News @ the Beach

A President’s 100-Day Search for Aspirations

When Jane Close Conoley officially took office on July 15 as the newest president of Cal State Long Beach, she began a 100-day search for aspirations that has taken her around the campus and community. “I’ve been busy,” she said. “I’ve met with many faculty and student groups on campus and every combination of chairs and deans. I’ve heard the aspirations of many. A few of those aspirations are very clear.” Upon listening to the diverse voices of The Beach community, a few presidential priorities are beginning to emerge.

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Jane Conoley

High on her list is engaging others in a dialogue on what it means to be an “elite” university. “To be elite in the 21st century, a university must transform the educational, social, professional and civic possibilities for its students,” Conoley said. “You’re not elite just because you get affluent students who come in with many advantages and graduate with a few more. We offer an education that leads to many career opportunities and respected graduate schools for students from all walks of life. I’m especially proud that about 40 percent of our students are the first in their families to attend college. Faculty members who offer those kinds of transformational opportunities are elite faculty. The university that commits itself to that vision represents the new elite university for the 21st century. The majority of children under 18 in California now live in poverty. What will we do about that? The best pathway from poverty to economic stability is education.”

In addition to her bold notion for shifting the conversation on what it really means to be elite, Conoley frequently speaks to the need for building a robust faculty that responds well to today’s student. “We need more full-time, tenure-track faculty and we’ll be looking at that as a top priority as we budget for next year. The provost’s initiative to ensure that our candidates have some record of success with diverse learners before we hire them is right on. I’m extremely supportive of that.” Not only is the president proud of faculty, she’s spent countless hours visiting with staff, complimenting them on their efforts.

Conoley’s admiration and support of CSULB’s partnerships with the community is highly evident. “I’ve met with industry partners of the Colleges of Continuing and Professional Education, Engineering, Business Administration, Education and the School of Nursing,” she said. “These are win-win relationships. I want to find out more about the unique partnerships, such as the proposed AltaSea Marine Biology Center in San Pedro where we hope to turn the Port of Los Angeles’ former City Dock No. 1 into a world class science research and business facility. We are trying to put together a financial package that will make it happen. What we are doing now with this project will be the more common way of getting our work done in the future. It will be in-kind support from industry, such as building new labs to help our students learn and public-private partnerships.”

The president views the university’s first comprehensive fund-raising campaign, DECLARE, as an opportunity to bolster support for fully achieving the university’s collective aspirations for transforming student’s lives and serving our greater community. “We must extend limited state support through philanthropy, for example, our DECLARE campaign and many mutually rewarding partnerships throughout our region. We will be holding hands with a lot of people in the community to offer a distinctive education to our students and scholarly and creative opportunities to our faculty,” she added.

There have been surprises. As far as the bad ones go, Conoley’s first eye-opener concerned faculty office spaces. “I was taken aback by how many faculty have to share offices or stagger their office hours so there is enough room for a student to come in. That was a bad surprise,” she said. “But there were many more good surprises, such as Dr. Carl Lipo’s taking students to Easter Island and the student internships coordinated by all our colleges. These are effective ways of connecting our students to the community. Faculty here are committed to student success.”

Parking was a mild shock. “We try to be a more sustainable campus, yet there seem to be too many cars,” Conoley said. “Nearly 60 percent of the university’s carbon footprint comes from commuting.  We have a goal of becoming carbon neutral. It would be wonderful if we could handle the car challenge.”

The campus’ charm was a standout in the president’s first 100 days. “When I first got here, part of my plan was to learn where all the buildings are located. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the beauty of the campus. There are little spots around campus that are just perfect. The Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden is spectacular, but so are the little courtyards and alcoves I’ve found,” she said.

Conoley has found friendly faces, too. “I have met many community groups and elected officials in my first 100 days. Naturally, that includes Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia,” she said. “I’ve tried to talk to the whole range of people who have some stake in the university. They are proud and positive about their university and their aspiration is for whatever we do, to do it better. It’s rather daunting. I hear them urging Cal State Long Beach to be an even better university in every way. The good news is that our university stakeholders are hopeful about our future success. They want that. To be continuously improving is in line with our own aspirations.

Conoley feels she is beginning to settle in at CSULB. “There are small clues, like not getting lost all the time,” she laughed. “I’m finding my way around campus and around Long Beach. I’ve even had a few successful trips to downtown Los Angeles. Hassles go away with experience.”

 

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University Center Keeping Southwest Region on the Move

Committed to keeping the Southwest region moving, the Center for International Trade and Transportation (CITT) at Cal State Long Beach has received a major federal award to look at various transportation issues throughout the southwestern U.S. and seek ways that educational opportunities can improve it.

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The university has been named the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Southwest Regional Surface Transportation Workforce Center of Excellence (SRSTWC), effective this month. The center will cover eight states—California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas.

“A lot of work went into securing this center and it’s a great honor,” said Thomas O’Brien, CITT Executive Director and METRANS Associate Director. “We have a lot of work in front of us and a lot of great individuals providing assistance.” Along with the CITT, additional team members include the University of Southern California (USC), Texas A&M University Transportation Institute (TTI), ICF International and the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI).

The center’s key objectives are to facilitate partnerships between federal, state, regional and local departments of transportation and education, industry and other public and private stakeholders involved in transportation planning, operations and education.

Over four years, the center will identify workforce and training needs for various transportation sectors; evaluate different options for workforce education and development across the educational spectrum of traditional and non-traditional learning communities; and develop a variety of educational offerings that will be tested for their appropriateness in different settings throughout the region and, by extension, the entire nation.

The team will be led by the METRANS partnership of CSULB and USC, with the project management the responsibility of team members from the CITT. O’Brien will serve as the SRSTWC director with Genevieve Giuliano, senior associate dean of the Sol Price School of Public Policy at USC and director of METRANS, being the center’s senior researcher and project advisor.

Stephen Lantz, a CITT project manager with more than 30 years of public sector transportation planning and management experience, will coordinate stakeholder development and outreach.

The team also includes two expert advisors — Susan Gautsch, a professor at USC nationally recognized for her distance learning expertise, who will advise on non-traditional workforce development delivery methods; and Roberto Suro, the director of the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute at USC, who will advise on workforce development challenges and opportunities in diverse communities.

The team also is strengthened by three nationally recognized sub-applicants — TTI’s Mark Coppock, who will lead the center’s website development and administration; NOCTI’s Fran Beauman, who will lead curriculum development for grades 6-12; and ICF International senior staff, including Brian Cronin, who is an expert in transportation industry workforce development and will lead the labor force demand analysis tasks.

“We have great challenges and opportunities,” said O’Brien. “The size of the region—which includes the nation’s two most populous states—and the diversity of its population provide an opportunity and a challenge. It’s a unique regional laboratory in which to study workforce needs tied to both urban and rural transportation services, transportation in and through border states, and trade gateways and corridors.”

The Center for International Trade and Transportation (CITT) is dedicated to delivering education programs, innovative research, and community outreach in the area of goods movement. CITT is the Long Beach home for three major research centers: METRANS Transportation Center, a U.S. Department of Transportation-designated university transportation center; the U.C. Davis-led National Center for Sustainable Transportation; and METROFREIGHT, a Volvo Research and Education Foundations Center of Excellence in Urban Freight based at the University of Southern California.

Its research portfolio features policy analysis in the areas of trade and transportation as well as workforce development. Its outreach programs include educational forums including the nationally recognized State of the Trade and Transportation Town Hall series, research conferences such as the International Urban Freight Conference, and media-based efforts including podcasts and newspaper columns that engage the broader community in the discussion surrounding international trade and transportation. CITT’s education programs include credit and non-credit programs in integrated logistics and feature the award-winning Global Logistics Specialist (GLS) program and the Marine Terminal Operations Professional (MTOP) designation, the only program of its kind in the country.

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$22.7M Grant Marks Largest Ever Given to CSULB

Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) has been rewarded in an unprecedented way for its history of helping underrepresented students reach their science dreams. The university has received its largest award ever — $22.7 million over five years — to establish an innovative research program that will help prepare underrepresented students for doctoral programs in the sciences.

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The grant comes from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The initiative, Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD), will allow CSULB to establish the most comprehensive and transformative research training program in its history.

“This award has the potential to become a national model and secure Cal State Long Beach’s place as a biomedical and behavioral research training ground,” said CSULB President Jane Close Conoley. “We are very excited and proud to have been chosen for this potentially transformative award. The opportunities it will bring about for our faculty and students are truly unprecedented for this university.”

Through the BUILD program, underrepresented undergraduate students will receive mentoring and research training at CSULB and two research partner institutions — University of California, Irvine (UCI) and University of Southern California (USC) — to help them succeed in doctoral programs in the biomedical and behavioral sciences.

When the program is at capacity in year five, it will be able to support more than 200 students each year. The university will also establish a research curriculum that increases the number and the diversity of undergraduates going on to doctoral programs. Four CSULB colleges are included in the proposal – Liberal Arts, Health and Human Services, Natural Sciences and Mathematics and Engineering. There will be 10 BUILD awardees selected nationally.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for our students and our faculty. As the largest award in the university’s history, it provides funding for stipends or hourly pay for students engaged in the training programs and research and allows us to renovate shared research spaces on campus and buy research instruments. In addition, our faculty will be able to create new partnerships at Research I Universities, enhancing their research competitiveness,” said Laura Kingsford, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at CSULB.

The first year of this grant is a ramp-up year where CSULB will be hiring staff, establishing the training programs and curriculum and developing partnerships. The goal is that by summer 2015, CSULB will be ready to start student training. This will include working with students’ families to help them understand more about career options. The students selected for the program will get paid and, as a result, faculty will benefit from having students who have time to work in their labs. CSULB faculty will help these students get into research doctoral programs.

In an effort to help students think about pursuing doctoral degrees before they even arrive at CSULB, the university is partnering with Long Beach Unified School District and Long Beach City College as well as with Cerritos College and Golden West College.

USC’s role will focus on public health, while UCI will focus on science, behavioral sciences and engineering. In addition, CSULB has a research partner at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Long Beach where there are staff with joint faculty appointments with UCI.

Students in their junior or senior year will be required to do summer research at Research I Universities as defined by the Carnegie Foundation, but it doesn’t have to be at UCI or USC. There will be two student tracks — one for students who are likely to graduate in four years and one for students who may need more support or for transfers. Finally, if students aren’t accepted in a doctoral program right away, CSULB can continue to enroll them for 10 months as a post-baccalaureate student.

NIH has defined a need to get more underrepresented individuals into research careers in biomedical sciences – anticipating that they will be very interested in doing research in areas that address health disparities and are funded by the NIH. BUILD also provides many resources for faculty development to enhance research competitiveness and success in getting major funding in the biomedical sciences.

The BUILD initiative’s primary purpose is to provide opportunities and resources for eligible institutions to implement transformative, broad-based approaches to the training of students to undertake biomedical research in matters relating to the cause, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of disease. BUILD awards will emphasize research opportunities for students because exposure to meaningful research experiences is associated with improved academic performance and sustained interest in biomedical research careers.

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Does The Perfect Password Exist?

Keyboard illustration

In a time when nearly five million Gmail usernames and passwords can be leaked on a Russian Internet forum, the importance of cyber-security has never been timelier—particularly since it’s National Cyber Security Awareness Month—but Mehrdad Aliasgari, a member of Cal State Long Beach’s computer engineering and computer science department, is ready with an answer.

Aliasgari and his students, working in the department’s new security lab in ECS 307, are working to build a better password manager.

“Recently, some people have begun using software called password managers,” said Aliasgari, “They are digital versions of writing down a password that serve as vaults. The problem is protecting the vault.”

Threats to the password vault abound, even from the password managers themselves who are tempted to sell the information they find for advertising. “What if the storage file is accidentally deleted? What happens if the phone is dropped in the sink? Users employ the password manager to protect more than passwords such as social security numbers or credit cards. That makes the situation even worse. All your work depends on one application. All your work is in danger,” he said.

The worth of password managers is their ability to create stronger passwords. But even a password manager needs a password. “The problem with that is that you are asking a human being to rely on one totally guessable password,” he said. “That password will be very easy to guess. We think we have an interesting solution we call `Sesame’ in honor of the password to Ali Baba’s magic cave.”

Aliasgari challenged his students to implement a solution that is secure, convenient and works on Android and, in the near future, also on iOS. He quickly noted that security and convenience don’t go hand in hand all the time.

“If anything, they are opposites,” he said. “The more you have of one, the less you have of the other. If history has taught us anything, it is that people opt for convenience. That makes it a lot easier for hackers. It is easy to breach security this way.” What his students and he came up with is free and will be available to CSULB for downloading as an application as early as this month.

The application begins with users providing the application a password or allowing the application to generate a password for each website. The application encrypts each password in a way that needs a double-encrypted key. “Each key is unique. No key is re-used. That substantially increases security,” he explained.

Users will be able to speak their way to security. “Every time a user wants to look at passwords to sites such as Facebook, they don’t have to remember anything,” he said. “Their voices grant access to the Facebook password. All the users have to do to launch the application is to say out loud `Facebook’ and their words are confirmed using voice recognition technology. And even if the user loses his or her phone, the application can be attached to multiple devices. We feel our approach helps solve the password problem. Users have convenience because the user doesn’t have to remember much.”

Biometrics are the key. “As long as users keep their voices the same, and there is a really good chance they will do that, they have full control of their passwords,” he said. “Service providers like Facebook won’t need to make any changes. Users can enjoy the luxury of having a really complicated long password that is hard to guess but they don’t have to memorize. It will be stored in their choice of storage in a provable secure fashion. We know you shouldn’t ask too much of a human being because they always will opt for convenience. All you need to remember now is your own voice.”

This new level of password security represents the wave of the future.

“All password security measures begin in frustration,” he explained. “There is plenty of frustration over how passwords have been used up to now. There was a time when a web service needed only one-character passwords. Other passwords could be as simple as 1234. New research shows that the most common password today is ‘iloveyou.’ People are really frustrated. Both in academia and industry, there has been a search for the password alternative. Biometrics are one alternative yet they have their own problems. If the biometric password is lost, it is gone forever. That is why the use of passwords has hung on. As bad as they are, they are better than the alternatives. But the frustration never goes away.”

There is no perfect password. The search for a more robust and yet practical way of authentication will go on.

“This problem is not going away but we can try to improve on it,” Aliasgari concluded. “Cyber-security is an ongoing battle. You just have to stay ahead of the curve. For authentication, passwords are not going anywhere. Their structure is becoming more demanding. Users are being asked to use symbols and weird characters. Biometrics, physical devices and words combine to create authentication. We’ll just have to keep working. You never know what the other guys are up to.”

Aliasgari earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Sharif University of Technology in Iran and his doctorate in computer science and engineering from the University of Notre Dame in 2013.

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