By Staff Reports
(Victor Valley)– Convocation, the official launch of the new academic year, is “an occasion where foundation and future converge,” said Tomás D. Morales, Cal State San Bernardino president during his annual address at Coussoulis Arena on Monday morning, Sept. 18.
As for the foundation, the president highlighted the successes of the 2016-17 academic year, which included new highs in fundraising for student success initiatives, improved graduation and student retention rates, and significant progress in the second year of the university’s Five-Year Strategic Plan.
He also welcomed members of CSUSB’s Class of 1967, the Golden Grads, who returned to campus to celebrate their 50th anniversary and reaffirm their ties with their alma mater, while providing the university a direct link to its institutional heritage.
For the future, the university officially unveiled its new identity initiative, “We Define the Future.”
“Those four words explicitly convey this university’s vision, purpose and legacy,” Morales told assembled faculty, staff and administrators gathered at the arena, a few days before the start of the fall quarter on Sept. 21. “It will be embedded in everything we say and do, elevating the identities of the San Bernardino and Palm Desert campuses, firmly establishing this great university as the intellectual, social and economic driver of the Inland Empire and Coachella Valley.”
He also reminded the audience of the university’s over-arching focus. “It’s all about the students,” Morales said. “Everything we do comes down to that common denominator, and it is what truly inspires us and the work we do here.”
The president reflected on the past academic year through the lens of the strategic plan, adopted in 2015 and now in its third year of implementation, and its five goals: student success, faculty and staff success, resource sustainability and expansion, community engagement and partnerships, and identity.
Some of the highlights:
“A good measure of that success can be seen in our improved graduation and persistence rates,” Morales said. “Programs, communications and resources created to support student success are helping them progress toward graduation, with students at all levels completing more units per term. In addition, our student retention rates are moving up.
“Students also need the types of study spaces that provide flexibility,” he said. “I am proud to announce that tomorrow we will go live with our first 24 hour study center, thanks to the advocacy of our ASI leadership and the responsiveness of our colleagues in the Division of Information Technology Services and the Pfau Library.”
The university, Morales said, continues to see an increase in demand for enrollment from the Inland Empire communities it serves. As a result, he said, “With a growing number of students on track for graduation and greater interest in initial enrollment, our identity as a gateway for social and economic growth will continue to rise.”
Faculty and Staff Success
Morales said tenure track density for faculty increased in the 2016-17 academic year, marking progress in one targeted objective in the strategic plan. Also, he said, CSUSB has increased the total number of tenure-track faculty, “the cornerstone of faculty success.”
“I am also excited to introduce a new community of campus advocates,” Morales said. “Today I am proud to formally recognize the inaugural CSUSB Staff Council, dedicated to serving the campus community through the sponsorship and support of programs, services and events, which promote positive communication among staff and enhances staff recognition. Supporting the staff voice in shared governance, Staff Council will seek to facilitate communication and cooperation across the campus on issues of interest and concern to staff.”
The president also highlighted the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, ensuring that faculty and staff reflect the diversity of its students. And the university launched both the Staff Development Center and the Faculty Center for Excellence.
Resource Sustainability and Expansion
A key factor in the university meeting its educational mission and serving as a community resource is developing and augmenting its funding sources, Morales said. “Thanks to the efforts of our faculty and staff in every division on campus, last year we saw an increase in proposals submitted to companies, foundations and government agencies, which resulted in nearly $37 million received.”
He added: “Just this past year alone, our faculty collaborated to bring tens of millions of dollars to this university, supporting a myriad of initiatives that touch the student experience. Ranging from scholarships and research, to funding that supports pre-college programs, we are touching the communities we serve in untold ways, thanks to your great work.”
Morales pointed to the collaboration between University Development and Academic Affairs to secure and support public-private partnerships. “They partnered with the faculty and leadership of our College of Education and with the Riverside and San Bernardino counties offices of education to develop a fourth-year math initiative to better prepare students for college-level math,” he said. “The program targets close to 3,000 high school students in the region, and matching funds were secured from several organizations including Edison International and the Carnegie Foundation.”
Last year, Morales announced the formal start of CSUSB’s $50 million comprehensive campaign focused on programs that directly impact student success. “Today, I am proud to report that we have reached nearly 80 percent of our campaign goal, thanks to the 9.2 million dollars in philanthropic support we received in 2016-17,” he said. “Last year represented the most single six- and seven-figure gifts secured in our fundraising history. The remarkable increases in fundraising productivity over the past two years represent significant progress toward the achievement of the objective outlined in the strategic plan to increase the five-year philanthropic productivity average by 12 percent by the end of 2020.”Other highlights include:
- University Development working with the Jack H. Brown College of Business and Public Administration to acquire support as CSUSB hosts the October CLADEA General Assembly, the largest association of business and public administration schools in Latin America. The assembly will mark the first time a California school has been picked to host the international conference, and only the second time it will be held in the United States.
- A $1 million donation from long-time university friends Chuck and Shelby Obershaw to support students with food and housing insecurities. On Sept. 28, the university will dedicate the Obershaw DEN Food Pantry.
- A $2.2 million estate gift from Mark and Lori Edwards, long-time supporters of the Educational Opportunity Program’s Renaissance Scholars, for scholarships for emancipated foster youth, and $1 million from Robert Carr and the Give Something Back foundation for the same initiative.
Community Engagement and Partnerships
In the past academic year, CSUSB’s Office of Community Engagement has focused on identifying best practices, discussing international engagement opportunities and considering ways to more fully engage faculty and staff in university community outreach efforts. As a result, a new faculty associate was added to the office’s staff to develop new service-learning opportunities, and its expansion will be faculty led, Morales said.
He also noted that the Associated Student Inc., CSUSB’s student government, has created a full-time professional position to support development and enhancement of community engagement opportunities for students. “Last year student clubs and Greek organizations contributed thousands of community service hours coordinated by OCE and the Office of Student Engagement in the Division of Student Affairs,” Morales said.
“And a pilot online system was established to record student volunteer hours, leading to the inaugural CSUSB President’s Volunteer Service Awards,” he added. “We recognized 339 students for their outstanding efforts.”
Morales applauded the collaborative effort to move the university from a quarter schedule to semester schedule.
“Thanks to the cross-divisional faculty and staff who make up the Quarter to Semester team, we have made tremendous strides on areas including General Education and program transformation,” he said. “Originally targeted for implementation in 2019, it was felt more time was needed for the pedagogical aspects of Q2S. Campus leadership agreed with the faculty that an additional year was necessary, and the conversion launch is now slated for 2020.
“We are all indebted to the full Q2S team, which made a number of effective recommendations that will result in a successful conversion,” Morales said. “These and numerous other concerted efforts allow us to continue to provide access to quality education as we remain dedicated to helping our students achieve personal and professional success.”
The president also recognized CSUSB’s role in the California State University’s Graduation Initiative 2025, which seeks to increase graduation rates for all students as well as in a timely manner.
“I am proud to report that CSUSB has realized a clear upward trend in our four- and six-year graduation rates,” Morales said. “While we are focusing on our four-year graduation rate, we must also work to improve time to degree completion for all our students.
“Since fall 2016, our faculty and staff in Academic and Student Affairs have been intentionally focused on improving academic advising and support services relating to the goals of the Graduation Initiative,” he said. “We also dedicated more than $3 million to students through our Summer Assistance and Graduation Grants, helping senior undergraduates who filed for graduation but lacked funds for summer enrollment.”
Students who transfer to CSUSB are also being served through the Graduation Initiative. After attending Transfer SOAR, the orientation session, students receive advising from their college department adviser. And, Morales said, “Beginning this fall, 50 students will participate in the California Promise, a two-year pledge program. They will have additional advising available to them through the Office of Undergraduate Studies to assist them in graduating within that two-year window.”
Morales acknowledge the challenges in the 2016-17 academic year. Yet, he said, “We cannot let these prevent us from advancing our mission and expanding the legacy of this university. Let’s never forget that this is a community of over 22,000 people, all focused on providing and receiving the best educational experience available.
“These are exciting times with tremendous opportunities ahead,” he said. “We must find common ground, believe in each other, truly listen to each other, and focus on expanding this university’s reputation as a prized educational resource and leader.”
And he acknowledged the challenges off campus. “One recent White House decree led to transgender individuals having their rights abridged, their capabilities questioned and their personal choices diminished,” Morales said. “Just days ago, the rescinding of the DACA program affected nearly 800,000 young people nationwide, threatening to drastically alter their futures and jeopardize their chances for a better life.
“Let me be clear,” he said. “We will never turn our back on any of our students, faculty or staff!”
Cal State San Bernardino can navigate through such challenges, Morales, said. “We must renew our commitment to diversity, tolerance and inclusion. We must decide to look after one another, and practice civility and empathy in our interactions. And we must reaffirm our promise, to ourselves and to one another, to be the best that we can be each and every day. It is this, at the core of the mission of our university and from what I have seen at CSUSB, which gives me hope.”