the textObviously, we may think we are in a particularly good position to weather enrollment and student economic diversity challenges (we do that now!), but we’re still vulnerable despite the privilege of being a state supported school. State revenues are increasingly directed toward K-14 education, health care, prisons, pensions and other mandatory costs leaving smaller and smaller portions for the discretionary parts of their budget. That discretionary part is where we live.

And while state funds account for shrinking portions of our total budget, our student success and public good commitments require greater and greater investments in our students. For example, the challenge to remove barriers to four-year graduation rates, for those students who wish that path, costs a lot more money because of needed financial aid, increased advising and more classes and sections.

What are other threats on and off campus that require our attention? The list is long as we face an aging campus infrastructure, escalating pension and health costs, salary concerns among our employees, uncertainties about federal funding, insufficient parking between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. (I had to say this before one of you did!), frustrating bureaucracies, escalating costs to buy or rent homes in this area, horrifying “isms” of many brand names, and a growing national mood that higher education is not delivering on its promise to be the great social and economic equalizer. By the way, it is delivering, but the national conversation indicates that a large percentage of Americans think we do more harm than good.

These are daunting challenges, big issues that really deserve our sustained attention as we plan for the future of our campus. So the strategic planning process we envision must look on and off campus at the issues that are really threatening us as a public university in California.

I think that figuring out new ways to keep our university viable will require a growth mindset. Growth mindset means that we are willing to try hard new things and believe that persistence will pay off. People with growth mindsets accept that mistakes are inevitable and are actually learning tools. This is in contrast to a fixed mindset that drives us to be risk averse, afraid of making mistakes, avoidant of challenges and change, and easily discouraged. Doing new and hard things makes our brains better. Trust me. That’s true.

In the context of a stagnant state budget, we must embrace the ambiguity of having to be more entrepreneurial while passionately keeping our public good mission. We must change some things if we want to offer our students high impact educational experiences like research with faculty, international travel, service learning, and so on. The state contribution, signaled already by the State Department of Finance to shrink next year to a 3 percent so-called increase, won’t make it so. Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous – perhaps on steroids at the moment.

We’ve already shown we can excel for our students in smaller projects. Scaling up is difficult but we have the insane commitment to do so. We will just need the money. Everyone should check out Engineering’s BESST program if they are not believers in Inclusive Excellence and evidence based pedagogies. Thank you Dean Golshani.

So, new ways outside of our traditional revenue sources must be investigated. I anticipate our strategic planning process will uncover many of these opportunities. While the funds from the state are vital to our survival, they no longer will provide for the edge of excellence that we know we can deliver and our students deserve. Thank you faculty, advisors, and student affairs professionals for providing so many edge of excellence opportunities. Increasingly, we must dust off our entrepreneurial skills to figure out how to pursue our public good agenda while being expected to operate more like a private university. This is not easy, but there are models across the nation of the best universities finding new ways to create revenue that supports their well-deserved distinctive identities. We can do this too.

I know there may be some in the audience who feel that as we move in this direction the state will pull back resources. Consider however the trend in California’s support of its universities. The 30-year trend is down and we’d be asleep at the wheel with a fixed mindset if we anticipated some significant jump in state support.

While our strategic planning work this year will ferret out many more, from my perspective our core skills and assets are around instruction, research, evaluation, community outreach, creative “products,” athletics, spaces on campus, and relationships with our alumni and other friends in business, industry, the arts, and government. We will have to work together to figure out how to better transform these skills and assets into resources for our students, faculty, and staff.

Another thing we’ll have to face as we become more entrepreneurial is that we need a budgeting system that promotes and rewards risk taking, innovation, and careful attention to new opportunities that fall within our mission to educate Californians, produce important and useful research, and contribute to the public good.

We don’t have a system like that now, but as our context changes, we’d be asleep at the wheel with a fixed mindset if we didn’t respond. Brian and Vice President Mary Stephens will be talking a lot about this in the coming months.

So far, I’ve suggested that we’re up for challenges, that we must strive to develop growth mindsets that will support a more entrepreneurial campus, and that our strategic planning work will help us settle on priorities for action recognizing that our superordinate goals are to create a campus that promotes well being by removing barriers to student (and everyone’s) success – in other words be a model of Inclusive Excellence with financial chops.

I hope I haven’t tired you out already.

Let switch gears a little and share what I identify as more particular goals I have for the campus in the coming year.

  1. Reach/surpass our annual goals for Graduation Initiative 2025. Every student who wants to graduate in four years with a great education should be able to do so. It’s telling to me that with one time money to ease student progress, we moved in one year from a 15 percent four-year rate to a 21 percent rate. There are students who want this and with some help will make it happen. So let’s not divert students with predictions of low quality or myths of students being “pushed out.”
  2. Make progress writing a 2025 Strategic Plan and meet 2017-2020 goals. This will be a big deal. Tens of thousands of students and many faculty and staff will be affected by the decisions we all make over the next 18 months. So please engage.
  3. Accelerate the work of the Inclusive Excellence Commission. More on this later.
  4. Help raise at least $30M in private funds including $2M each for Blair Field and the Alumni and Visitors Center. Thank you VP Andrea Taylor for your leadership in completing our Declare campaign with such success two years ago and all our development professionals, deans and others who tell our story to attract private investment.
  5. Create an academic integration plan for the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden. I call on everyone from the arts to engineering to Student Affairs to consider how we do a better job integrating this singular campus gem into our students’ learning experiences.
  6. Re-imagine our planning and facilities processes so that we can build more affordably on campus, thus attracting more capital investment from donors. There is no state money for new buildings and our campus must grow to be viable.
  7. Re-think and update our internal budgeting processes. The current system is too centralized and is not responsive enough in a VUCA environment. This will feel good to all who have rightfully complained about too much centralization but comes with significant accountability and will demand a growth mindset.
  8. Continue to institutionalize BUILD grant initiatives, and reach our goal of $40M in annual research expenditures. Everyone on campus benefits when we are a center of discovery and can offer funded opportunities to take part in research and research training. Of course, much appreciation to our BUILD mentors and to former Dean Laura Kingsford for our brilliant successes in the BUILD effort.
  9. Advance our number of international students, while preserving access to Californians. This is a highly political issue, but a no brainer when we think of our flat world and our students’ needs to be global citizens.
  10. Hire a much more diverse Tenure Track Faculty. Let’s become more innovative in developing strategies that attract and keep an increasingly diverse (in every way) faculty so our students can see themselves as professors. We need them. Doing searches like we’ve done them is unlikely to create change.

Another right-headed opportunity we have is to completely update our so-called remedial education offerings to match research-based evidence that many remedial experiences do not regularly even-up students’ chances to graduate and can discourage many learners from persisting from first to second years, and slow them down toward their degrees. I am very interested in this and will track our evaluations closely.

The strategic planning process, which is in search of a cool name, will be key to our work over the next eight years. So many questions need answers, or at least a punch list for action. For example:

  • How big should we get? How many students should live on campus?
  • How many students can we serve online with excellence and positive outcomes? Consider that nationwide 45 percent of first time college students are now over 26. This is, perhaps, a population that can learn and thrive online.
  • How do we help our athletics program be an even better asset in growing Beach Pride among current and former students? Our success on playing fields is a strong strategy to keep our alums connected and that’s a very good thing.
  • Are we using all our space strategically? What should be moved to allow for right sizing our academic and student services mandates?
  • What’s a plan for our empty space that honors our native nations while permitting the essence of Puvungna – as a place for learning – to expand to meet the needs of those we now turn away? Thanks Craig Stone and others for tackling this issue. This is a particular problem to the general one: How do we retain the best of the past while meeting the needs of the present and future?
  • What are we already doing that could attract greater investment from individuals, business, industry, foundations, and the public sector?
  • What other processes must we modernize/streamline to reduce paperwork and hassles? How do we become a SMARTer CAMPUS? By the way, I have asked VP Min Yao to help us digitize as many routine tasks as possible; align procurements for better deals, increase our cyber security and on and on. The great thing is that he knows how to do this. So please work with him using a growth mindset.
  • What should our student body look like – more graduates, more transfers? What should our General Education look like? I don’t know much about GE, but think is a no brainer that what we offer should be cohesive and portable across numerous majors.
  • What’s an academic calendar for the 21st century?
  • How can we develop more centers of excellence that are interdisciplinary, represent the best in research and teaching opportunities, and contribute to the public good in our region/world? Tall order. We can’t afford to launch 100 of them, but I’m sure we could afford to launch ten to begin with.
  • How many International students should we serve?
  • How do we maintain and improve our Long Beach College Promise? This collaboration has established us nationally as a model university. How do we make it better?
  • How do we further reward faculty and staff for employing high impact practices that offer students transformational opportunities?
  • How do we grow internship opportunities and undergraduate research experiences for our students? Ask Dean Solt how his college has increased student internship numbers by 38 percent in just one year. We should all be looking at this.
  • Do we have any programs of mediocre quality that don’t belong here – across each division? We don’t have room for mediocrity.
  • How do we become a more 24/7 service oriented campus with a flatter organization that is more responsive?
  • Considering our Pyramid of Student Services: What are the key student services that we must keep/expand to be sure we are giving each student a fair shot at success?
  • How do we minimize costs for our students? Faculty, consider the costs of textbooks and especially those with electronic bells and whistles that cannot be sold as second hand copies. Those are clearly designed to make publishers rich and widely reported by students as keeping them poor.
  • How shall we stay true to the first amendment in the ideologically divided nation that surrounds us? There are serious threats to freedom of speech from those on every point of the political spectrum. Violence and/or shouting down provocative speakers are not the answers. Please everyone, get educated and educate others so we don’t face the tragedy of losing a member of our community in a violent confrontation. Some of the groups that show up for speakers or other demonstrations come with weapons and intend to fight. Our students can be caught in the crossfire and that would be heartbreaking. It’s happened once and could happen again on home soil.

I am a president with questions who needs your best thinking. Much of this help I know will be available from various existing committees and councils. I’m looking forward to guidance particularly from the Academic Senate, College Councils, Staff Council, and Commission on Inclusive Excellence. A little more on this last one.

As some of you may recall, we empanelled the Commission on Inclusive Excellence last January to move us toward a national university model of an organization that evens up everyone’s chances to be successful. Thank you VP Carmen Taylor and Brian for accepting co-chair responsibilities. We do this by removing barriers to success. In collaboration with other entities on campus, the Commission will support and report back findings from a variety of campus climate surveys we’ll accomplish this year so we’ll have a strong baseline from which to plan and implement strategies aimed at eliminating practices, norms, and attitudes that create systemic difficulties for any of our diverse community members. Your input to the Commission will be vital as we learn the stories and experiences of the Beach community. We must do frequent environmental scans, so to speak, to build a proactive plan for equity and not be simply reactive to campus or external threats.

So let me end by mentioning growth mindset, no barriers, innovation and entrepreneurship, strategic planning, Inclusive Excellence, taking our future into our own hands, freedom of speech that includes almost all speech but with a voluntary commitment to civility, and an environment engineered to provide universal, targeted and specialized services to all our students.

This is a lot of content, especially in an opening speech, but I’ll be coming back to you often investigating how we continue on our journey. Each item I’ve mentioned lies along the path or is shaping that path to intellectual rigor, inclusive excellence, and contributing to the public good.

I promise to lean in to the needed work and welcome your consultation and creativity. If we can seek (as President Lincoln said) to bind up the nation’s wounds, and do all we can to foster a just and lasting peace among ourselves…” This will be our best year yet.

Together every thing is possible. And that’s the truth.

Go Beach!

Provost Jersky's Remarks

Provost Jersky shakes hands with members of the CSULB community outside ConvocationThank you Norbert for your always insightful and constructive remarks. Last year I spoke of Plato’s sacred grove – and used it to refer to our university as a place to celebrate the past, examine the present and shape the future. This ‘sacred’ space allowed others to delve into topics that were atypical for that time period. The grove also represented a safe place to question social norms, and to express ideas and thoughts.

As l reflect on the past academic year, I believe our ‘sacred grove’ has taken on a whole new purpose. All that has happened in our world and nation this past year, and what occurred a few weeks ago has left us with more questions than answers. We have witnessed and observed a new level of hatred that has shocked and stunned a watching world. I want to take this moment to condemn what the Neo Nazi and white supremacists stand for. They disguise their hate, fear and divisiveness with misguided nationalism.  Given the rich diversity of our campus, our sacred space has no room to accommodate this level of violence and discord.  Hatred will not win. 

I think our focus has to adjust to reflect the changes that are around us. The way we educate our students is even more important. We need to adjust to ensure our students are offered the best educational community we can provide – indeed a newly consecrated ‘sacred space.’

I do believe, in fact, that we have been given an opportunity to reimagine what is possible. Albert Einstein, the well-known Swiss patent office clerk, said: “Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” We must offer hope to our students that they have the ability to positively impact society with their education. We also must give them assurance that their degrees will benefit society as well as themselves.

As a university we are charged with instilling in our students justified confidence in their abilities, talents and potential. I had the pleasure of visiting an alumnus at Riot Games in Santa Monica, where I discovered that the gaming world has moved on since my favorite game, Tetris. The purpose of our visit was to investigate an internship pipeline for our students. He mentioned that what frustrates him the most about Cal State grads is not their ability to perform the tasks at hand, but how they perceive their work. He gave me an example.

He recently had three graduates, one from an Ivy League school, another from a UC and a third from a Cal State. He asked them to rate their Java coding level from 1 – 10, with 10 being the highest. The Ivy League grad rated themselves at an 8, the UC grad at a 7 and the Cal State at a 4 to 5. When he asked them some further questions to identify their ability, the results surprised him (but not me). The Cal State grad had an 8-level Java coding ability, the UC a 6, with the Ivy League below a 5.

Interesting?! Our students graduate from Long Beach State ready and prepared to tackle any job within their field of study, but may not feel they are on par with their peers from other institutions. Why?

Do we believe we are on par with other private or more visible campuses? YES!

Do we believe we are a “second-tier institution” that is just a “state school”? NO!

We are indeed a flagship campus with premier programs. Here are some examples of what the outside world is saying of our success.

  • Kiplinger’s Personal Finance ranked us among the top 100 best values for public colleges.
  • The Princeton Review’s 2017 Best Colleges: Region by Region designated us one of the nation’s top public universities for our commitment to high-quality, affordable education.
  • We ranked fifth nationally in awarding bachelor’s degrees to minority students on Diverse Issues in Higher Education’s annual list of “Top 100 Degree Producers.”
  • U.S. News & World Report ranked us fifth among public regional universities in the western United States in its Best Colleges 2016 Rankings.
  • The website schools.com ranked us the best 4-year college in California. The list factored in affordability, support services and program availability.
  • According to a 2016 report by the Education Trust, our campus has been one of the most successful four-year public institutions at reducing opportunity gaps–the difference in graduation rates between typically underrepresented students and the rest of the university.

It is a testament to every person in this room when our campus receives praise. Every day you dedicate your hearts and passions to our students. It is my privilege to share this passion with you. From a very long list, here is a small snapshot of the achievements within our colleges:

  • Our School of Art is the nation’s largest, publicly-funded art department. It is the first in the western U.S. to receive accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.
  • The College of Business Administration is one of only 5% of schools worldwide accredited by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Business International. It was named an Outstanding Business School in The Princeton Review’s 2016 “Best 295 Business Schools” guidebook.
  • The undergraduate engineering program was ranked among the best in the nation in a recent edition of U.S. News & World Report’s ‘America’s Best Colleges Guide.’
  • Our school of Nursing has an almost unbelievable 95 percent pass rate on the National Council Licensure Exam since 2010.
  • Professor Teresa Wright of Political Science in the College of Liberal Arts created and led several of our colleagues in timely, well-attended ‘Teach-Ins’ called ‘Reclaiming Democracy.’ These workshops, focused on last year’s election and our nation, gave a much-needed venue to our students and community activists to voice their thoughts and feelings about this watershed moment.
  • Dr. Claudia Ojeda-Aristizabal, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics & Astronomy, recently received a 3-year, $255,000 grant from the US Department of Energy for her research on strongly correlated materials in the two-dimensional limit.
  • The College of Continuing and Professional Education (CCPE) broke ground on a state-of-the-art building, scheduled to be completed by Fall 2018.
  • The Liberal Studies Program is now approved as an Elementary Subject Matter Preparation Program by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing. This means that students who graduate with a major of Liberal Studies may now demonstrate their Subject Matter Competency through their coursework instead of taking a series of California Subject Examinations Tests (CSET).
  • The University Library will offer access to Swank Digital Campus, a new streaming movie platform that can be viewed via tablets or mobile devices. Faculty may link the movies via BeachBoard and have students view the film at their convenience or show during class. 

 Some Other Notable Campus Highlights

  • The Beach continues to be very attractive to incoming students. CSULB received 103,605 student applications for fall 2017.  This is the largest number in Long Beach State’s history. Freshman applications totaled 63,035, which is one of the highest among CSUs.
  • Transfer applications totaled 31,144, one of the highest in the nation. Undergraduate international student applications totaled 2,446, a 13% increase over last year.
  • Our new Faculty Research Experience and Expertise (FREE) database is now live. This lists faculty’s research and expertise and facilitates our university’s ability to provide insightful analysis and opinions to other educational institutions, industry partners and media. Thanks for VP Min Yao and AVP Simon Kim for their work on this.
  • Three faculty were recognized in the 2017 University Achievement Awards: Heather Barker in Design for her Impact Accomplishment of the Year in Research, Scholarly and Creative Activity; Stephen Mezyk in Chemistry/Biochemistry as Outstanding Faculty Mentor for Student Engagement in Research, Scholarly and Creative Activity; and Joshua A. Cutter in Kinesiology for Early Academic Career Excellence Award. 

Provost Jersky on stage at Convocation before the crowd in attendance

As Norbert mentioned in his speech, we re-launched the HVDI initiative to provide academic scaffolding to respond to the Chancellor’s Office Graduate Initiative 2025. Based on our strategic priorities of inclusive excellence, academic rigor and devotion to the public good, we created four task forces to put a plan in place. The task forces include Re-Imagining the First-Year of College, Research and Evaluation, Student Engagement, and Communications. Each area gave us a plan to strategize the best way to increase the quality of our degrees, while consistently increasing graduation rates by focusing on areas where students face barriers. At the inception of the year, we suspected that these activities would also increase the 4-year graduation rate. Early data hot off the press shows that we not only reduced the achievement gap by half – but we also already met our target graduation goals for the 2018 – 2019 year. Our preliminary 4-year graduation rate increased from 16% for the 2012 cohort to 22% for the 2013 cohort. Astounding.

As many of you know, we received a 9-year accreditation from WASC in 2011. Since then, WASC has updated its accreditation criteria, articulating 5 core competencies undergraduates should master "at or near graduation". Those competencies are written communication, oral communication, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and information literacy.

In 2014, departments received notification about how well aligned their program outcomes were to both institutional outcomes and to these core competencies. In preparation for our institutional report due in January 2020, we will need to assess these competencies more globally, at both the institutional and the Departmental level. This is a good framework within which to focus on EO1110 (remedial education) and EO1100 (GE), as Norbert pointed out.

Sharlene Sayegh (our new WASC accreditation liaison officer ALO) is therefore rolling out our core competency initiative, asking departments to engage in a two-year assessment of two of the 5 core competencies relevant to their disciplines. Your contributions to the assessment of student achievement over the past several years have been invaluable, and we are excited to embark on this new collaborative effort.

I would like to thank our retiring ALO, David Hood, for his outstanding work in this area over many years.

I wanted to now share a tale about a university you know and love:

Our story begins several years ago….In that year, the president had a state salary, in addition to some non-State funding. The University was fully under the control of the State, its overseers ultimately being the governor, lieutenant-governor, and various other leading individuals.  The University was however beginning to depend more on itself, given the always difficult state-funding situation. 14 years passed. The university had its last State subsidy voted to it by the legislature. There was much anxiety and worry about the University’s ability to stand on its own.

The politics and practices of the University in that troubled year were in a chaotic state. Student activism was just then becoming very notable.

The principal intellectual interest in that year was the study of apparently non-job-related material, and one of the strongest influences in University life was K-12 school teaching.

At the same time the university authorities raised the standard of admission, and required examinations in writing and mathematics.

Our story ends happily many years later, as such tales always do, with the news that the University has a sizable endowment.

What is the University’s name?  Of course it is Harvard.

I understand that today’s political and educational climate is completely different and we don’t want to become Harvard, but the point is this: we need to reframe how we generate and retain external funding. I am open to new avenues and perhaps opportunities for outside entities partnering with our campus. I believe this could be a more sustainable model as our state dollars continue to decrease. We have moved from state-funded to state-supported and we remain state-located.

That said, here are some ways we are already going outside our state-provided resources for funding.

1. External funding

  • 211 faculty and staff submitted 302 new external funding proposals, totaling almost $114m.
  • 88 PIs received 169 new awards, totaling almost $53m, from federal, state, and local sources, and corporate private corporations and foundations. 
  • We administered approximately 400 new and continuing grants and contracts, totaling $35m, in annual expenditures, the highest in five years.
  • Richard D. Green, a friend of the university, made a cash gift to endow the Richard D. Green Dean within the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.  This is the third endowed dean position in the CSU and the first for our campus.  This endowed dean position is supported by a significant contribution, which will fund a CNSM graduate fellowship, teaching activities, scholarly work and community service efforts.
  • A $3.045 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) will help students in the biotechnology program be trained in the theory and techniques of stem cell research.

External partnerships not only benefits the faculty, but also many students. Involving students in research, scholarly, and creative activities is one of our most powerful, high-impact practices.

Academic Affairs, through the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, provided $2.2m to support faculty research, scholarly, and creative activities.

We have established the Office of Undergraduate Research Services (OURS), a centralized unit on campus for undergraduate research and provided research opportunities here to 110 undergraduate students. The program had 62 faculty sponsors.

A real-life example of this undergraduate research is microbiology major Selina Urfano, who started with the BUILD program in the summer of 2015. She completed a summer internship in Argentina, at the Fundacion Instituto Leloir’s Minority Health International Research Training Program. Urfano completed three poster presentations alongside her BUILD faculty mentor Dr. Katarzyna Slowinska (Dept. Chemistry/Biochemistry).

From this research Selina had two publications. Her most recent published paper is on ‘Conjugation of Paclitaxel to Hybrid Peptide Carrier and Biological Evaluation in Jurkat and A549 Cancer Cell Lines.’  Sadly, I understand only the 5 conjunctions.

By the end of December this year, when Urfano completes her time within BUILD, she will apply to PhD programs. Although we are halfway through our $22.7 million NIH BUILD grant, the largest in Long Beach State history, we are starting to see the incredible impact this program is having on our students. We have also been very successful at institutionalizing the effects of this program, so we can continue the work when the grant ends. We are fortunate to have former CNSM Dean Laura Kingsford continuing her leadership role at the helm of this crucial program.

One area of focus that has continued to be a passion and focus of our campus is the public good. Our faculty remain champions of representing our multiple communities.

Dr. Gino Galvez is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and a member of the Industrial/Organizational Psychology Faculty. He serves as the Director of the Research and Evaluation Center for Latino Community Health, Evaluation and Leadership Training. The Center develops a broad array of health programs for underserved Latino communities.

For five years he played a significant role as a researcher on an NIH-funded multi-year grant aimed at developing a community-based intervention for Latina immigrants. He also serves as an evaluator for a multi-year project addressing retention and graduation among Latino students enrolled in STEM disciplines.

He serves not only the Long Beach Community, but also as an evaluator on an NIH-funded initiative. As an evaluator, he is able to examine ways we can assist underrepresented students to enroll in doctoral programs.

Dr. Laura Hoyt D’Anna, the Director of the Center for Health Equity Research and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Science, is also a passionate champion for the public good. Her primary research interests are racial and ethnic health disparities and specifically, the relationships between social discrimination and health.

Dr. D’Anna was awarded a five-year, $1.93 million grant by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. This grant aims to increase the number of early career faculty members from Minority-Serving Institutions who become NIH principal investigators in the field of community-based health equity research.  The goal is ultimately to increase the quantity and quality of health programs available to vulnerable populations.

In addition, she was awarded a 3-year $900,000 grant from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in 2015 to address an unmet need on our campus and in the Long Beach community.  The grant serves to help young black men to combat substance use or HIV and hepatitis C infection.

These ‘community ambassadors’ truly represent our campus’s focus on our community. As they and many others continue to serve our campus and beyond, they embody our goal of public good. These two are perfect examples of how we can explore our research passions while benefiting community neighbors.

We also have much to boast about regarding Educational and Economic Development Collaborative Partnerships

  1. The longstanding Long Beach College Promise, a partnership among LB Unified School District, LB City College, CSULB, and the City of Long Beach, extends the promise of a college education to every student in the Long Beach Unified School District. It continues to gain momentum, and I was honored to present on this signature program at the White House. Afterwards I attended lunch with then VP Joe Biden and his wife Jill.  The Promise most recently received a Bridging the Gap (BtG) grant from the James Irvine Foundation, which supports and prepares students for college and career readiness.
  2. CSULB has been involved in discussions for creating a new CSULB downtown village.  The student living-learning community would consist of student residences, a new Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center, space for other suitable academic programs and about 16 CCPE classrooms. This critical partnership would allow our university to reach beyond our educational institution to give back to the community that surrounds us.  As President Jane Conoley noted in this regard, “we are already close partners in education and hope to add more of our most precious asset, our people, to the Downtown renaissance. We are better and stronger together.”

Jane’s sentiment is reflected in the following poem; which I hope you will enjoy:

"Ozymandias" (Shelley) (1818) (199 years)
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert... near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:

And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away. [ref]

What we accomplish collectively creates remarkable achievements we can pass down to future generations. The poem recognizes that individual egos and achievements do not survive, and as Virginia Woolf noted about another university in a dark time: [she saw] “the light shining there-the light of Cambridge.” As we sit in the valley of shadows, Long Beach State is also part of that light.  

Laced throughout history are the alliances that were forged to achieve a single goal or common purpose. These several entities, often from very different beliefs and perspectives, ignited a community and changed a generation. Right now, educational institutions represent a beacon of hope to a watching world.

Our university demonstrates this simple but powerful fact: what we achieve together positively changes the future.  We do this by working together to leverage what each individual, department, college, and program does so well.

Working together also implies recognizing one another’s efforts. For example, this year we had our first Academic Affairs BBQ, where I was able to enjoy lunch with our hard working and dedicated staff. I truly appreciate the time and effort our staff dedicate to ensure our campus runs efficiently and effectively. I plan on having more events to encourage interactions between staff in different departments and colleges.    

I will also continue my faculty lunches with the purpose of hearing the good, along with the not so good, but chiefly to empower faculty members to make changes they deem necessary. I have truly enjoyed this time. Meeting with you has become one of my many highlights on campus.  Last year I met with 175 faculty in this way, and I plan on inviting more this upcoming year.  You can also stay in touch with me on Twitter: @provost_jersky

In closing, I want to thank you for all you do. I have witnessed the time and attention you have given to our students. Your lasting impact has not only helped change students’ worldviews, but it has empowered a community.  You reflect the agape – Greek for “selfless love”- that underlies all true education.

The business of changing people’s lives keeps me motivated to tackle problems and grounded on why we do what we do.  We break down barriers every day. I cannot think of anything more rewarding. Thank you, and Go Beach. 

Academic Senate Chair Norbert Schürer's Remarks

Good morning, and welcome to the academic year 2017/18 here at California State University, Long Beach! My name is Norbert Schürer; I am a professor in the English department; and I am speaking to you today as Chair of the Academic Senate. The Academic Senate, in case you don’t know, is the highest elected body at CSULB. There are duly elected representatives of four constituencies on the Senate: students, faculty, staff, and administration. The Senate has two main functions: communication and policy-making. So for one, we write policies on issues that affect all of us on campus, such as curriculum, student unit loads, academic advising, and education abroad.

Secondly and just as importantly, we are the only communications forum where all major constituencies of the university come together and talk on a regular basis. We sincerely believe that this communication has lead to a sense of community and unity that means that events such as the recent neo-Nazi and alt-right agitation in Charlottesville will never happen here as long as we maintain our communication structures. Communication does not mean that we necessarily agree on anything, but it does mean that as many voices as possible have been heard.

Of course, that in turn works only if everyone has an idea of what is going on on campus. To that end, I would like to spend the rest of my time this morning offering you a first glimpse at what will probably be the six or seven most important issues facing us this academic year. I am going to present them to you as a brief guide to CSULB abbreviations and acronyms.

So the first and second abbreviations are EO and CO, which is an Executive Order from the Chancellor’s Office. Two or three weeks ago, the CO issued EO 1110, which determines how we will achieve college readiness or academic preparation, i.e., how we will make sure that our students have the necessary skills in the areas of writing and of quantitative reasoning, or more colloquially English and Math. This will require a huge shift on campus, so we need to figure out together how best to implement EO 1110.

Just the day before yesterday, the CO released EO 1100, which speaks to our next abbreviation, GE, i.e., general education. There are big questions regarding GE, such as:

Is GE meant to supplement students’ education in their major, or is it meant to expose students to subjects they will never encounter in their major or their career? and
Is GE meant to be a unified experience, so something like a mini-minor where 3-6 courses are related through topic, or is it meant to be a series of unconnected classes that fit best with our students’ schedules and random curiosities?
To answer these questions, ensure inclusive excellence, and shape our GE program accordingly, we need your input.

Our fourth abbreviation is GI, the Graduation Initiative 2025 that is the umbrella for all of these efforts and another mandate from the CO. The GI on our CSULB campus is implemented through HVDI, our fifth abbreviation, the Highly Valued Degree Initiative. We’ve only just started defining what a highly valued degree actually is, but we’ve made some great strides towards collaborative leadership in most of the HVDI’s task forces—so we hope you will all continue to contribute to the GI and HVDI.

Another big challenge for our campus that will require collaboration goes by the acronym of WASC, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. This is the organization that accredits universities, and this year we have to start writing our accreditation report for them. You will be receiving calls to participate, and I hope many of you answer these calls to turn the exercise into an opportunity to see what we want to keep, what we might want to change, and how we could improve education on our campus and better champion our students.

Part of accrediting a university is always looking at teaching, and one particular way in which we do that here at CSULB is my seventh and final acronym, SPOT, the Student Perceptions of Teaching, better known simply as student evaluations. It is pretty clear that in the next year or two we will move to entirely online evaluations. It is also pretty clear, from plenty of data-based research, that switching to online evaluations means (on average) that fewer students will complete them and that teachers will receive lower scores for the same quality of teaching. For these reasons, we need to have a campus-wide discussion about how to implement online student evaluations—and that discussion will be most productive with your involvement.

So EO, CO, GE, GI, HVDI, WASC, and SPOT are the acronyms and abbreviations (and topics) that will probably dominate much of the discussion on campus in the upcoming academic year. Once again, it is important that all constituencies on campus participate in these discussions, so I hope you will make an effort to stay informed and reflect on your position. Once you have formed your own opinion, I encourage you to get in touch with me (at norbert.schurer@csulb.edu), contact your elected Academic Senate representatives, or serve on some committee or task force or council or panel or board or planning group or working group to share your opinion to ensure that it becomes part of the discussion. That way, we will best be able to move forward sensibly and together to improve the experiences of our students, faculty, administration, and staff at CSULB in 2017/18. Thank you, and Go Beach!

ASI President Joe Nino's Remarks

Good morning, everyone. Thank you, Provost Jersky, for the introduction and thank you, President Conoley, for inviting me here today to address such a prestigious group. Once again, my name is Joe Nino and I am the 2017-2018 ASI president. I am a sport psychology major and one day I hope to join you in higher education and give back to the system that changed my life.

I’d like to take this opportunity today to talk to you about obstacles. As we all know, students are facing the greatest of obstacles just to attend this university; myself included. Our students are overworked, overextended, and often times, under-represented. A recent study from the CSU Chancellor’s Office reported that three quarters of our students are working over 20 hours a week. One in 10 is homeless, one in 5 is food insecure, and too often our students leave here without a degree.

Speaking to my struggles, I personally have had to choose between buying textbooks and skipping meals. I’ve had to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet. I’ve missed classes, failed a few actually, and during my pursuits have had to drop out. That path was definitely not the formula of student success I had imagined when I decided to pursue an education.

At the age of 16 I was diagnosed with an incurable autoimmune disease. Everyday was and still is a struggle with my health. Paying for health insurance was unrealistic. Medication costs alone were more than my rent. My health and mental state were an absolute rollercoaster. As much as I tried obtain an education, my body wasn’t having it.

Luckily, I decided to take a holistic approach with my health. I changed my eating habits and made drastic lifestyle changes. It started to work. The pain subsided and ultimately, I began to feel optimistic.

I was resilient in pursuing an education. I have the privilege to stand before you as an associate degree holder from Cerritos College, a former president of my honor society, and most importantly to me, a dedicated student advocate. My experience with facing adversity has translated into a passion for helping other students succeed and overcome their barriers to excellence. That’s why I’m proud to be apart of an organization like Associated Students, Inc. which shares the same philosophy as me.  We keep students first. ASI continues to take massive steps to serve more students; the food insecure through our ASI Beach Pantry; undocumented and international students by recently securing $10,000 in scholarships, and the underrepresented through our establishing of a Social Justice and Equity Committee aimed at proactively representing student groups that feel marginalized or unheard. These efforts, to help more students overcome more obstacles, are the collective legacy of Long Beach State students.

At the end of the day, I believe we all play an important role in student advocacy; ASI in our diligence to promote and foster self and shared governance; Faculty and staff as you continue to be champions for students in and out of the classroom; and university administration as you continue to push for programs and resources that ensure inclusive excellence. Each of us are often putting students first and speaking on their behalf at every opportunity. But sometimes we must recognize that being a student advocate is not always about speaking for students, sometimes all we need to do is provide students the platform to speak for themselves. As we look into the future, let’s ask ourselves how we all can continue to be better student advocates and provide students the right platform to overcome their obstacles. Thank you all for providing me this platform today and helping this student speak for himself.

And as always, GO BEACH!