2015 State of the University Address
President Ochoa discusses the accomplishments of the past year and the university's future plans at the annual speech, presented at the Day of Welcome event.
I would like again to welcome all of you in our audience and those who are watching by video-stream. This is my fourth Day of Welcome here at CSUMB, and the time has gone by quickly. Working here has been one of the most fulfilling experiences in my professional life – in large part because of the students, faculty and staff with whom I work every day. I realize that a service time of just over three years at CSUMB still makes me somewhat of a newcomer compared to many of you.
Later in today’s ceremony we will honor those who have achieved service milestones. All of a sudden, there are lots of 20-year award winners. I’m not due for my five-year pin for a couple years now. Those 20-year award recipients no doubt remember that 20 years ago next month, President Bill Clinton came to participate in the dedication of the new Cal State Monterey Bay campus.
Can I have a show of hands? How many of you attended that event? In his address that day, President Clinton said: “I've got a lot to say today, and you may not remember much of it. If you don't remember anything else, remember this: This country will be the greatest country in the world in the 21st century, just as it has been in the 20th century, if, but only if, we take all the challenges that are before us and approach them in the same way that you approached the challenge that you faced when Fort Ord closed and you made this the 21st campus for the 21st century in California. “There is nothing we have to do at the national level that we cannot do if we follow the directions that you have laid out here: Common Sense, Common Ground, Higher Ground. Think about what we've got in common. Think about possibilities, not problems. Believe in the future.”
On the day President Clinton spoke, CSUMB’s founders had already managed to get the university up and running in record time.
Then, CSUMB moved forward, with its Founding Vision intact, working through the inevitable growing pains of any new institution. Academic programs were refined.
Administrative processes were strengthened.
Accreditation was hard-earned.
Just as our university was hitting its stride, however, along came the Great Recession, with its resulting budget cutbacks. Plans for growth and new programs were put on hold; it was a time to protect hard-won gains and prevent the quality of our university from eroding.
Today – two decades later after President Clinton’s speech – the future is here for Cal State Monterey Bay. While we cannot totally discount any problems, I would like to echo President Clinton’s remarks from that momentous day.
Think about possibilities. Believe in the future.
In June, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a 2015-16 state budget that, for the first time in recent memory, fully funds the CSU’s Board of Trustees’ request. It provides our system with an additional $217 million for the upcoming fiscal year.
That funding will allow the CSU to increase overall enrollment by about 3 percent and will provide resources for student services to help increase retention and reduce time to graduation.
This budget is a strong endorsement of the great work being done on each of our CSU campuses. The successes of our students, the discoveries of our researchers, the close partnerships we have built with our communities – all provide compelling evidence of the positive impact of our university system.
Every student whose life is changed by a CSUMB education strengthens the argument that the CSU makes an invaluable contribution to the culture and economy of our state.
In the next decade, I see Cal State Monterey Bay at the
heart of a flourishing and sustainable university community.
We will serve as a catalyst and a partner in efforts to strengthen our region’s economy, and will develop programs such as sustainable hospitality and ag business in collaboration with local industry leaders.
We will continue to enhance distinctive programs in a number of areas, including marine science, business, math, education, nursing, health sciences, the arts, and others.
We will work with all sectors of education – pre-K to community college -- in raising the educational achievement level of our youth. Through service learning and community engagement, we will not only support community-based organizations, but will also serve as a partner to leaders of all social sectors to help shape the region’s future.
Today, the signs of CSUMB’s progress are all around us.
The LEED-certified Business and Information Technology Building, standing alongside the Tanimura and Antle Family Memorial Library, adds another magnificent structure to the academic center of our campus. I hope you all take time to walk through the BIT building. I know it has been a long time in coming – as it worked its way through the CSU capital funding process -- but it is worth the wait.
By comparison, we are hopeful that Academic III, our next academic building, to be located west of the BIT building, will go forward on a faster timetable. We have been approved for planning funds and hope that project can be completed by the end of the decade.
Meanwhile, work continues on the Ryan Ranch building, which formerly housed the Monterey Herald, with occupancy scheduled for later this year.
The stepped-up pace of construction is a welcome response to the space crunch on our campus. This fall, I know that many of you have been changing places as part of the reshuffling that has resulted from the opening of the BIT building. Over the next few years, we will need to be flexible as we continue to take advantage of available spaces, remodel existing buildings and build new facilities to meet our needs.
This fall also has seen the opening of the Promontory, which provides nearly 600 beds for our students. We recognize the financial burden that our students can face when trying to move to this area. CSUMB traditionally has provided on-campus housing to a larger percentage of its students than most CSU campuses. To continue to do so, we must continue to add to our available student housing.
The Promontory represents a big addition this year; discussions are ongoing about an additional student housing project to be built in the near future.
Also in the planning stages is a $70 million project to build a new Student Union and Recreation Center. The project, to be funded through student fees, will provide an estimated 64,000 square feet of space for student use. The feedback we received from students on this proposal was strongly positive. They want and need more amenities on campus and are willing to pay additional fees to fund them, since this type of project does not qualify for CSU capital funding. I greatly appreciate their foresight and their willingness to go the extra mile to make our campus better.
In the past two years, our Dean of Extended Education, acting as our Chief International Officer, has developed close to 100 memorandums of agreement and student exchange agreements with universities across the globe, as well as recruiting relationships. Our international student population has gone from mid-two-figures to well over 200 students last year, on track to become ten percent of our overall enrollment in a few years.
We recently received our year-end report on external funding, and CSUMB received a record $14.3 million in new grants for the 2015 fiscal year. Congratulations to all faculty and staff who contributed to this success.
New classrooms, expanded programs, new housing, a new student union, more international students, increases in enrollment and grant funding – all these are unmistakable signs of a maturing university.
Now, it is our responsibility, as stewards of this remarkable place, to help ensure that the changes that are coming will be changes for the better. Toward that end, we are undertaking an update of our campus Master Plan. We want to build a superb academic environment, facilitating both teaching and research. We want to grow, while retaining the feel of a small campus. Our campus needs to be pedestrian- friendly, bike-friendly, transit-oriented, to limit our impact on the environment and on area roadways. And we need to continue to adjust to the realities of our state’s ongoing drought.
Last spring, our Master Plan team held public forums and one-on-one meetings to gather input from faculty, staff, students and administrators about what they wanted to see in an updated master plan. A primary goal is to become more of a community, with multiple land uses incorporated in an overall plan.
Over the summer, the planners met with representatives of area communities and businesses, to determine how our plans could best complement each other. Our Sustainability Committee also helped determine preliminary sustainability goals for the master plan.
This fall, as our Master Plan Update is more fully formed, there will be additional opportunities for students, faculty and staff to share their ideas. This is important work, and I greatly appreciate the efforts of all who take the time to help.
When it comes to believing in the future and thinking about the possibilities, we have one big advantage. We work on a college campus. In the next few days, it will be filled with a diverse, enthusiastic group of students – 7,000 strong -- who see a future of unlimited possibilities. We have a great job; we help them achieve their dreams.
Talk with those students, and I am sure you will hear that they plan to leave CSUMB with a degree. The good news is that more of them are likely to achieve that goal now than at any time in our university’s recent past.
Our retention and graduation rates continue to move in the right direction.
Among our first-time freshmen who began in fall 2008, 44.9 percent graduated in six years. That is up from 37.8 percent among first-time freshmen who began the previous year, and the highest figure in the campus’s history.
Perhaps even more significant, the five-year graduation rate of the entering 2009 class was 46.2 percent, highe than the six-year graduating rate of any of our previous classes.
The trends are similar if you break down the numbers by underrepresented minority students and first- generation students. 82.9 percent of our underrepresented minority freshmen who began in the fall of 2013, returned last fall. Five years ago, that figure was 70.2 percent. The comparable figure for first- generation freshmen was 84.4 percent last fall and 72.2 percent five years prior.
I applaud the efforts of Provost Bonnie Irwin, her team, the staff in Student Affairs and other faculty and staff members who have been deeply involved in these efforts. They continue to build effectively on the work of those who came before them.
We have a ways to go, but we are undoubtedly moving in the right direction.
Those efforts will be enhanced this fall by an influx of some exceptional talent in our faculty ranks. We are welcoming 31 new tenure track faculty, as a result of our growth and our brightening budget picture. Our ten-year aspirational growth path would raise our share of tenure-track faculty from 40 percent to 75 percent of our overall faculty.
Those open jobs attracted outstanding applicants. I don’t think those prospective faculty members just wanted to move here for the beaches and the golf courses, although those surely didn’t hurt. Their decision to come to CSUMB is a sign that they think this is a place where they can make a difference.
Think about the possibilities. Believe in the future. During my first year as president, we focused our president’s speaker series on innovation in higher education. I knew that this campus had been founded by education innovators and, early on, I talked with many faculty members who were exploring new ways of learning and teaching.
This spring, Cal State Monterey Bay again was recognized for its innovation efforts. Gov. Brown spearheaded a $50 million Innovation Competition, open to campuses from all three public higher education systems in our state. There were 58 applicants; 14 awards were made in three award tiers.
Of those 14 awards, two of them (one Tier 1 and one Tier 2 award) came to Cal State Monterey Bay.
We were the only university to receive two awards, amounting to 16 percent of the total pool. That is why I have taken to referring to us as the most innovative public university in California.
Our Tier-1 $5-million award went to our CS-in-3 program, a three-year bachelor's degree in computer science and information technology, delivered in partnership with Hartnell College, and brilliantly led on our campus by Professor Sathya Narayanan.
Math Huge, received a Tier-2 $3 million award. This developmental program achieves phenomenal results with its students graduating at higher rates than the overall student body, and with half of its participants becoming math majors. Its charismatic leader is Professor and Department Chair Hongde Hu.
Both of these programs reflect our campus’s long-standing commitment to providing educational access to underserved members of our community. Given the diversity of the state we serve, that focus is both logical and right. If you look at our enrollment statistics, you will see an educational community that is truly a microcosm of the larger society.
While our campus’s commitment to diversity dates to CSUMB’s founding, that commitment needs to be coupled with a focus on educational excellence. We need to leverage our campus diversity as a strategic asset in preparing our students for a global, multicultural society.
Our Office of Inclusive Excellence has been in the forefront of this effort for our campus. This academic year, we will see one indication of how we are doing in this regard when we receive the results from our Campus Climate Survey.
We are committed to building a safe and supportive campus community here at Cal State Monterey Bay. That job is never finished; it begins anew every fall. Of course, our work to educate a diverse group of students starts before they show up for class as freshmen. As our county’s four-year public university, we have a responsibility to work with the local K-12 system to make sure that more students are ready to take advantage of the opportunity to earn a college degree.
During this past academic year, CSUMB received two Department of Education grants to support our efforts to work with local schools and to enhance our teacher preparation programs. We are receiving $2.1 million per year for six years and $1.4 million in year seven through a GEAR UP grant.
The money will go toward helping more than 3,500 middle school students in San Ardo, San Lucas, Greenfield, King City, Salinas and Seaside become more college-ready.
The program, which is also supported by matching funds from the various communities, puts personnel in the schools to supplement advising, tutoring and student support programs.
By working with cohorts of seventh- and eighth-grade students as they move through the system, GEAR UP seeks to improve their college prospects and to make a lasting change in the cultures of the partner schools.
Good schools need a steady supply of great teachers. In response to state funding cuts during the Great Recession, California school districts often had to lay off teachers with the least seniority. Many prospective teachers got the message; enrollment in teaching programs fell statewide. An older workforce and a shortfall of new teachers create a teacher shortage, both now and in the years to come.
Our teacher training efforts will be enhanced by a five-year $8.6 million Teacher Quality Partnership Grant from the Department of Education. Working with our colleagues at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, we will recruit, train and support new teachers primarily in the STEM fields -- science, technology, engineering and math.
As a teaching shortage looms, in both our state and nation, our energized College of Education will work closely with local districts to educate and help place the next generation of outstanding teachers. Cal State Monterey Bay is committed to helping make a difference in the lives of our region’s children. In the coming weeks and months, you will be hearing more about our Bright Futures initiative, the community partnership of local education, social service, business, and philanthropic groups designed to support an improved cradle-to-career educational pipeline.
For us, working with our community is not a choice, it is an imperative. When I talk about my goals for CSUMB, I do it with the full knowledge that there are limits to what our university can achieve on its own. I think the economic reverses of the Great Recession delivered the message to public higher education that we need to be flexible and nimble, that we need to leverage all available resources to make the most impact.
In that regard, we are working closely with the Fort Ord Reuse Authority on their plans to jump start the regional economy. We have assisted FORA with the hiring of a new regional Economic Development Director; I am participating in the Monterey Bay Economic Partnership, which is focusing on workforce development and developing a tech ecosystem initiative.
Another example of our university’s outreach – our pending agreement with the Steinbeck Center in downtown Salinas – has been in the works for some time now. In fact, the process sometimes reminds me of Zeno’s Paradox, which states that to travel a certain distance, an object must first travel half that distance. Since that sequence can go on forever, it would appear that the distance cannot be traveled. I think we will prove Zeno wrong this time; we hope to have an announcement soon about our plans going forward.
Our presence in the Steinbeck Center offers a tremendous opportunity for us to extend our outreach into Salinas and the Salinas Valley.
Currently, about 14 percent of our students come from Salinas, just over one-third come from our three-county service area of Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties.
Last year, in response to rising numbers of applications from across the state, our university took steps necessary to declare impaction, which allows us to better control our enrollment by imposing additional standards on applicants from outside our service area.
However, any student from Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz County is still guaranteed admission to CSUMB if he or she meets the basic CSU admissions standards. We are pleased by our growing popularity among students from across the state and among a rising number of international students as well.
However, we remain committed to serving the needs of the Central Coast.
The Steinbeck Center will provide our university with a highly visible front door in what is an increasingly vibrant downtown area. While our plans for this facility have not been finalized, we see it as having great potential as a site for professional education and conferences, degree completion programs and admissions and counseling activities. I believe that our work in the Steinbeck Center will bring great value to Salinas and the students, young and old, who will use that facility as a portal to higher education.
In recent years, advocates for higher education – and I would say this room is full of them – have frequently cited the economic value that a university brings to a community. Especially in the face of the Great Recession, we felt the need to defend the public’s investment in our education system, based on the financial benefits to students and to the overall economy.
I have seen many of those economic analyses, and have used them myself. But I must admit that expressing the value of a college education solely in dollars and cents never made sense to me. My experiences as a college student were life-changing and priceless. To be exposed to the works of the great minds of history, to hear the music they composed, to study the plays they wrote, to see how the issues they addressed still resonate today – all of that made me a more self-aware and well-rounded person, and prepared me for a varied career.
While the economic argument for higher education is both valid and important, we must also be willing to advocate based on a more traditional principle. In higher education, it is our job to help prepare people to be critical thinkers, engaged citizens, enlightened leaders—to prepare them for life.
As another election year looms – and the season for debates has begun – we are reminded again how important that is. Franklin D. Roosevelt put it this way: “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”
This spring, at the dedication of our beautiful new Vision Mural, I talked about how our university was created to be a driver of innovation and progress for the region and the state. We have a clear, worthy mission; institutional structures that align with that mission, that reward and encourage actions that advance that mission; and a culture that is open and welcoming of innovation and change. These three elements are essential for transformative institutions. We are ready to take the next step. Twenty years ago, the audience that gathered to hear President Bill Clinton speak could only imagine how far
Cal State Monterey Bay might come.
Now, we begin our third decade.
Think about the possibilities. Believe in the future.