Office of the President

2018 State of the University Address

On August 20, 2018, President Eduardo M. Ochoa addressed the crowd assembled for the annual Day of Welcome at the World Theater.

On this Day of Welcome, I would like to extend special greetings to all of our new colleagues in the audience. As the unemployment rate, both in California and nationwide, has dropped in recent years, we know that job-seekers have more options as they plan their careers. We are pleased and proud that you have chosen Cal State Monterey Bay as a place where you feel you can make a difference.

I think you have made the right decision. We are committed to building a supportive and collaborative workplace, where each of our colleagues can achieve his or her potential. And our remarkable students also do their parts to make this a fun and interesting place to work.

I encourage all of our first-year employees to stick around for a few minutes after today’s event to take a group photo to commemorate your first Day of Welcome. Your first of many, I hope.

Today’s event gives us an opportunity to look back at the year since we gathered here last August, and to look ahead to the academic year that will start in just a few days.

Of course, we all have our personal recollections of the past academic year. One that stays in my mind is the last time we had a similar gathering of our faculty and staff – our November retreat to discuss our Founding Vision Statement and our path forward as a university.

At that event, it was clear that the people who work at CSUMB feel passionately about this place, our future, and the students we serve. Speaker after speaker discussed their belief in our vision, and their ideas about how we can make that vision even more relevant in today’s contentious era.

Many of the speakers were particularly concerned about the status of our DACA students, who are truly many of our best and brightest.

Without question, CSUMB, both as an institution and as a university community, strongly supports those students in their effort to earn an education and build a better life.

Throughout that event, it was apparent that our shared commitment to the basic tenets of our Founding Vision Statement remains unshakeable, as does our belief in the power of education to help people build better lives.

A similar spirit was apparent in another ongoing discussion that lasted through much of the 2017-18 academic year. That was the discussion over the implementation of CSU Executive Order 1100.

The discussions of EO 1100 were sometimes heated and emotional. Many ideas and strategies were shared, examined and re-examined.

At the end of those sometimes emotional discussions, a consensus was reached on a way to move forward. At a time when civility and consensus is not evident in most of our political processes, I think your ability to work with one another is worth noting, and applauding. I don’t think it would have been possible without a deeply shared belief in the fundamental importance of the work we do here at CSUMB.

Of course, we are only beginning the implementation process, but we will be in compliance with the E.O. by our deadline of Fall 2019. More than 30 faculty members have been working on course redesign and new course development this summer to prepare the new curriculum.

The link that I see between these two important events from the 2017-18 academic year – our faculty and staff vision retreat and the process around implementation of EO 1000 – is that both spoke to the strength of our university community.

Cesar Chavez once said: “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community... Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”

That quote has relevance not just for our internal deliberations, but also for how we as a university relate to the communities around us. CSUMB is becoming an increasingly active partner with constituencies around our three-county service area. Our new programs speak to the needs and aspirations of the communities we serve.

A prime example is our Master of Science Physician Assistant program. It has been granted accreditation and is moving forward with preparations for its first 33-student cohort, which will begin classes next January. This program, the first of its kind at a CSU campus, has received an avalanche of applications. No doubt, its inaugural class will be first-rate.

The program has also received support from a long list of health care providers and programs around the Central Coast, who look forward to working with CSUMB to educate the next generation of primary health care providers.

I commend our Health Sciences and Human Services Dean Britt Rios-Ellis and her entire team for the extraordinary effort to launch this program.

Identifying a need, building alliances, educating students – it is a formula for successful community engagement.

That same formula is at work in our South Monterey County Teacher Pathway Program, a collaboration between our university, Hartnell College and school districts in the South County.

As our Education Dean Jose Luis Alvarado pointed out, not only are we tapping into a promising pool of students who want to learn and work close to home, we are also creating local role models. Those new teachers can, in turn, inspire the next generation of students who will see a college education as a real possibility. And whether they come to CSUMB or go to another campus, their communities will benefit.

The importance of this initiative was reinforced to me by the community dialogue on education that we held in King City last spring. It was a new venue for us, and we were a bit uncertain whether we would attract a good crowd. But the people did come, and it was clear why they did. They understand the importance of education, and they spoke, often with great emotion, about their aspirations for their children and for the schools they attend.

The teachers who graduate from the South Monterey County pathway program will be a vital resource in that effort.

In discussing our work with our local communities, I would also like to point to the contributions of two programs that reach out in different ways.

In its first year, the Salinas Center for Arts and Culture, under the able leadership of Enid Baxter Ryce, is helping bring together the university and the community through the arts. Looking ahead, I believe this cultural hub housed at CSUMB @ Salinas City Center will be an integral part of the continuing transformation of Oldtown Salinas.

I would also cite the progress being made by Bright Futures, the community-based collaboration focused on improving student outcomes, from cradle to career. Program Director Cynthia Nelson Holmsky and her staff continue to work with a long list of local partners in education, business and the non-profit sector. This is a long-term effort, but they are moving the needle on a number of measures of educational success. It is important to note that some of the most dramatic improvements are being made in low-income school districts.

Again, we hope and believe that those improvements can be transformative, both for individual students and for their communities.

As we look ahead to our Silver Jubilee -- our 25th anniversary which we will celebrate during the 2019-20 academic year – these initiatives show how we are becoming more instrumental in the life of our region.

At the same time, the core of our mission remains unchanged – providing an accessible and rigorous education to the students in our classrooms.

There is progress to note in this area as well. Along with our colleagues around the CSU, we are having a real impact on student success through our Graduation Initiative 2025.

Our graduation rates, both for students who join us as freshmen and for transfer students, continue to improve. In most measures, we are already closing in on our 2025 targets.

For example, our six-year graduation rate for incoming freshmen has reached 59.3 percent; the 2025 goal that the CSU established for our campus is 63 percent. Similarly, we are within 4 percent of our 2025 goal for both the four-year and six-year graduation rates for transfer students.

We have further to go on improving our four-year graduation rate for freshmen and for closing the attainment gap for underrepresented minority students, but we are making progress.

In fact, CSUMB is one of only two CSU campuses to get a green light for progress on all six measures of graduation rates.

I think that is worthy of some applause.

The statistics reflect the stories of individual students who are coming to CSUMB, succeeding and going out to help build stronger communities around our state and nation.

And their success, in turn, helps CSUMB succeed.

We saw that play out earlier this year in the discussions in our State Capitol about the CSU’s budget. As you probably recall, Gov. Jerry Brown’s original budget for the upcoming fiscal year funded only a fraction of the CSU request.

However, thanks to the CSU’s lobbying effort, California’s legislators heard plenty of personal stories of student success, along with plenty of supporting data. Without question, we are doing a better job graduating students. And those students aren’t just data points; they are a diverse group of future leaders who can testify to the benefits of a CSU education.

In the end, we received funding to continue to expand the Graduation Initiative and to support the hiring of more tenure-track teachers. The budget also provided a modest increase in our base funding and will help pay for increased costs of compensation and benefits.

What the budget will not do, at least for this academic year, is allow us to grow our in-state enrollment. Any immediate enrollment increases will come through out-of-state and international students – who pay the full cost of their educations – and through our self-support programs.

We hope, however, as our financial situation continues to improve and we continue to chip away at our budget deficit, we will be able to offer more opportunities for in-state students in the near future.

With that in mind, we continue to prepare to serve a growing student body. The past academic year was unique in that we held two groundbreaking ceremonies. The first was for Academic III, our new home for much of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. The second was for our new Otter Student Union.

Next year at this time, we will be moving into Academic III, which will include classrooms, language learning and Cinematic Arts labs, an amphitheater, an art gallery, and a 200-seat film classroom, along with department and faculty offices. At last, Ilene and her team will have much of the college under one roof.

Congratulations to them on that. I know it has been a long time coming.

The new Otter Student Union will offer vastly expanded space for student activities and leadership development. It represents another vital step toward better meeting the diverse needs of all our students.

Along those same lines, the new academic year will see new leaders in two key roles that directly serve students. Leslie Williams is our new associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students. Leslie was previously dean of students at the University of Northern Iowa, and also has served in student affairs leadership roles at universities in Rhode Island, Georgia and Tennessee.

Brian Corpening is our new chief diversity officer and will oversee our Office of Inclusive Excellence. He comes to us from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, but he has deep roots in this area; he is part of a military family that was stationed on the Monterey Peninsula. As we continue work on our university strategic plan, his input will be invaluable in making sure it is both an inclusive and comprehensive document.

I am certain both he and Leslie will be great additions to the university and will make a real difference in the lives of our students.

Looking back on other highlights of the past academic year:

  • We held three Commencement ceremonies, serving a record number of more than 2,300 graduates. I greatly appreciate the planning and hard work that went into this expansion of our Commencement ceremonies. It helped make this event even more special for our graduates and their friends and family members who were able to attend.
  • CSUMB joined with the Monterey Jazz festival to launch an educational partnership that will allow our students, faculty and staff to enjoy a variety of jazz performance and educational activities.
  • University Personnel – that’s UP for short – helped us restart the annual President’s Award, which are presented at our annual Faculty and Staff Appreciation Breakfast in January. UP also completed the consolidation of all student employee functions within their office, which should make for a more efficient administration of that important aspect of student life.
  • We continued to make progress on the important issue of tenure density. In Fall 2017, we reached 50.8% in tenure density, as calculated by the chancellor’s office, a number that is up from 44.2 percent in 2016. The Provost will be leading the campus conversation on a tenure density plan with the Faculty Affairs Committee of the Faculty Senate, deans, and others, as we seek to make additional progress.
  • A number of our faculty members earned recognition within their fields. They include two of our professors in marine science -- Cheryl Logan who received a Fulbright Award to support her coral reef research off the Galapagos Islands and her colleague Corey Garza who was elected to the National Board of Directors of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science.
  • Danielle Burchett in Psychology received a newly established faculty award organized through Academic Senate for excellence in Discovery, Creation, Integration
  • Silvia Turchin and Meghan O'Donnell from Cinematic Arts and Technology participated in the Pixar Education Summit for Story Development at Pixar Animation Studios and will be bringing those skills to the classroom as they hope to open a pipeline for our students for internships and employment at Pixar.
  • College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences lecturer Rachelle Escamilla was a visiting scholar at the Library of Congress, Hispanic Division, where her poems were recorded for their "Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape" Collection.
  • In Athletics, our Otter Baseball team won the CCAA championships and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA West Region tournament. Meanwhile, golfer Elis Svard was also a conference champion and advanced to the Division II national tournament.

Our athletes continued to do outstanding jobs in both the classroom and the community as well. Their graduation rate well exceeded both the NCAA Division II and conference averages and they contributed more than 2,000 community service hours – over and above their service learning hours – which placed us in the top 20 of all Division II schools in that category.

On our next Day of Welcome, we will be beginning the celebration of our 25th anniversary, our Silver Jubilee. A few of you have been here since the creation; I was privileged to join you a bit more than six years ago.

When CSUMB was beginning, a UCLA doctoral student named Sharon Sweeney Goldsmith was on campus to chronicle the events for her dissertation.

“This is the story …. about people creating meaning and making sense of new realities as they interact to build a new public university for the twenty-first century,” she wrote.

“The women and men creating California State University, Monterey Bay are engaged in a complex, chaotic, and compelling process as they discover their own invention.”

Well, I hope we are past the chaotic part by now. However, the task before us remains both complex and compelling.

And I believe the sense of discovery and invention that inspired the founders of CSUMB can continue to motivate us as we chart the path ahead.

We have accomplished much. And we have much more to do.

Thanks to all of you for coming today and for the individual ways you make our university a better place.