President QuiƱones outlines plans for strong future in first State of the University speech

President Vanya Quinones State of the University 2022

President Vanya QuiƱones delivering the 2022 State of the University address | Photo by Brent Dundore-Arias

December 2, 2022

By Walter Ryce

CSUMB President Vanya Quiñones delivered her first State of the University address to an in-person and Zoom audience of more than 500 faculty, staff, students, and administrators at the World Theater on Wednesday, Nov. 30.

She was introduced by Sam Robinson, chair of the Academic Senate, who said, “I believe that we have found a president who will work with us — all of us — to make CSUMB a better place … Rather than jumping in with a list of her priorities or her agenda on her day of welcome, she outlined a commitment to a listening tour, where she would go around to understand our campus.”

During Quiñones’ 100-Day Listening Tour, she explored the campus and surrounding communities, observed and learned, met, spoke and listened to countless students, faculty, staff and community members. She told the World Theater audience that she filled three notebooks with their comments and suggestions.

That rigorous collaborative process helped her understand CSUMB and shaped the State of the University speech about the university’s future. 

When Quiñones took to the podium, she opened by joking, “You know, I’m nervous because I’m getting my drivers’ license test today, not because of this. I wake up at one in the morning and start studying the driving booklet.”

Then she followed with gratitude, thanking everyone for their work, for talking with her, and for making her feel at home. She recognized achievements such as bringing in $24 million for funded projects, and being the No. 1 CSU in achieving graduation goals. She cautioned about threats to the university’s mission, including declines in enrollment and budget.  

“We all share the same goal,” she continued. “Changing students’ lives for the better, improving our community, our region, our state, and our world.

“I am really positive about our future, and I hope you are, too.” 

She referred to a slide, telling the audience that this is what she sees in the next five years:

  • Continue to be recognized as a model of a comprehensive university
  • Have strong and robust enrollments
  • Be an agile university
  • Work on transparency and communication
  • Continue its transformative academic, research and hands-on vision

Coming back to her three notebooks, she told the audience that she converted her notes into a ranked spreadsheet indicating the frequency of issues.  

“I want to clearly say ‘I hear you’,” she said. “And yes, I see the struggles and frustrations that you experience. I see the challenges as you describe them… I agree with you that we can, and we must do better. This is my commitment for you today.”

She said she has instructed administrators to start working on these issues, some of which will be easier and faster to address, like asking cabinet members to have office hours next semester. 

Other issues, she said, will require more robust changes and multiple steps.

She shared slides, broken down with bullet points, and spoke about seven opportunities to ensure a stronger future:

  1. Continue to improve our student and community experience and success. Increase sense of belonging and engagement (to include increase and revamp support for student advising, Title XI, disability resources, and health)
  2. Strengthen our focus on enrollment goals (pathways with partner schools, moving summer and winter semesters to stateside, re-branding)
  3. Ensure academic quality (peer mentoring, internships and career services, long-range academic master plans)
  4. Serve our internal and external communities, including addressing staff and faculty pressures and invest in their development (daycare, housing, develop a staff council, retention, compensation) 
  5. Ensure our long-term financial future (multi-year budget process, planning and management, data integration, new budget committee)
  6. Embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion (revise hiring practices, address disparities)
  7. Be a sustainable university (not using plastic products)

Quiñones talked about task forces for workforce development, barriers for student success, and transfer student experiences. She spoke about next year’s accreditation visit in October and about upcoming holiday events with her. 

At times she made the audience laugh (speaking about investiture she joked, “I finally will get married with you all”), and at times her comments drew applause. 

“The work begins with you, and the work begins with us. Otters are stronger when we make a raft. Let’s ‘Support Each Otter’.” 

She took a selfie from the stage with the audience. The assembly stood and applauded. She said there would be more communication as developments progressed.

One audience member later noted: “I’ve never seen a standing ovation at a State of the University address.”