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2016 Convocation

Convocation is an annual celebration for faculty and staff held on the Friday prior to the start of instruction to mark the beginning of the new academic school year. Hundreds of people gather from across campus at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center to welcome new colleagues, highlight recent achievements and share ideas as we look to the future.

Convocation Addresses


President Jane Close Conoley

President’s Scholars and families, any dignitaries, Dr. Collie W Conoley to stand and wave. Happily he’s on sabbatical this year.

Thank you Brian for reminding us of last year’s achievements and giving an inspiring view of the year to come. These accomplishments celebrate individuals, teams, and the university and our look ahead includes every one of you. I hope you all take a moment to appreciate the work you’ve done and give yourselves a collective pat on the back. It is very well deserved. And how about the Beach’s own Choir of the World and Pavarotti Trophy Winner! As a university we have much to celebrate and certainly students are front and center in these celebrations.

By the way, a warm official welcome to Provost Brian Jersky, VP and CIO Min Yao and all the new deans and AVPs who are recent and most appreciated additions to our executive teams. And, of course, a very, very warm welcome to our new faculty, staff and students! You are our future. I hope you will embrace the challenge.

The Beach is a great place to work and learn . . . and our beautiful campus is part of what makes us so special. The activity this summer on large projects to upgrade and enhance our environment has been obvious, but sometimes we overlook the daily effort it takes to create and maintain the campus. I extend a special thank you to each and every member of our staff who helps make our university the clean, safe and fabulous environment we so enjoy.

In terms of upgrades, I have good news about parking. You’ll notice some changes to Lot 7 along 7th Street. Through reconfiguration we have added 152 new parking spaces. Yea!! How’s that for positive change?

Following a year of research, planning, and dialogue, we are now, officially, a smoke, tobacco and vapor free campus. We all know that kicking or minimizing an addiction is very hard so let’s be supportive of one another as we make this important transition for everyone’s health. You can check our BREATHE website for additional information and support services. Many thanks to faculty members Claire Garrido-Ortega and Natalie Whitehouse-Capuano, who co-chaired the BREATH task force made up of staff, faculty, and students. We’ve had the advantage of the latest research on this huge public health issue because of their very passionate leadership.

Speaking of public health, starting this semester we will work to decrease the number of injuries to pedestrians on campus by being insistent about keeping bikes and skateboards off pedestrian walkways. While bikes and skateboards are excellent alternative means of transportation, we need to keep them in the many places on campus they are allowed, so pedestrians have safe spaces to walk.

 We have a new challenge from our governor the provost mentioned and I’ll talk about frequently over the next few years. By 2025 our 4-year graduation rate must grow to 39 percent. It is currently at 15 percent and our average enrolled time is about 5 years. Provost Jersky has already modeled this challenge and assures me it is achievable and with support from across campus is not a threat to quality. Working and planning for this will improve our processes for the other 61 percent of the students. I believe that this challenge is good for students and good for our region and state. We are in desperate need of highly educated Californians and we can be part of making that happen for more students through a collective effort.

And in order to help us reach our target of 39 percent by 2025, we are honored to be part of a national initiative, Re-imagining the First Year, through the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. We are one of six CSU campuses chosen to establish partnerships and work together, with the Divisions of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs on our campus collaborating to ensure that our students are not only enrolling, but are persisting and thriving through their first year and beyond.

I attended the Division of Student Affairs Division Day kickoff last week, and their theme was Get on Board Flight 2020, a creative example of the work they will do over the next four years to establish the division as a leader across the country. Their motto is Lead. Learn. Love. And one of their central goals is connecting and re-engaging with students. I encourage each of you in this room today to connect and re-engage with the students that you serve. Come out of your offices, step away from your desks, reach out and connect with the students on campus. It is a surefire way to ensure that we reach not only our goal of 39 percent 4-year graduation rate, but also the rest of our goals.

Finally let me give a special shout out to our student athletes and their coaches who had wonderful successes on and off the field last year and are poised to excel this year as well. I hope you will attend some competitions of your favorite sports this coming year. It’s fun and a great way to get to know each other outside of the usual work environment.

In addition to our achievements and exciting new challenges, the year was not without its tensions and tragedies.

In November 2015, we lost our beloved industrial design student Nohemi Gonzales. This horrific event reminded us that violent disparities between and among religious, ethnic, political and economic groups could touch us from a continent away in profound ways.

Later in the year, terror struck closer to home in San Bernardino as innocents were sacrificed to an ideology twisted by hatred and separatism rather than love and inclusion.

As we began the summer we were shaken again by the mass murder of young men and women in Florida based, apparently, on their sexual orientation.

Some in our community were connected directly with victims of these tragedies and we all mourned the premature and terrifying passing of each victim, whether we knew them or not. Of course, the impacts on our industrial design and LGBTQ+ communities have been especially profound.

And finally, high profile violence involving especially African American or other men of color as both victims and perpetrators continues to occur, ripping families and communities apart. The repercussions are experienced on our campus even as we strive to honor each and every life in equitable and caring ways while being cognizant of the disproportionate burden of violence shouldered by our communities of color.

How do we react to the tragedies and triumphs? By keeping our campus moving in positive directions for each member of the community. The news reminds us every day about the distrust and vengeance in our nation and our world. It is against this dark backdrop that we must make our campus a shining light by celebrating what’s best about us and countering the distrust and vengeance with inclusion and love. And we must do it together.

As I pondered my convocation remarks, it became clear that the overarching focus of the years to come is our mandate as the California State University to offer everyone in our community opportunity through unequalled access, excellence through transformative educational experiences and success in academic program completion, and powerful connections to one another and to the next stages of work or study. All of which can be summed up by the term Inclusive Excellence. I will be returning to this topic throughout the year, and will be asking you to explore with me how we can create environments that foster opportunity, excellence and success for every member of our Beach Community. This will take significant work, but the rewards will be worth the effort.

 I have come to realize that getting students into our university—our sincere commitment to opportunity and access—is a rather empty accomplishment if those from lower socio-economic groups encounter oppressive barriers and do not persist or graduate at the same rates as those from more affluent zip codes. That is, diversity in and of itself does not equal inclusion. Especially when we consider the intersectionalities of LGBTQ+, religion, culture, age, different abilities, political perspective, and so on that make us a truly diverse community.

Many students at The Beach are experiencing high impact, transformational educational practices (just a few of which are listed on this slide). Thank you for the special work you do to make that happen. I see the redesigning of a first year experience as an important step toward increasing quality, as well as the many course re-design projects; international faculty led trips; summer and school-year opportunities for undergraduate student research with faculty; student club advising; the programs supported by Student Affairs professionals, and so on—all with the goal of increasing student success. Access to transformational educational experiences predicts success long after graduation.

That being said, if we offer engaging high impact experiences to some but not all, we extend the inequitable contexts present in our society into the campus environment. Our campus must stand not as a reflection of the injustices of income inequality, discrimination, and exclusion, but as a beacon of what is possible when thoughtful, equitable people work together to give everyone a fair shot at success.

 At this rather magical time of close relationships among our university, the city, human service agencies, industry, and business, we still have work to do to connect our students, faculty, and staff with teaching, learning, research and service opportunities offered in the greater community. We cannot succeed without building partnerships with our region because we depend on that community in unprecedented ways as state funding continues to stagnate. At the same time, we have much to contribute to our community through our research and collaborative work. This is something I think about a lot, and later in the semester I will share my thoughts on another topic that bears our attention—the prospects for public higher education if we do nothing to diversify funding sources.

Inclusive Excellence describes an environment that meets the learning and personal growth needs of every member of a community with equity and purpose. While this may sound rather pie in the sky, I am convinced that we have actually been creating such an environment (without the label) and that local, national, and international events pressure us to become even more intentional and committed to the goal. We have, for example, increased our diversity across all dimensions while dramatically improving graduation rates for every group. Our student body is at its most diverse in history. Our staff is very diverse at about 57 percent and our faculty diversity has improved from 28 percent to 33 percent over the past five years. We have more to do, but we’re building on a positive foundation.

 With support from the Student Affairs division, last academic year I met with many of our student cultural organizations (I tried for all). These are great organizations that engage and inspire our students to work for social justice and their own personal development. I worried that the unrest sweeping university campuses across the nation related to violence toward people of color could threaten our students’ success.

I left those meetings with the conviction that we need to make our commitment to Inclusive Excellence more public and active. We must collectively name it and live it as a natural extension of our concerns for access, transformation, and success for our entire community.

By the spring, unrest did occur on campus following a number of local incidents that shook students’ feelings of security—all with an overlay of the intersectionalities of ethnicity, citizenship status, religious expression or sexual identity.

Because of great work done by students and especially our Student Affairs division we are working tirelessly and collaboratively to rebuild trust. More focus is vital, however, to build the inclusive university we envision. Our diversity is not proof of our inclusiveness. If we listen to and learn about each other, we will value and respect the wide-ranging contributions that each member of our university brings to advance our goals. In so doing, I think we take a giant step toward extending our knowledge of issues that affect our university, our nation, and our world from multiple perspectives. Working together, we will succeed.

How do we accelerate our growth toward Inclusive Excellence? Reading about the experiences of other universities it is clear there’s no silver bullet or set of pat answers and strategies. We must build on our unique strengths, mitigate our organizational attitudes and practices that threaten success, and be accountable to all in our community for equitable, not necessarily equal, opportunities. And I do mean all—faculty, staff, and students.

Our laser focus is rightly toward our students, but we must commit to the success of our entire community because that’s what inclusiveness means. That is, we must learn about barriers to optimal success that faculty, staff, and students face and have a commitment to create an enabling environment for everyone.

Let’s look at access. We are vibrantly diverse but not yet representative of our region. Are we working effectively to give an equitable chance for high school students from every ethnic and economic group a fair shot at admission? Our 90,000 applicants are a mark of pride, but also a threat to access. The Long Beach College Promise mitigates that threat somewhat, but a close examination of evidence from our partner school districts illustrates disproportionate rates of A-G course completion and math and English readiness by economic groups.

This is an American tragedy with long lasting repercussions. We must accelerate our work to create pathways to our university that are open to all. We have the tools but must put even more focus on the Long Beach College Promise, Math Collaborative, Equal Opportunity Program (EOP), Ministers’ Alliance, Upward Bound, Summer Bridge programs, Learning Communities and intrusive advising. And we must continue to develop innovative and wide reaching programs as need becomes evident. I see the expansion of our University Honors program as one example of this.

Analogously we must stay vigilant about our hiring practices for faculty and staff to be sure we are reaching fabulous individuals from groups underrepresented in higher education. As I said, we’ve made some progress but have a long way to go.

While more work is necessary we should celebrate the fact that we were named by The Education Trust as one of only 52 U.S. universities that has both increased graduation rates for all groups on campus while shrinking the opportunity gap between White and Black students. You deserve a round of applause for that exceptional accomplishment.

Can we use our whole campus and greater community to ensure inclusiveness? One new resource that I commend to all of you is the final report of the CSU System’s Task Force on the Advancement of Ethnic Studies. A careful reading illustrates the importance of a purposeful educational environment that equips students to be successful in a multicultural world. We are advantaged at CSULB with expert leadership and scholarship across our Ethnic Studies professors. We certainly look to them for consultation. We are also rich with resources in many of our other departments, divisions and partners. Our progress will depend on this entire village of well-intentioned and active participants.

 A hallmark of Inclusive Excellence is the personal commitment of every community member to the goal. It’s not the work of one particular group of administrators, faculty, staff, or students. In line with both recommendations from the Advancement of Ethnic Studies in the CSU Task Force report and my own commitments, I have let you know that I am seeking consultation about membership on a President’s Commission for Inclusive Excellence. My intention is to involve a large number of students in this effort as well as faculty and staff from every corner of the university. Thanks in advance for the advice you will offer and for your participation as we take on the task of understanding ourselves, others, and our organizations. This understanding must include the many dimensions that perpetuate inequitable contexts for our community. This is a challenge that will take hard work and will take a long time but as President Obama has charged us: “We have to, as a country, sit down and just grind it out, solve these problems.”

 So while we can control, perhaps, only our own actions within our own contexts, we must recognize that we are all connected. We all lack some privilege while owning other aspects of privilege. Our histories are generally unknown to each other so we may lack understanding of the paths each of us has travelled to arrive at a current status.

This makes it easy to stereotype one another as haves or have-nots. It makes it easy to believe the struggle belongs to just one group versus another group. From what I can see, this is never the case. The numerous intersectionalities that create our identities put each of us—if we are willing to live with attention—into a variety of struggles. These struggles will exist on campus but don’t have to be against one another. We can, together, identify inequitable conditions and make them right. Let’s take former President George W. Bush’s comment to heart as we speak with one another.

“Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates too quickly into dehumanization. Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions.”

We’re smart. We’re motivated. We can emerge as national leaders. And, we really have no choice—business as usual is not an option. The struggle to build an environment of Inclusive Excellence is a foundation for our future success in educating California. We may hit some bumps in the road as we move forward but a shared commitment to justice will predict success. I promise that I will, in the words of Vice President Joe Biden quoting his Dad: “Never explain, never complain, just get up.”

And work every day all day to facilitate our recognition and lived reality as the national model of Inclusive Excellence in U.S. higher education. I count on your partnership.

Go Beach!

Provost Brian Jersky

Just over 24 centuries ago, Plato opened the doors of his Academy, in a sacred grove of olive trees just North of Athens. We are the inheritors of that long tradition, and I think it is worth looking back, as well as looking around and looking forward. Indeed, if one wanted to encapsulate the intellectual ambition of a university, it might be expressed in precisely those terms – we celebrate the past, examine the present and shape the future.

One of the things that comes to my mind as I think back on Plato is the fact that he chose a “sacred” grove, and ask if that was by chance or by design. Of course we know that the grove was sacred to Athena, the goddess of wisdom, and so it must have been by design, for that is what he sought, and that is what we seek here. Nowadays, we associate the word “sacred” more with its religious meaning than its general meaning, which I think is “highly valued or important”. So it seems that in 24 centuries, our deep underlying mission is still the same – to seek wisdom in the sacred groves of academe. Of course, much has changed over the long centuries – for a start, I suspect that parking was easier in Athens! Seriously, though, as I step up to my task as your new provost, I want, with your help and under Jane’s leadership, to engage in a serious academic discussion of our purposes and goals. We have heard of Jane’s capsule slogan – Inclusive Excellence – and I think it is worth spending a little time unpacking this phrase to see how it fits our thoughts about our mission. We at Long Beach have been justifiably proud of our inclusive mission to the people of our region and State. Similarly, we have been justifiably proud of our devotion to excellence, which we might label “arête” in a further nod to the Greeks. My predecessor, Dave Dowell, who I would like to publicly thank today, has achieved nationally significant progress in expanding our diversity and our success with the students we have, and I am pleased to let you know that I intend to continue his focus on this crucial aspect of our mission. In addition, though, and I speak as a statistician, data alone are not the end we seek. They are the means for us to understand better and more deeply the areas we succeed in and the areas we fail in, not so that we can gloat or be miserable, respectively, but so that we can expand our successes and correct our failures. I am convinced that Long Beach has the capacity in terms of its staff, faculty and students, to make this arduous ascent to the next level of academic achievement.

There is a caveat, though, and it is a large one. Our training as academics makes us critical and, to be honest, tends to make us narrow. Both of these skills or traits are perfectly fine in their place. However, when we are on a voyage of change, we need sometimes to suspend disbelief and see a very much wider horizon than we are used to seeing. After all, the received wisdom of the day made most advanced thinkers believe that Columbus would sail off the edge of the flat world – so much for science as a guide! On the other hand, when Columbus arrived unexpectedly in North America, his treatment of the people and cultures he found there made a mockery of the ethics and morals of the advanced thinkers of his culture – so much for philosophy or religion as a guide! We can go on in this academic and comfortably critical way, but I think we must not, in this case. To make changes, and I mean positive changes, we must be realistic but hopeful; we must be resistant to fads but open to innovations, and we must have a reservoir of adventure in our hearts. For it is a grand adventure that we are engaged in – a brief moment of consciousness in the vast, freezing darkness of the Universe is all we have (as far as we know) – and yet, how much we have learned, will learn, will change. I invite you all to engage in this voyage, which will be difficult, long and dotted with failures, in order that future generations of academics will look at us and our achievements, and see the light that we kindled and the impetus we gave to our common development as human beings. Perhaps my message so far is unusual, but I hope you are intellectually engaged, or even puzzled, or violently against, but at least not apathetic. A university is either a place of intellectual engagement and passion, or else it is a somewhat shabby holding pen for students, and we are almost like jailers. Of course, we are not the latter here at The Beach, though it is always helpful to keep in all of our minds how we can sound and feel to others. I know for example that perhaps the whole point of a bureaucracy is to find more and more ways to say “no” to more and more people about more and more things. But every time we can say “yes,” we cut some of those unnecessary ropes that bind us, and free us to dream and imagine something better and different. Please take note that I am not advocating revolution, but you will find that my style is to work with you to find out how we can make something happen together in the future, even if we don’t have the resources, the time, the energy, or the permission to do that something now.

If you have attended or watched previous convocations, you know that it is traditional to highlight the amazing achievements of the past year, and I would be neglecting my duty as provost if I did not extol some of the virtues of the campus. It is truly an embarrassment of riches that I have to choose from, in every area of the campus and every group of people here. Please forgive me for taking what is only a very small, but representative sample of the amazing things that happen here. If I did not, we would be here all day.

  • We had the largest graduating class in our history in 2015-16, with more than 10,000 degrees awarded.
  • We received a record-breaking number of applications for this academic year. About 60,000 first-time freshman and 29,000 transfer students applied.
  • A record number of 945 students studied abroad in 38 countries, a 9% increase from a year ago, and a 38% increase from 2012-13, when we pledged to double participation in study abroad;
  • The faculty have led a significant increase in total expenditures on sponsored research, and last year $33m came to this campus in this way. Not only does this benefit the faculty, but also many students. Academic Affairs was delighted to invest $2.2m in RSCA funding. I intend to continue this investment. You may be interested to learn that the campus has a new Office of Undergraduate Research to bolster and support students and faculty in this activity.
  • Our faculty are stellar, and we have welcomed 62 new tenure-track faculty to campus this Fall, as well as many new lecturers, to add to our intellectual heft. I take this opportunity of welcoming all of them to The Beach, and look forward to productive, happy and long relationships with all of you.
  • Approximately 3,000 students enrolled in service learning courses last year, performing almost 30,000 hours of service within the community.
  • Our students bring home awards across the entire spectrum of university life, from research (the highest number of awards from the System wide Research Competition in May); music (the Choir of the World award – so richly deserved, as we just heard); athletics (59 Beach Student-Athletes earned Academic All-Conference Honors); entrepreneurship (with events such as the TEDx conference), and more!
  • I am proud of the fact that Long Beach was one of 43 institutions selected nationwide by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities to participate in a national project – Reimagining the First Year (RFY) – aimed at ensuring success for all students, particularly those traditionally underserved by higher education.
  • Long Beach was nationally recognized by the Education Trust as having been one of the most successful 4-year public institutions at reducing opportunity gaps. We still have a long way to go.
  • The Colleges are overflowing with achievements, and I can only skate over the surface of all of these as I mention in passing the following: top 5 ranking in animation and game design; new graduate programs in Accountancy and Supply Chain Management; a large Bechtel grant to expand practice-based training for teachers; The Beach’s first “hackathon”, and a new program in biomedical engineering; national leadership by Dr. Rashida Crutchfield in CHHS addressing the housing and food security needs of students; CSULB is a top Fulbright Scholar producer nationally, including a very competitive award to Sheffield University, where Dr. Alexander Klein will conduct research into William James, the experimental psychologist; new partnerships, including one between CSULB and the Catalina Island Conservancy in relation to Science and Resource Management; the opening of a vast new student-focused space on the fifth floor of our Library, thanks to a generous donation from a donor; three impressive individual research accomplishments by Dr. Stephen Mezyk (Chemistry and Biochemistry), Dr. Chris Lowe (Biological Sciences) and Dr. Hugh Wilford (History); and last but not least, Minh-Minh Ho (Bio) and Brittany Daws (Chem) received the outstanding graduate and undergraduate student research awards respectively.
  • Let me repeat that this is only a small fraction of the things I could boast about. Please give these achievements, and all the others I do not have time to mention, a stirring round of applause. ….. Thank you.

What about the future? In my abbreviated six week exposure to The Beach, I see incredible opportunity. We must ride the waves carefully and professionally.

If I mention that the political situation, nationally and internationally, is cloudy, I would probably be accused of being over-optimistic. (This is an occupational hazard of provosts, or should be!) This political situation will undoubtedly affect the atmosphere and climate on our campus. As guardians of academic freedom, we will defend our students’, staff and faculty members’ rights to free expression and active engagement in the key issues of the day. We also stand for respectful and intelligent engagement. We know that the outside world is full of almost unbearable pain, injury, hurtfulness and violence, and while we look at these with the full attention such grave matters deserve, we choose not to reproduce these on our campus. The President’s call to us to engage in dialogue and discussion about the Ethnic Studies Task Force is an example of how we can make progress on campus, even when the outside world appears dark and threatening.

The financial state of the University, and of Academic Affairs, is sound, and I am cautiously optimistic that we can continue to operate at our current capacity. If we wish to make changes or improvements, there are really only two options – we can increase our revenues, or reduce our expenditures. Since most of our revenue comes from the State or from students, those are essentially outside our institutional control. However, I am heartened by the new commitment by the CO and the CFA to work together for political effectiveness in Sacramento. I look forward to playing a key role in that team effort. Of course, we also hope that the faculty’s continued research efforts pay dividends, and that the deans’ and others’ continued efforts in fundraising bear fruit. Any additional resources in any area will be welcome, unless there are strings attached that preclude our engagement. Again, this is a team effort. If we need to look at expenses, we can make intelligent or foolish decisions. Intelligent decisions are of course the way we should go, and we have tremendous skills and depth of knowledge on our campus to enable us to analyze which activities we might look at and which directions we should go. This is another area where data are essential. I will naturally look to the Academic Senate for partnership in this and many other areas.

To end my remarks, I would like you to recall the old Roman method of expanding their empire – Divide et impera! It is a very good way to maintain and expand power, and other empires have used it too, notably the British Empire. My experience as a South African has taught me many things, however, and one of them is that unity is strength. If we divide ourselves into faculty versus administrators, tenured and tenure track versus lecturers, students versus instructors, Long Beach versus the Chancellor’s Office, “us versus them”, we will be weaker and we will achieve less. It takes leadership to overcome our natural tendency to group ourselves into factions, and great leaders, like Dr. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Abraham Lincoln have shown us that we can transcend these differences while maintaining our own individual and group identities. I look forward to a transformative year with you all. I wish you all great happiness, success, joy and delight in the year ahead, and to celebrating all the many and varied achievements of this great university with you.

Go Beach!

Academic Senate Chair Norbert Schürer

Welcome to the academic year 2016/17! I hope you’re all looking forward to an exciting new semester, whether you’re a student starting your university career here at CSULB or returning to complete your degree; whether you’re a new faculty member still finding your way around our campus or an experienced professor coming back from pursuing your research; or whether you’re a staff member or administrator who’s been working hard over the summer to have campus ready for this new semester.

Across our country, this fall will be exciting in a way that will probably not be very pleasant: We seem to be gearing up for the most divisive presidential campaign ever. Fortunately, I believe we here at CSULB will be able to resist this divisiveness because we have always been a campus that works together to solve problems and improve the lives of our students, faculty, staff, and administrators and our community on and off campus. This spirit of collaboration and cooperation is embodied structurally and institutionally in our Academic Senate, where CSULB’s four main constituencies—students, faculty, staff, administrators—are democratically represented, develop policies, and talk to each other on a regular basis. Our conversations sometimes get heated in the Academic Senate, but they are still usually productive because we are all passionate about a common goal for our university, which is to give our students the best opportunities possible. For the few minutes I have here today, I would like to talk about some of these opportunities.

For one, of course, we all want to give our students an education that will give them the opportunity to find a good and well-paying job. We have excellent programs, from teacher education to nursing, that prepare students for important professions that we need in the state of California. So if you consider job training our primary goal, you’re in the right place.

At the same time, we want our students to find a career that they are passionate about and that they find meaningful, a vocation as well as a profession. We understand the need to make a living, and we support that goal, but we think there is more than one way to reach that goal. We hope that students are not just looking for—and faculty, staff, and administration are not just promoting—the job with the highest salary or most reliable employment, and we hope that students can imagine a future where they are excited to go to work every day, as we are. In perhaps more idealistic terms, we want students to be happy in what they do after they graduate from CSULB.

In the same vein, we hope our students take the opportunity to contribute to our civil society here in Long Beach, in LA County, California, the US, and the world. I mentioned the divisiveness of the presidential election—and, like I said, I believe the best antidote is communication across our differences. As faculty, staff, and administrators, we need to model that kind of interaction so that our students become members of an educated citizenry that is excited about participating in our society and economy not just as workers, but contributing as volunteers, community organizers, sports fans, museum patrons, concerned parents, and, yes, even as politicians.

Finally, I sincerely hope that we can create an environment here at CSULB, in material as well as ideological terms, that allows our students to take the opportunity to explore their education as much as possible. As you may know, the state of California and the Board of Trustees of the CSU system are pushing students more and more to graduate as quickly as possible to enter the workforce. We as faculty, staff, and administrators are feeling that pressure as well, and here at CSULB we are actually doing a fine job of graduating our students faster and faster. However, I would urge all of us please to consider whether there might sometimes be a trade-off between the speed of education and the opportunities a student can explore. I think we should also encourage questions like:

  • Are you really sure you’re passionate about your major?
  • Have you always thought you might like to learn more about art history, or how to build a bridge, or economic systems, or the mysteries of statistics?
  • Do you want to spend some time in a foreign culture to get a perspective on your own?
  • What do you know about the ethnic history and diversity of our own state of California?
  • Would it make sense to take one class less in any given semester to give you more time to study for your other classes that semester?

The more our students can explore these kinds of opportunities, I would argue, the more excited they’ll be about what they settle on, the better they’ll be at it, and the more they’ll know and understand about people who have made different choices.

All of these and more opportunities we can offer here at CSULB when classes start on Monday. So let’s prepare our students for specific careers, help them figure out what it takes to make them happy, consider what they can contribute to society, and embolden them to explore the University and the world around them. Have a great 2016/17, and Go Beach!

ASI President Marvin Flores

Hello and good morning, everyone! And thank you for that introduction, Provost Jersky.

My name is Marvin Flores. I’m a fourth year history major, pursuing a career in teaching, and I am serving as your 2016-2017 Associated Students, Inc., student body president.

It is an honor and a privilege to be standing here today. I’d like to begin by welcoming our faculty, staff, new and returning students and the many other honored guests we have here today. I’d also like to give an especially big thank you to Provost Jersky and President Conoley for inviting me to speak at this year’s convocation. As a student leader, I’ve always been impressed by the value and importance our administration has put on the voice of students, and I am proud to play a part in our flagship shared governance process.

This year my team and I have a lot planned for the campus. From launching the new ASI food pantry – aimed at making sure no student goes hungry, to an enhanced focus on sustainability in all of our facilities, including our recycling center and student union, to working to create more scholarships for students in need. But today I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about the value of teaching.

As the first born son of Mexican immigrants and the first in my family to go to college, I didn’t know what to expect apart from hearing that, “college will be the best years of your life.” But when I had finally arrived and was confronted with traffic on the 22, walking long distances between SSPA and the library, and those forever expensive texts books, I couldn’t put my finger on why anyone would say that. Like many first generation college students before me, it was a tough transition. But what most helped me understand that I could succeed, despite these obstacles, was the help and support I received from my professors. Supportive professors are the reason I and countless other students have been able to grow and excel in our time here.

To paraphrase one of the greatest educators of all time, Sir Isaac Newton, if we are able to see further than others around us, it’s only by standing on the shoulders of the giants before us – and that applies as much to knowledge as it does to how to be a good person.

Last year, I was in a class where most students waited until a week before a 15-page paper was due to meet with their professor about their thesis, me included. As I waited outside the professor’s door, history professor Dr. Sean Smith to be more specific, with six other students before me, we all noticed his hours were coming to a close.

When his hours were officially over, he took a peek outside, chuckled a little bit, and sat back in his seat. Dr. Smith met with each and every student before leaving his office that day. I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to have taken courses with professors that do this every time they see that a student needs help. Professors like Dr. Smith make me proud to go to this university and say with certainty that our professors are here to fight for our success. Thank you.

This year I encourage all faculty and staff to reach out to me and the rest of us in ASI. To sign-up to get involved with our new ASI food pantry. To tell their students about ways they can get involved by encouraging them to visit us at To visit us in person by coming to the student government office in USU-311. And to let us know what you and your students need to be more successful.

I am excited to work with you in the year ahead. And, as always, Go Beach!