by Dianne F. Harrison, Ph.D., CSUMB President
September 15, 2006
At my Welcome Address last month, I told you about my husband, John Wujack. How we were 12-year-olds in love as only 12-year-olds can be, how we were separated at age 14, and how we reunited four decades later and got married this past April first!
Today, I'd like to begin by telling you about another member of my immediate family-my daughter Melissa. Two weeks ago, Melissa came out to visit me here for the first time since I came to CSUMB and we had a wonderful time exploring the area together. I'm very proud of her. She competed in soccer as a student-athlete at the University of Alabama. She graduated with distinction in 2004 with her degree in Finance, then went on to earn her M.B.A. at Florida State. She has now landed her dream job, and my dream that she have a job, combining her love for athletics and business working in the travel and insurance division at the NCAA national office in Indianapolis. She's very happy.
During my 30-year career in higher education, I have had the privilege of being part of numerous success stories. I have mentored dozens of top graduate students. I have developed academic programs that created opportunities for hundreds. I have been an administrator for a university that graduated thousands annually. I've helped raise millions of dollars for programs, buildings, and scholarships.
I've been part of countless stories. Among all of them though, I'm most proud of playing a role in my daughter's story of success. I'm sure those of you with children feel the same way. Whether they're launching careers like my daughter, just finishing high school and starting college like Marsha Moroh's daughters Sonia and Osha, Chris Hasegawa's son Matthew, and Steve Reed's son Brooks, or just getting their feet wet in grade school like my executive assistant April Lee's sons Jordan and Michael-no matter what we do or who we touch in our jobs, few things compare to what we feel about the success of our children.
Today, we have nearly 4,000 students on our campus whose parents feel exactly the same way. They have entrusted us with daughters and sons who mean the world to them. Unlike us, many of these parents have no experience with higher education. They work in corporate offices, agricultural fields, warehouses, and hotel rooms, rather than in academic offices, sports fields, laboratories, and classrooms. Many did not go to college, and have worked all of their lives hoping that their children could. Now the children of those hard-working parents are here, and we owe it to them to deliver the very best in return. Simply put, we have a responsibility to the thousands of parents who have put their children in our hands, and-in the case of our adult learners-to the children who have put their parents in our hands, and-in all cases-to the students themselves whether taking on the challenge of college with family support or doing it on their own. We have a responsibility to all of them to be committed to the success of every student. I want to repeat that. We have a responsibility to be committed to the success of every student. I am. And I challenge each of you to demonstrate that commitment, too, in every transaction amongst us.
Today, I want to talk to you about that responsibility. First, I'd like to briefly remind you of the many achievements of CSUMB that I covered in my Day of Welcome remarks three weeks ago. Second, I will challenge you with several areas that we must address in order to expand our commitment to the success of every student, and I will offer some clear initial direction for tackling them. Finally, here at the start of my presidency and the beginning of our relationship as colleagues, I will talk about the process of working together to make positive change happen for this university so that we can consistently deliver on our commitment to the success of every student.
As I begin with our many achievements, let me repeat some of what I said in my Day of Welcome presentation.
In my Welcome, I talked about the recognition that CSUMB has received from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation team for our scholarship; from USA Today for our unshakable focus on student learning; from U.S. News and Princeton Review for service learning; from our own students on the National Survey of Student Engagement for student-faculty interaction; from Intel as a top-50 wireless campus; from The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education for service to Hispanic students; and from the Washington Monthly for "being good by doing good." I talked about our world-class faculty that includes award winners, researchers who involve our undergraduates in important hands-on field work, and committed classroom educators. I told the stories of several successful alumni. I talked about current students achieving great things. I talked about our strong ties to our community, and I noted significant accomplishments for every division. This inventory of excellence within our college community proves that we have what it takes to be a leader in teaching and learning, and to provide for our students the academic inspiration and rigor necessary for their success. All of you who have been here-whether a few months, a few years, or the entire history of this university-have done an amazing job! You should be very proud.
If you missed my Welcome address and this listing of accomplishments by our university, faculty, alumni, students, and staff, I encourage you to check out the CSUMB.EDU/success website where these, and many more, have been noted. In fact, you all might want to keep an eye on that site to track future stories of success.
Since my arrival, I have been spending more than half of my time learning about CSUMB from students, staff, faculty, alumni, and external community members including parents of current and prospective students. Through those encounters, in the few weeks since my Welcome presentation, I've come across so many more success stories that I couldn't hope to cover them here this afternoon.
Many of you have shared additional success stories from your own areas. I've gotten reports on many more faculty achievements. I've also received long lists of successful alumni stories, and it seems that I meet successful alums everywhere I go in the community. For example, while meeting with Service Learning community partners in Salinas, I met Anabelle Rodriguez who graduated from CSUMB, worked in our Early Outreach programs, and now works for Healthy Start. I also met Mukhtar Amir, who wrote a business plan for Amir's Kabob Restaurant as his Capstone project. He now owns and operates that restaurant at 794 Lighthouse in New Monterey, serving great flavor-rich Afghani food that earned a Best of the Best rating from the Monterey Herald in the Delicious Surprises category. And Amir's does accept Visa and MasterCard. And you really should go. He's about to celebrate his one year anniversary in business. I can't tell you how proud I was having dinner with Provost Marsha Moroh and Gary Richard from the Chancellor's Office there.
I've talked to countless current students and parents who absolutely love this university. I encountered many of them during Otter Dayz, our expanded orientation and move-in effort, which, by the way, displayed your tremendous commitment to the success of every student as so many of you hauled boxes, gave directions, oriented students, consoled parents, and did whatever else it took to get the year started right. Please give yourselves and each other a round of applause for that effort . It was outstanding.
As I met them during the move-in days, parents of freshmen talked about things like small class sizes and big residence hall rooms, while the parents of older students seemed to always have a story to tell about a great faculty member or staff member. Clearly, you are making a difference one student at a time!
Challenges and Direction
We have much to be proud about! Yet, we cannot rest on these laurels. As I've been out learning about the achievements, I've also heard some recurring themes about areas that need attention. I want to now challenge you with a few of the most significant and offer some initial direction toward tackling them and achieving excellence in those areas, too.
Before I get to the specifics, however, let me frame the overall direction that I would like for us to take.
First, we need to retain the core values of the CSUMB Vision Statement. In Student Success in College: Creating Conditions That Matter, researcher George Kuh and his associates outline several conditions for educational effectiveness. Among them is the call for a "living mission and lived educational philosophy." We have both a clear mission and a Vision that spells out our philosophy. To deliver on our commitment to the success of every student though, we have to live our mission and aspire to our Vision every day. These are not rhetorical weapons to wield with little forethought, rather a set of aspirational values and goals that should shape our daily practices.
Second, I am committed to maximizing the quality of every program; enhancing the campus environment and experience for every member of our campus community; marshalling the resources necessary to succeed in the important things we do; and, most importantly, ensuring the success of every student. As a community, together, we need to be committed not only to access but to success-the capacity of our students to achieve their academic and life goals.
Finally, third, I plan to be responsive to all constituents-students, faculty, staff, funders, the community, the Chancellor's Office, the CSU Board of Trustees, and the State of California. I have an obligation to do that.
So, with this framework to guide us, let me present the challenges and some specifics on the initial direction that I propose to take. Our first challenge is:
How do we want to handle the disruption of all of the construction that will be going on here over the next few years? Will we complain about the inconveniences, or will we get excited about the end results? Will we help build the community support needed to fund the new library and the rest of the Master Plan, or will we question the priorities that have been set?
Personally, I plan to hide my heels and wear construction-friendly footwear. More importantly, as CSUMB President, I plan to look at each step in campus development as something to celebrate-whether an underground cable, a ground-breaking, breaking news on road closures, or completion of this fall's signage project. Note, that celebration will come no later than December 1-so, Niraj and Mehul, no pressure! Now everyone knows that date! I plan to work together with University Development, the President's Council, and members of our community to secure the private contributions that we need to achieve our fundraising goal for the Tanimura & Antle Family Memorial Library. And I plan to do everything I can to create a welcoming, enriching environment for our students, our community members, and ourselves. I ask you to join me in taking this positive direction about construction.
Dealing positively with growth and development directly impacts our second major challenge:
How do we plan to grow our enrollment? We have struggled to meet our recruitment targets as growth has slowed, and retention has been problematic. Aside from the challenge of increasing the number of students who matriculate, I believe we are having trouble passing the mirror test, in some instances, when it comes to serving them, retaining them, and ensuring their success. We are taking checks from students and parents, many with meager means, and too many of them leave before finishing. Can we look in the mirror and say that's okay? We've been looking seriously at this, and I'm confident that, together, we can meet our targets for recruitment and retention. Recruitment and retention should become leading indicators of the success of our unique approach to academic excellence.
We also face financial realities related to enrollment. With state allocations based on Fulltime Equivalent Students, enrollment impacts our base budget. It also determines Foundation revenues from bed spaces. When we don't make our enrollment targets, the quality of our overall efforts suffers because we have less money to spend on the delivery of academic programs and campus services. The bottom line is this, we must meet our enrollment targets in order to have the financial resources necessary to deliver on our commitment to the success of every student enrolled.
Pure numbers are not enough. Our enrollment strategies are targeted to achieve our desired mix in terms of commuters and residents; Tri-County, California, and international students; diversity; and academic achievement.
Last year the Division of Student Affairs contracted with Stamats, a firm specializing in higher education marketing research and communications, to do a study on what is important to our current and prospective students. Learning from and acting upon the Stamats research, numerous other surveys, and overwhelming anecdotal evidence gathered from students and others, the direction that I propose to ensure that we meet all of our enrollment targets in the future starts with focusing outwards on what is important to students. To me, that is being student-centered and learning-centered.
The Stamats research indicates that we need to better demonstrate the success of our alumni; position our faculty as mentors and experts; and take advantage of our amazing location while expanding beyond it. We have already begun doing this as evidenced by the CSUMB.EDU/success website that I mentioned earlier.
The Stamats data also indicate that we need to do a better job of translating our majors into fields and career paths that students and families understand. This raises another challenge: Who do we want to enroll here at CSUMB? In our Vision we talk about serving students from historically underserved communities. Then we communicate in terms that only those of us on the inside of education can understand. If we want to attract students from underserved backgrounds, I believe we had better figure out how to communicate what we teach in ways that speak to them. Research shows that students from low-income households, and their parents, want to know that the investment of their limited time and money in college will get them real jobs that pay real money that is really better than what the parents have known in the fields and the warehouses and the kitchens where they work. We had better speak in those terms. We shouldn't need a code book to relate what we teach to what students want to learn. We need to speak clearly and from the heart. From the heart of what we do academically. If we don't we will not attract the students who we most want to serve. It's a matter of respect for them. For us, it's a matter of mission.
This does not mean that we have to abandon our commitments to liberal arts, interdisciplinarity, service, or any other part of the Vision and mission of this institution. It does mean that we need to lead with what speaks broadly to students to attract them to CSUMB so that we can then deliver these important elements of our academic model. To see how this works, we need look no further than our own Business Administration bachelor's program. Once known as Management and International Entrepreneurship, this program lingered in the middle of our majors as far as enrollment was concerned. The School of Business faculty changed the name and enrollment rose. Now Business Administration is our largest major. The School of Business still teaches entrepreneurship, international perspectives, ethics, and service. The core philosophy of the curriculum did not change. The difference is that we now have a major name that allows us to directly compete with all of the other CSUs to draw students interested in Business so that we can teach them what we believe will most enrich their lives and career opportunities.
Beyond acting on the data, I believe the second step toward meeting our enrollment targets is to establish CSUMB as a campus of choice within the CSU system. We should be a destination campus. The first choice for many. I believe we can attain that status by focusing on these factors that set us apart:
- Our small overall size and small class sizes
- Our distinction as a community campus rather than a commuter campus
- Our academic innovation
- Requiring language, service, and interdisciplinary studies
- Our nationally recognized programs such as Earth Systems Science & Policy and Service Learning
- Our strong partnerships among faculty, students, and the community
- The real-world, hands-on experience gained by students in our outcomes-based model
- The ethnic and economic diversity that expands our campus dialogue
- And our great people
We have lots of strengths to build on. To succeed in consistently meeting our future enrollment targets, we also have to address the next area of challenge:
When it comes to academic planning, the challenges are numerous.
How are we going to get our distinctive and rich academic model to align with the state funding model? I know some of you will say, "change the state funding model." That's out of our control, and we need to accept that, or at least acknowledge that it probably won't happen in our lifetimes. We have to be more creative and work smarter.
Are we willing to change the timing of classes to include more evenings and weekends in order to meet the needs of part-time students and adult learners? Will we take the time and make the commitment of expertise to launch new programs that do respond to the interests expressed by prospective students? And, are we willing to reevaluate and adapt what we already offer when it is not connecting to students or when there are too many majors and not enough faculty members. Can we be less turf-oriented in our thinking? Are we willing to make tough decisions?
To tackle these challenges, I plan to lead CSUMB in the following direction. First, we must be diligent in our awareness of what students want. Our decisions around academic programming and scheduling must be data driven. We need to feed, shape, and perhaps prune existing programs, while also carefully considering adding new ones. We must consistently monitor the quality and challenge of our curriculum, clearly tracking outcomes and demonstrating student achievement of University Learning Requirements and Major Learning Outcomes. We need to provide good advising from the first day a student arrives on campus until the day they graduate. We must maintain high standards for our students so that their degrees are significant and meaningful.
In all of this, I plan to entrust our faculty-an extremely bright and creative group of academic experts-to provide the necessary leadership and hard work to come up with real solutions.
Our ability to effectively implement an academic plan through faculty leadership hinges on addressing the next challenge:
Faculty and Staff Retention
What will it take to keep you all here to build the promising future of our university? Turnover in our faculty ranks undermines efforts to thoughtfully develop the curriculum. But employee retention is not just a faculty concern. We also lose far too many staff members. We know why-several years of tough budgets and small pay raises, and an overheated housing market that makes it almost impossible to live here on state salaries. These causes are bigger than CSUMB. But we can do things to make a difference. Finding solutions and pushing us forward on them is part of the direction that I will provide toward dealing with faculty and staff retention. I intend to explore campus budget models that will enrich and better support our valued faculty and staff. Though the construction climate and costs have made the proposed North Campus Housing project that you are all aware of much more challenging, I am desperately pursuing all options to push it forward to give you more choices when it comes to your housing. Other steps that I plan for addressing staff retention include building a positive workplace, enhancing staff development, and creating recognition of staff and faculty through additional award programs.
I believe that effectively addressing our next area of challenge will also go a long way toward increasing employee satisfaction, and I know it will positively impact enrollment:
Refining Business Processes
Some of our business processes are slow and cumbersome even by academic standards. It took nearly 10 years to pass a building policy. We were the last CSU to complete the blended curriculum for future teachers to earn a liberal studies degree and teaching credential. We still can't do automated degree checks. In our high-tech paperless society, we continue to swim in forms needing multiple signatures and paper copies of everything from travel vouchers to student petitions. Bottom line, we have processes in place that are not always student or employee friendly. Are we satisfied with that?
I'm not. The first part of my strategy for refining our business processes is to wholly embrace the concept of change. We must stop resisting improvement in systems based on the argument that things are the way they have to be. We need to tackle the problem areas one at a time, and I call on you to work together to create better processes that put the success of every student at the forefront. We do have the benefit of looking at best practices already in existence at our sister CSU campuses and other institutions, and we should take advantage of that.
Working Together Toward Positive Change
As you can see, we have several challenges before us, and they all seem to interrelate as pieces of the puzzle to stepping fully into our greatness as a university. As we tackle all of these challenges, I believe we are on the cusp of great change and I am absolutely committed to making positive change happen. I know that change can be anxiety producing. A change in president alone elicits a variety of responses. At a recent national academy for new presidents that I attended, a presenter talked about three levels of response to leadership transition. First, there are some who don't want to let go of the past. Then there are some sitting in the neutral zone waiting to assess the new leader and decide. Finally, there are those ready to immediately jump on board and get rolling.
I want to acknowledge that some of you may still be in those first two groups. I respect that. Regardless of where each of you stands though, I would like to establish the element of mutual trust. It's a two-way street.
I've learned that poor communication has been a huge cause of lack of trust on this campus in the past. I plan to correct that by insisting on clear and transparent processes with both vertical and horizontal communication. Toward that end, I have expanded my Cabinet to include the deans and the academic senate chair in addition to the vice presidents and chief officers, and I have challenged the members of this expanded Cabinet to be personally responsible for helping to improve communication throughout their respective units. Also in the interest of better communication, I have proposed a retreat and lunches with the faculty, as well as breakfasts with staff members and regular meetings with various student groups.
When it comes to communicating with me, I want you to know what works best. It seems that, from past experiences either here or elsewhere, some folks on our campus think that the only way to communicate with the president is to wield a large 2x4. That's not me. If you want my attention, spare the big lumber and prod me with a toothpick. I will pay attention. I value your input, and, when possible, I will consider all of it before making decisions.
But I will not shy away from making tough decisions. I did not come here to be a leader who offers no leadership. I will always respond when immediate need arises. I recently did that with the closure of the Child Development Center. I would have preferred to form a task force in advance of that decision, but the luxury of time was not available. I had to act. In hindsight, although I've learned some valuable lessons about our communication processes on campus, I would make the very same decision again.
I also plan to act as boldly as I can to move us forward as opportunities arise-to generate positive energy and enthusiasm for this university. I will tell you what I have been telling outside groups. We live in a fabulous area that has a reputation for providing the best. We have the best golf courses, the best hotels, the best restaurants (Amir's Kabob), the best produce, the best natural areas for hiking, and biking, and kayaking… There's no reason we shouldn't have the best California State University, too! We will never be the biggest. We don't want to be the biggest. We can be the best!
Toward that end, I ask you to join me in a positive commitment to change that will impact our daily work environment and improve the lives of students.
As we embrace change, I propose the following guiding principles:
- No idea is a bad idea, and no one should fear expressing an opinion.
- Opinions should not get in the way of progress. They should be articulated, and then we make decisions.
- Every decision must be considered through the lens of our being committed to the success of every student.
- We must perfect our valued system of shared governance, respecting each other's roles in the institution and the decision-making process. Shared governance should be a positive force that brings to bear the expertise of those who have it. It should not be used as an obstacle to change and improvement.
- Finally, faculty, staff, students, and administrators must all communicate and act with a deep commitment to civility and mutual respect. This concept has been articulated very nicely in the Social Compact adopted as part of the Constitution of the CSUMB Academic Assembly, and I would like to quote from that:
We recognize… that the quality of our interpersonal relationships makes possible our inclusive, productive, collaborative work. We are committed to working together to nurture and sustain this quality, even under dynamic and often highly challenging circumstances. In all circumstances, we are committed to working together with integrity, respect, caring, and mutual trust…
With these guiding principles in mind, here is how I will commit myself as your president:
- I will be a catalyst-pushing to make CSUMB better, faster, and more efficient.
- I will identify and grow potential in people and programs.
- I will seek and respect your opinions, then make decisions.
- I will make difficult decisions that are in the best interest of our institution, and then I will own those decisions.
- I will communicate openly and respectfully, and be transparent.
- I will tell the story of CSUMB to our community, state, and nation, and work diligently to connect us to our community in meaningful ways.
In return, I would ask these commitments from each of you:
- Do what you do, and do it as best you can.
- Learn more and keep getting better.
- Express your opinions, seek and respect those of others, and then make decisions or support the decisions of others as appropriate.
- Work with me and the Cabinet as a team.
- Commit to the success of every student whose life you touch.
Success happens one student at a time. In conversations with my daughter, Melissa, I've learned that there were lots of people on campus at the University of Alabama who made a real difference for her-one particular professor in her major who took her under her wing, her freshman year RA, her coach, the athletic trainer, a cook in the dining hall, a member of the field maintenance crew. Every one of you has opportunities to touch the lives of students. Please take it seriously every time that you do. Just a few caring words or a helping hand in a time of need can make all the difference.
As we build on the remarkable things that we have already achieved. As we face our challenges head on. As we work together toward positive change. Join me-beginning today-in pledging to make CSU Monterey Bay known as the campus that is committed to the success of every student.
I frequently think about the ways that I can further live this important commitment myself. During one of those thinking moments earlier this week, I thought about something that people have talked to me about since my first week on campus--my inauguration. People kept telling me that I needed to get a date on the Chancellor's calendar. Apparently, presidential inaugurations are steeped in higher education tradition. These are big events, and sometimes extraordinary amounts of money get spent on them. Inaugurations are so important that they had a separate session on them at the national academy for new presidents. Really! Despite this and the fact that we already had a date on the Chancellor's calendar for this spring, I made the decision to forego the separate presidential inauguration in favor of a simple installation at Commencement. Instead, I want to direct the money that we would spend on a separate inauguration event to the Tri-County Vision Scholarship Endowment. It won't be a fortune, but it will change fortunes for students. And that's why I'm here.