January 23, 2006

Full text and streaming video of President's Fall address

President opens semester with speech focused on academics

The University’s academic program, and its primary place in the implementation of the Destination 2010 initiative, was the focus of President Alexander Gonzalez’ spring address to the campus community last week.

Gonzalez pointed out that while early Destination 2010 efforts have necessarily focused on the physical aspects of the campus—such as the Recreation, Wellness, Events and Stadium project—providing excellent academic and student programs is the core priority of the initiative.

“Destination 2010 ultimately is about the academic strength of our university. All of its other elements support our academic goals,” he said.

Later, Gonzalez added, “Universities earn reputations as destination campuses because they are strong academically … For all of us—those in the classroom and those who aren’t—supporting the University’s overall academic mission is the top priority.”

Recruitment and retention were among the areas Gonzalez says will receive extra attention.

Unlike years past, Sacramento State is facing enrollment challenges, an issue that needs a long-term solution rather than a short-term fix, he said. “Over the past three years, our enrollment has actually not grown as projected and our student retention rate has remained below average for the system,” Gonzalez said. “The goal of Destination 2010 is to get us out of the year-to-year ad hoc responses. We spend too much time and energy merely reacting. We need room to breathe.”

He then outlined some of the preparations that have gone on around campus to establish University priorities. For example, Academic Affairs has developed a new Academic Strategic Plan which includes improving recruitment by working with high schools on early assessment to improve college entry-level skills. Teams of deans and outreach staff will visit middle schools, high schools and community colleges.

“We will recruit not by waiting for students to find us, but by letting them know that they have an exceptional university right in their own backyard,” Gonzalez said.

There are also plans underway to improve advising, technology, opportunities for leadership and experiential learning, and career planning. The Faculty Senate is beginning a review of the general education program, he said.

He also noted how the academic program is being enhanced by developing community support, announcing a $250,000 gift from the Rumsey Community Fund to the Native American Studies program for scholarships and program support. He also cited the $1.5 million in funds for the Science and Space Center secured by Congresswoman Doris Matsui and her late husband Congressman Robert Matsui, as well as the $2 million gift from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation for the field house. The Broad family had previously committed 300 acres for the planned Placer Campus.

The community benefits from a strong academic program as well he said, highlighting some of the many programs that have University faculty providing expertise in the region on such issues as the environment, economic analysis and leadership training. And students benefit from the University’s continued emphasis on excellent teaching.

He added that to foster excellence within the academic program, the campus must make recruiting and retaining top teacher-scholars a priority. “To continue strengthening our academic programs, we have to make it easier for these new faculty members to move to Sacramento, and then we have to provide them with the professional development and mentoring to ensure they are successful.”

Among the issues he says must be addressed are workload—to ensure faculty have time to work one-on-one with students—and compensation for both new and continuing faculty. He also said that faculty members need opportunities to conduct research and projects in their fields.

The continued need to broaden the diversity of the faculty was also emphasized. “We have to make sure that we are recruiting a faculty that reflects California,” he said. “This is not only an issue of fairness, but one of educational quality. We’re preparing our students to live and work in the nation’s most diverse and dynamic state.”

Full text and streaming video of the President's Fall address


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