News @ the Beach

President’s Remarks on White House Summit

Special guest column by Jane Close Conoley

I was honored to spend an early December day in Washington D.C. at the White House College Opportunity Day of Action. President Obama and the First Lady spoke eloquently about the importance of higher education to our success as a nation and wide-ranging discussions offered food for thought. Engaging with college and university presidents from across the country sparked some ideas and some questions about how we approach learning at The Beach and how we might affirm our accomplishments and broaden our thinking.


Attending the White House Summit in early December were (l-r) CSULB President Jane Close Conoley, CSU Chancellor Timothy White, Long Beach Unified School District Superintendent Chris Steinhauser and Long Beach Community College District Superintendent-President Eloy Oakley.

At Cal State Long Beach, we benefit from a history of great teaching and learning as well as significant recognition for promoting student success. Receiving more than 85,000 undergraduate applicants for fall 2015 confirms our status as a university of choice. We are very good at what we do—our distinguished faculty is renowned, our academic programs noticed, our beautiful campus and location appreciated, our robust array of student services recognized, our storied athletic programs envied, our alumni admired and our current students respected.

An important focus of the College Opportunity Day of Action was building sustainable community, K-12 and higher education partnerships that improve persistence and increase college completion, especially for first generation, low-income, and underrepresented students. Here, we excel.  The Long Beach College Promise—our unique partnership with Long Beach City College, Long Beach Unified School District and the City of Long Beach—offers ways for K-12 students to prepare for, enter and complete college, and is recognized as a model nationwide. On this day, I was inspired to consider what are the new elements we must build into this program to keep it fresh and cutting edge?

Students change and so does the work-world they enter. Increasingly, our learners are more diverse and more economically stressed. As jobs become automated, our region, like so many, seeks a work force with advanced skills. How we respond to these emerging realities and best prepare our students to succeed defines us as a university. We have great stories to tell and a body of evidence to share.

I’m extraordinarily proud our nation’s top leaders recognize the achievements of Long Beach’s education community—teachers, faulty and staff—and how we strengthen our nation. I’m even more proud our students are transformed by the education they receive here at the Beach.

Let’s continue to innovate together to keep what’s best about what we do and add the latest in evidence-based approaches that help promote learning in 21st century Beach students.

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President Demonstrates Commitment to Student Success, Offers Students Encouragement and Cookies


In the Horn Center are (l-r) Aida Cisernos, Juvid Virtudes, President Jane Close Conoley and Maria Corona.

On several occasions last week, President Jane Close Conoley visited the Horn Center and the University Library where students were studying. She has often spoken of her commitment to student success.

During her visits, she offered encouragement and cookies to students to demonstrate to them that she truly cares about their success, especially during finals. She has more visits planned this week.

The university’s commitment to student success is demonstrated by evidence that in the past five years, the first-time freshman graduation rate has increased by more than 20 percent. These gains have reached all ethnic and gender subgroups. Graduation rates for transfers has also reached an all-time high.

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Professor’s Book on CIA Wins Prestigious National Award from Washington Institute

With the recent report issued in the Senate Intelligence Committee on CIA enhanced interrogations, a CSULB professor’s book on the CIA and the Middle East is particularly timely and informative. Professor of History Hugh Wilford’s America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, shows a history of how the first generation of CIA operatives shaped U.S. relations with the Middle East, and has been awarded the gold medal in the Washington Institute’s 2014 Book Prize competition, receiving a $25,000 award.

Hugh Wilford-2

Hugh Wilford

In a statement the Institute issued this comment: “Historian Hugh Wilford offers a riveting study of the CIA’s early involvement in the Arab world, showing … that the CIA, just like the State Department, was populated by Kiplingesque romantics and the sons of missionaries who gave the agency a strongly Arabist tilt…. Fine writing and research in untapped archives come together in this invaluable account.”

The Washington Institute Book Prize, now in its seventh year, is given annually to new books that have illuminated the Middle East for American readers. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy is an independent, nonpartisan research institution promoting debate and research on U.S. policy in the region.

Wilford encourages potential readers to take a chance on America’s Great Game. “If you want to understand current U.S.-Middle East relations and the CIA’s role in those relations, this book details the moment it all began,” he said. “It was the first time the U.S. government had taken any kind of role in the Middle East. The consequences of a lot of choices made in this period are still with us today.”

Wilford was delighted by his book’s recognition, which follows on the appearance of more than 30 reviews, including a selection as Editor’s Choice of the New York Times Book Review, the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal. “All points of view on the Middle East seem to have found something of interest in it,” he said.

Hugh Wilford-3-book cover

One reason for his book’s recognition, he believes, is the scholarly research that went into it.

“It is an important story that really hasn’t been told before,” he said. “The CIA was the main instrument of U.S. foreign policy in the region during the early Cold War period. The Institute also wants to recognize books that reach beyond the scholarly audience. I wanted to reach out to a general readership and I think the Institute recognized that.”

Wilford believes the distinction validates his choice of a controversial topic. “The Institute understood the importance of this early moment in U.S.-Middle East relations when there was a powerful pro-Arab, anti-Zionist element within the U.S. government,” he said. “The CIA even funded a group attempting to shape American domestic opinion about the Arab-Israeli conflict called the American Friends of the Middle East. I try to explain why this Arabist tendency eventually lost out to other impulses in U.S. foreign policy.”

Wilford plans to donate the award’s accompanying $25,000 prize to a variety of causes. “I wasn’t expecting this prize money at all and there are several charitable organizations that would benefit a great deal from it,” he said.

As well as positive reviews, America’s Great Game has attracted media interest, including inquiries about a planned TV series from Egyptian-American filmmaker Jehane Noujaim whose 2013 documentary “The Square” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 86th Academy Awards.

“I paint a surprising moment in U.S.-Arab relations when things were better,” Wilford said. “There was a history of American missionaries visiting the Mideast before World War II and a strong element of Arab-American friendship. That flowed into the CIA because a lot of the people who set up the Middle East division in the CIA were the sons of missionaries.  They knew and understood the region through personal experience. I worked hard to write a book that would tell this story.”

Wilford was surprised and moved to be contacted by the families of some of the personalities he explores in America’s Great Game. “A lot of people whose parents were in the CIA have been in touch since the book’s publication,” he said. “I recall one woman in particular was the daughter of the CIA’s station chief in Cairo during this period.  She’d been wondering just what it was her father did.”

Wilford is also the author of The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America, The U.S. Government, Citizen Groups and the Cold War: The State-Private Network, The CIA, the British Left, and the Cold War: Calling the Tune?, and The New York Intellectuals: From Vanguard to Institution.

He earned his B.A. in History from the UK’s Bristol University and his Ph.D. in American Studies from the UK’s Exeter University.

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Hall-Biakanja Team Captures Moot Court Western Regional Title, Advances to Nationals

Thirteen turned out to be a lucky number for Cal State Long Beach’s moot court team.

Hosting the 13th Annual American Collegiate Moot Court Association (ACMA) Western Regional competition, which marked the 13th consecutive year the event has been held on campus, CSULB walked away with the regional title.

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As a result, four Long Beach two-person teams will advance to the national championship of intercollegiate moot court that will take place Jan. 16-17 in Miami at the Florida International University College of Law.

The team of Ashley Hall, a senior political science major from Long Beach, and Krist Biakanja, a senior political science major from Huntington Beach, won all seven of its matches to capture the regional title.

“This is the toughest regional in the country and they beat two teams that are probably among the top 10 if not the top five teams in the country,” said political science faculty member and team coach Lewis Ringel, who is now in his ninth year heading the program. “I’m not surprised they won because I consider Ashley and Krist among the top 10 teams in the country.

“I don’t think you take for granted that you’re going to beat a good team, but I’m not surprised they won,” he added. “Krist has never lost a regional and Ashley is the winningest mooter in Long Beach history. These two are terrific.”

Last year, Hall and teammate Kyle Maury finished as the national oral advocacy runner-up in a split decision and for CSULB it was the first time it captured multiple orator awards at nationals, becoming just one of four schools to advance to the finals more than once.

With their regional success, Hall now has a lifetime overall record of 38-7 and Biakanja’s career mark stands at 33-5-2, which is the second most wins in the program’s history.

The Western Regional has produced five national champions, more than any other regional and includes a CSULB team that captured the title in 2002-03. The regional has produced 12 national semifinalists, including six in the last three years.

The other CSULB two-person teams advancing to nationals through the Western Regional are Amethyst Jefferson-Roberts, a senior Africana Studies and political science major from Compton and Dominique Noble, a senior political science major from Santa Clara; and Julieta Hernandez, a senior Chicano/Latino Studies and political science major from Long Beach and Chris Nielson, a senior philosophy and political science major from Santa Ana. In addition, Jefferson-Roberts and Noble each won speaker awards as did CSULB’s Will Torres, a senior political science major from Glendale.

In early November, Kevin Poush, a senior political science major from Long Beach and Shelby Morgan, a senior political science major from El Dorado Hills, qualified for nationals by winning all seven of their matchups in Iowa City, Iowa, at the Upper Midwestern Regional, where CSULB repeated as champs.

Moot Court, also known as mock Supreme Court and Supreme Court Simulation, is a simulation of an appellate court proceeding. It involves teams of student contestants, clients burdened by a legal problem, briefs and oratory detailing the dimensions of the legal problem before an appellate court, and the judging of performances by panels of law students, attorneys, professors, law faculty, or, on occasion, members of the judicial branch of government. Teams from colleges and universities throughout the nation are arguing the same case.

This year’s hypothetical case asks whether a fictional law requiring that women seeking an abortion undergo a transvaginal ultra-sound procedure and limiting what physicians can tell their patients about the risks of abortion is constitutional.

Moot court teams’ combined oral argument must be 20 minutes with each member of the team presenting a minimum of seven minutes. Not knowing which viewpoint it will be presenting, each team should have the ability to support both arguments. Moot court judges ask students questions and grade them on the basis of their knowledge of the case, their response to questioning, their forensic skills and their demeanor.

As far as Ringel’s expectations at the upcoming national tournament, he makes no guarantees, but is confident in his teams’ abilities.

“I expect to win,” he said. “I’m not guaranteeing that, but I think it’s a realistic expectation based on how we have performed all year. We’ve been in five events so far this year and we’ve won all five and I see no reason to not think we can win. Our regional was hard fought, we have nothing but respect for our opponents and we are excited to head on to nationals.”

For more information, Ringel can be reached at 562/985-4708. Those interested can visit the moot court website.

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