2017 State of the University Address

On August 21, 2017, President Eduardo M. Ochoa addressed the crowd assembled for the annual Day of Welcome at the World Theater.

Good morning and welcome to everyone who is joining us here today for the start of a new academic year at California State University, Monterey Bay.

I would like to begin by telling you that I checked with the NASA eclipse web site, and it told me first of all that in our area, the eclipse will be partial, not total; that it will start at 9:01 AM; reach maximum coverage at 10:15 AM; and end at 11:37 AM. So we all should be out in plenty of time to see the eclipse, as long as I am not interrupted too often by applause.

Now, a special welcome to all our new employees in the audience.

When we have job openings at CSUMB – for faculty, staff or administrative positions -- we attract many outstanding applicants. So congratulations. You folks are the best of the best, and it is great to have you with us. Please stay around for a few minutes afterwards so that we may get a group photo of our newest Otters.

Also, my thanks to the World Theater staff and the University Ceremonies and Events team who organized today’s event in the midst of a particularly busy time on our campus.

I hope everyone arrived in time to sample some of the pre-event refreshments, and that you will be able to stay for at least a few minutes to enjoy some post-event conversation with your colleagues.

I also want to announce that the President’s Award is back. In September, you will have the opportunity to nominate staff, faculty and MPPs who will be recognized at two events: our annual staff & faculty appreciation breakfast on January 18, 2018 and a luncheon sponsored by my office. Next week, I will send out further details. Stay tuned!

More sustainable path

Last year at the Day of Welcome, I outlined three areas of particular focus for the 2016-17 academic year. All are ongoing efforts, so I think it is important to keep you updated on how we are doing.

Our first goal was to put the university’s budget on a more sustainable path. We are well on our way to doing exactly that. In this year’s state budget, we received funding to support 200 additional FTE students. However, as you may know, our enrollment has exceeded the level funded by the State for several years, so we plan to apply most of that money toward backfilling the support for students at the current enrollment levels.

Money earmarked to support the CSU’s graduation initiative will help fund increased services to enhance student success. And actions we have taken across the university have reduced our structural deficit.

In fact, this year’s budget looks like it will be essentially break-even, which is a good place for us to be at.

I appreciate the willingness of all of you to take the steps necessary to deal with these budget issues over the last two years before they did real damage to our university’s future plans.

Enrollment

The overall state budget picture makes it unlikely that we will see much new money to support substantially increased in-state enrollment in the near future. Still, we are still seeking other growth opportunities. We want to continue to increase our enrollment of international students, and will be looking at ways to attract out-of-state students as well as increasing enrollment in self-support programs.

All of these types of enrollment generate full‐cost revenues and therefore do not supplant or restrict California resident enrollment. In addition, there are good pedagogical and mission‐based rationales for increasing these steps.

International and domestic out‐of‐state students add to the diversity of the student body and the richness of the educational experience for all students. Self‐support programs are mostly graduate programs and are typically sharply focused on career paths to high‐demand, well‐paid jobs and address regional industry needs.

Inclusive and respectful

Another of the goals I put forward last year was the creation of a more inclusive and respectful community. Of course, this became an even more important – and challenging – task as the year went on, given the passions that were ignited by the 2016 presidential election.

I believe our campus community did well to come together and share individual thoughts and concerns in the wake of that election. I would like to restate our assurances that our university—and the entire CSU—remain unwavering in our commitment to the values of respect, equity, and inclusion that are fundamental to our institution. We fully support, and will protect the rights of, DACA students who seek to fulfill their educational dreams here at CSUMB.

At our university, we want to make certain that all human beings are valued regardless of differences. Reasoned, respectful discussion and debate in the search for truth are our touchstones. The hatred and violence we saw on display last week in Charlottesville, Va., has no place here. We seek to provide a positive, transformational learning experience for all of our students. And in fact, the opportunities for interaction and mutual learning provided by our diversity are key contributors to that experience for all our students. Their success and their flourishing is our shared goal.

This dialogue about campus climate will continue into the new school year. The President’s Committee on Equity and Inclusion is in the final stages of drafting the campus equity plan, based on data from the Diversity Mapping and Climate Study. The plan will be widely vetted this fall. The plan includes mandatory diversity training for all managers. We feel that this will strongly support the goal of creating a respectful and inclusive campus.

Graduation initiative

A third goal I put forward at last year’s Day of Welcome is closely tied to the second: To enable success for every student. Of course, that relates directly to the CSU’s Graduation Initiative 2025.

Again, as a result of a campus-wide effort, we see the numbers for retention and graduation moving steadily in the right direction, across the board. However, we have much more to do. The fact remains that about 40 percent of students who come to our university as freshmen do not earn degrees, even in six years.

It is important for us to continue to create clear and efficient academic pathways to diplomas. We have found that students graduating from CSUMB have earned an average of 141 credit hours. Baccalaureate degrees, of course, only require 120 credit hours.

It is a fact of academic life that many students change majors. So we want to align courses in similar majors to make those transitions easier. And we are adopting Smart Planner, which allows students to plot their path to a degree on-line and helps us know how many sections of classes we will need to offer.

We love our students, but we don’t want them to stick around any longer than they have to.

We have added to our advising staff and are instituting mandated visits to advisers at critical junctures in our students’ academic careers to be sure they are on the right track. We are examining basic classes with high failure rates to see how we can teach those classes better.

We will be guided by two principles. We want to make sure that the improvements in performance are reflected across our entire student body. And we will not sacrifice quality; our students still must have a rigorous educational experience.

Bright Futures

Of course, to be fully effective, strong academic preparation must begin long before our students come to CSUMB. In that regard, I am sure that most of you know that the Bright Futures cradle-to-career educational partnership has been a priority for me since I came to CSUMB.

Bright Futures is dedicated to the idea that every child should be prepared for school and should be successful both in and outside of school. The goal is for students to complete a post-high school credential and enter a promising career. We want Bright Futures to be a community-wide effort, a catalyst for change, a hub of innovation, a broker of solutions that work.

We want to make certain that more members of our community are prepared to take advantage of what CSUMB has to offer.

The partners in Bright Futures cover a wide range of education, business, government and charitable groups. And they have adopted a big goal: Increase the number of students receiving a post-high school credential from 20 percent to 60 percent by 2026. They also are focusing – and gathering data – on seven intermediate goals that will help determine progress at each step along the way.

Our provost Bonnie Irwin and our Education Dean José Luis Alvarado are part of the leadership group for Bright Futures, and in the months ahead you will be hearing more about its connections to our campus and how your department or office can contribute to this effort.

Center for Arts, Culture and Humanities

A new initiative that builds on our long-standing commitment to serve our community is the Center for Arts, Culture and Humanities that we will establish at CSUMB @ Salinas City Center.

When the University Corporation purchased the National Steinbeck Center’s building in downtown Salinas, our goal was to bring our programs closer to the people of Salinas and of the Salinas Valley. This newly established center will be an important step in that direction.

We see it as a way to build on the existing programs of the National Steinbeck Center and to create a focal point for a range of cultural programs in the renewed downtown of our county’s largest city.

We see it as a home for lectures and exhibits, which could be curated by CSUMB students. We want to showcase our exceptional programs in a way that will be easily accessible to more county residents. And we can offer community-based programs for younger students, to build stronger ties between them and our university.

Professor Enid Baxter Ryce has agreed to serve as interim director of the center; this is another program we expect to hear much more about in the months ahead.

We are also planning to offer classes at CSUMB@North Salinas, the former Heald College building, in the upcoming semester.

Campus construction

While community outreach continues to be a vital part of the CSUMB mission, the campus where we gather today remains a primary focus.

Those of you returning to campus after a summer away may have found yourselves looking twice at the area between Sixth and Seventh streets as you drove up Intergarrison Road. Where did the ugly buildings go?

Be assured that the removal of the old hammerheads is continuing apace, and you will see more of them disappear during the school year and into next summer.

That demolition and our plans for those vacated sites are reflected in our revised Master Plan.

Over the course of the 2016-2017 Academic Year, the content of the master plan was developed into two publicly-shared draft documents. More than 20 meetings were held with regional and campus partners to discuss the revised plan.

A draft Environmental Impact Report will be prepared during the upcoming school year. Once the impact report is received and finalized it will go to the CSU Board of Trustees for certification.

New buildings

Meanwhile, the transformation of our campus will continue as we break ground for two new buildings in the upcoming academic year.

Construction begins this fall for the new academic building which will house the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. The building is scheduled for completion in time for the fall 2019 semester.

The new Student Union building is slated to begin construction in January adjacent to the existing Student Center. The building will house activity spaces, meeting rooms, lounges, food service, bookstore, retail space, rooms for student clubs and organization space, and administrative and support spaces.

Our new academic building for the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences is aiming for Gold LEED and the Student Union for Silver LEED certification.

The Joel and Dena Gambord Business and Information Technology building, which we opened in 2015, has been awarded the LEED Platinum Certification, the highest achievable level. ​Congratulations to the design and construction teams for their efforts in achieving this goal.

Parking

I realize that I bring up the subject of parking at my peril, but the new consolidated parking lot 59—located on 7th Avenue south of A Street—will serve as replacement parking in anticipation of the new academic building and Student Union building.

The lot has many safety features including raised pedestrian walkways, improved lighting, accessible parking and security cameras, as well as infrastructure for electric vehicle charging stalls.

Of course, the continued progress of our campus is a source of great pride to us all. We are looking more like a modern university campus all the time.

However, we realize that a university is not simply its classrooms, its laboratories, its libraries, or even its parking lots.

Vision

Since it began, our university has been blessed with an innovative vision statement that put forward the ideas and goals for our university’s founders. In calling for service-based learning, a multicultural global curriculum, community partnerships, and outreach to underserved populations, the Founding Vision was ahead of its time, and has been a guiding star for our campus.

However, just as a physical master plan requires periodic changes to reflect new circumstances, so too we should reexamine our university’s vision in light of today’s challenges.

As former president Jimmy Carter once said: “We must adjust to changing times and still hold to unchanging principles.”

I have set aside a day – November 20 – for us to gather as a campus community to reflect upon, examine and discuss our university’s Founding Vision and help set a course for CSUMB as we move forward. We will do so as a prologue to the process of drafting a new University Strategic Plan during the spring semester. The results of the Vision retreat on November 20 will help inform the deliberations of the campus Strategic Budget Committee in drafting that plan.

With our plans being formed to celebrate Cal State Monterey Bay’s Silver Jubilee in the 2019-20 academic year, this seems a particularly auspicious time for us to reexamine who we are as a university and what we want to become in the next 25 years.

You will all receive more information about this event in the coming weeks. I hope as many of you as possible will make time to participate in this important conversation.

Facts are still facts

I would like to conclude by expanding on just one of the statements of the Founding Vision, the one that calls on our university to be “a model pluralistic academic community where all learn and teach one another in an atmosphere of mutual respect and pursuit of excellence.”

Never has that quest been more relevant than it is today.

As you well know, we live in an era of political polarization, a time when the public conversation is full of references to “alternative facts” and “fake news.”

But make no mistake: Facts are still facts. History still has many lessons for us. An understanding of our culture -- how it has changed and how it will continue to evolve – is still a vital part of being an informed citizen and a wise voter.

The Internet has opened up vast stores of information to us all -- vast stores of misinformation as well. Once, there were gatekeepers in the media who tried to separate the valuable from the frivolous, the facts from the “alternative facts.” Now, that job falls to every one of us.

We want – and our society needs – CSUMB graduates who can use the critical thinking skills they learn here to make those decisions. We need to promote an atmosphere of mutual respect and pursuit of excellence. We need to be willing to listen to and engage with different points of view.

And we must never give in to cynicism and despair.

Be the change

The many controversies in Washington, D.C. today have caused some news analysts to look back to the Watergate era, when a scandal ended a presidency. Barbara Jordan of Texas was a member of the House Judiciary Committee during that tumultuous time.

Rep. Jordan was the first African-American woman ever to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from a southern state. A teacher, a lawmaker, a civil rights advocate, Rep. Jordan once said: “Let each person do his or her part. If one citizen is unwilling to participate, all of us are going to suffer. For the American dream, though it is shared by all of us, is realized in each one of us.”

And to reinforce and extend this point, let me add the well-known quote from the great leader and advocate for social justice, Mahatma Ghandi: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

That is our responsibility, individually and collectively. It is a lofty aspiration, but I believe we – as a university and as a society -- are up to the challenge.

Thank you for coming today and thanks for all you do for Cal State Monterey Bay.