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President's Fall Address
August 27, 2009

Alexander Gonzalez
Sacramento State

Good morning and thank you for being here today.  It’s good to see the campus community gathered together again after a summer filled with uncertainty about the economy and the state budget as well as concern about how our campus would be affected.  The situation has certainly affected all of us.  Nevertheless, I trust you all had a good break, and that you enjoyed extra time with family and friends.  Taking time to rest, relax, recharge and get ready for the coming year is important for all of us.

I also want to welcome all the alumni, community members and friends of the University who have joined us today.  To our guests I want to say that your involvement is critical to this campus, and we truly appreciate your continued interest, support and enthusiasm.

Welcome, all of you, to the start of the fall semester and a new school year.  Despite the difficult issues we are confronting, we still have an exciting and promising year ahead of us.  As I said last year, we have to remember that we share a commitment to the success of our students — a simple but powerful fact that motivates and brings us together.  It guides our work as we serve our students and strive to make this campus a premier metropolitan university.

Before I continue, I want to welcome our freshmen class of faculty that numbers twenty-eight this year.  They are joining our various colleges and they come from universities locally and across the nation.  Any of you who are here today, please stand so we can recognize you with a warm Sacramento State welcome.
I know we also have a few new staff members who have joined our community recently.  Those of you here today who joined us during the spring or summer, would you please stand?  Again, welcome.

We have new people in leadership positions as well.  In the College of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies the new dean, Charles Gossett is beginning his tenure this fall.  In Student Affairs, Michael Speros has joined us as the Director of Housing.  He is taking over for Cynthia Cockrill who retired recently.  Alysson Satterlund is the new director of Student Activities, the Women’s Resource Center and PRIDE.

And, at University Enterprises, Inc., Jim Reinhart is now Executive Director after having served as associate director at SLO for several years.  Welcome to all of you.

Please, let’s provide a warm welcome and congratulations to our new colleagues.

Today marks the beginning of Sac State’s sixty-second year of operation and my seventh year as president.  While this is another milestone for the campus, this year also marks the advent of 2010.  That means of course that Destination 2010 is coming to fruition.  We will be evaluating where we have come in reaching the goals of this initiative and assess where we need to be in the future.  This morning while providing you with updates and information, I would also like to emphasize the need to stay focused and continue planning for Sac State’s future.  First, however, let me focus on the present.

Let me begin with the most obvious issue on everyone’s mind: the budget.  I’m sure most of you followed the state budget process during the summer and watched as the Legislature and Governor went back and forth until there was finally a resolution to the gridlock.  I wish I could say that the outcome was positive, but all of us know that it was not.  In fact, the condition of the state’s economy, and more specifically higher education, is the worst it has been in decades.

The California State University’s share of the State General Fund revenue has hovered around 3 percent over the past decade.  It is now at 1.8 percent.  I think we all agree that from a public policy standpoint, cuts like that jeopardize the future of our state, both in terms of its intellectual capital, and economic and social progress.

I’m not going to present a detailed version of the state budget this morning, but I do want to explain what the final reductions were and how they will impact our campus.  To begin, as part of the current state budget agreement for 2009-10, the Legislature and governor reduced the allocation to the CSU system by about $600 million.  However, during the past academic year the CSU also took two reductions totaling nearly $100 million.  Therefore, the actual total reduction for the CSU was about $700 million.  The net result was that our campus took a one-time reduction of $1.8 million and then another reduction midyear of almost $4 million from the campus baseline allocation for 2008-09.  We handled both these reductions centrally.

For this year, 2009-10, the difference between what we had developed as our operating budget and our actual resources, left us with a projected baseline deficit of $30.3 million.  However, because of the furloughs we are taking this year, we reduced this deficit by $16 million.  By utilizing $5 million in carryover funds held centrally, we were able to reduce the deficit to $9.3 million.  As the bottom line, what this translates into for the campus and the different units is a reduction to the base budget of 6.31 percent.

I have to say that given the size of the cuts at the system level, as a campus we are in a relatively better position this year because we managed our budget and enrollment well and managed to close our past budget gap.

In years past, when we did not meet enrollment targets, the difference in our allocation and unrealized student fees created a budget gap; or put simply, the difference between our operating budget and our revenue.  But, I’m glad to say that we eliminated that gap thanks to the University Budget Advisory Committee’s good work and all the people involved with enrollment management in Student Affairs and Academic Affairs.

Their aggressive work in outreach, advising and retention has paid off for us.  The campus has been right on target for the last two years, and I’m confident that we’ll be on target again this year and will be able to manage our budget accordingly.

If you recall, UBAC developed a process for reviewing and developing budget recommendations.  During the past year, they continued to review each division’s budget and examined the allocation and expenditures of the entire university.  As a result, they were able to submit to me a set of recommendations that took into account the various units on campus and the environment in which we will be operating this year.  I’m pleased to say that what I have presented to you this morning is my endorsement of UBAC’s recommendations, and I will be implementing them this year.  In fact, the materials I utilized as part of the presentation at the Town Hall held in early August are available on the web, along with more information about the budget and what it means to our campus.

None of this would have been possible without great work and cooperation by UBAC, our Budget Office and every division on campus.

However, when I say we are in relatively better shape, I don’t want to paint too rosy a picture.  The CSU Trustees were forced to increase student fees twice this year.  And at this point, the next academic year, 2010-11, is shaping up to be even worse.  The system will be reducing its enrollment by 40,000 students.  That will mean 3,000 fewer students at Sac State.  Consequently, our budget for next year will also be reduced.  In addition, the federal stimulus money that was available to the CSU this year will not be there next year.  Nevertheless, the budget process is a political one, and when you have seen it up close for so many years as I have, anything can happen.

I don’t have to say that these are trying economic times.  However, while difficult, we will meet our goals and still provide the best educational experience we can for our students.  We will be able to operate most effectively by working together and providing the campus community with as much information about the budget, the necessary reductions, as well as how we will deal with them.  I’m confident that you will join with me in meeting the exigencies that we will face as a result of this terrible budget.  I ask that you remember that the economy and its effects on the campus are cyclical.  Keep in mind that we will come out of this down cycle and when we do, we will be prepared and ready to continue to move forward.

Now let me shift to a more positive focus.  There are many things happening at Sacramento State that we can feel good about.  I’m pleased to announce that University Advancement met its fundraising goal for last year by raising nearly $17M.  This is the third year in a row that the campus has met its goal set by the Board of Trustees.  The Annual Fund did well by providing much-needed non-state resources to our colleges, but the majority of the resources raised will have a direct impact on our students since it is for student scholarships. 

While on the subject of student aid, we had another record fall disbursement in Financial Aid over this past weekend.  Last fall we set a “then-record” when we disbursed $35M during this same weekend time frame.  This year, despite furloughs, a change from indirect to direct lending, and three re-packages per student due to fee increases, Craig Yamamoto’s team disbursed just short of $46 million this weekend.  That represents a 30% increase during these very challenging times.

Related to the budget of course is enrollment.  I’m happy to say that this year’s enrollment is right on target.  Despite what you’ve heard and read about the system, our campus admission goals are being met and our student retention numbers have improved.  Because we closed spring admissions, our strategy is to over enroll slightly in the fall in order to achieve our annualized enrollment target.  Again, I’m confident that we will achieve our goal.

In Academic Affairs and other areas of the university there has been much activity as well. 

This past spring, WASC visited us for our reaccreditation review.  I think you all know that we were given a very positive report.  The Visiting team was especially complimentary regarding our assessment efforts and the way the campus had focused on transparency and cooperation.  This was a full campus effort, and everyone's participation was critical to our success.  Thank you.

Another significant accomplishment is IRT’s completion of its Strategic Plan, which includes classroom upgrades and enhanced learning spaces.  Specifically, it calls for significant enhancement of the learning spaces in AIRC, such as expanded furnishings for studying, more laptops for loan, and more outlets for student laptops, as well as a campus-wide expansion of wireless network connectivity.

Regarding classroom upgrades, last year, five new classrooms were added to the pool, while five more were upgraded with teaching technology.  Over the summer, twenty classrooms were upgraded, including most of the larger classrooms on campus.  Plans exist to upgrade another half-dozen classrooms over the coming year, plus the creation of a new lecture hall and a collaborative classroom in Del Norte.

There are also new classrooms and computer labs planned for the former CalSTRS building.  To me, the most significant aspect of the classroom upgrades has been the truly collaborative cross-division effort among Academic Affairs, IRT and ABA.

Finally, there are two other IT works in progress that I’d like to mention:

  • We are developing a comprehensive data warehouse along with a new Data Services group that will allow for comprehensive self-use reports for enrollment and finance data.  This will enhance “evidence-based decision-making.”
  • And on the more technical side, we are developing a comprehensive virtualized server and storage environment in AIRC (available to anyone).  It will reduce the cost of purchasing servers and storage by a factor of 4, as well as reduce energy costs by up to 65 percent.

 

I am also pleased to announce the 2008-09 Collegiate Learning Assessment Program results for Sac State.  We did very well for both freshmen and graduating seniors, demonstrating that we significantly add value to the education we provide our students by the time they graduate.  Specifically the difference between entering freshmen and graduating seniors is higher than 69 percent of comparison institutions nationwide.  Our entering freshmen performed higher than 88 percent of comparison institutions while our graduating seniors

performed higher than 95 percent of comparison institutions.  Because we used a stronger probability sampling methodology this year, we can have greater confidence in the CLA results.

The Provost has mentioned to me numerous times how proud he is of the scholarly and creative work being done by our faculty.  He has good reason.

The College of Natural Sciences, for example, has been very successful recently in pursuit of external funding, including NSF awards totaling nearly $1.7 million and a $1.3 million award for the “Bridges to Stem Cell Research” project.  Congratulations to Professors Katherine McReynolds, Brad Baker, Tom Peavy, Jim Baxter, and many others for their success.

Professors Ted Krovetz from Computer Science and Ben Fell from Civil Engineering also received NSF funding – Ted’s award is in Cyber Security and Ben’s is in Earthquake Engineering.

Deidre Sessoms of the College of Education teamed with Jennifer Lundmark of NSM to receive $75,000 in federal Noyce Teaching Fellowship funding for Math and Science Teacher programming.

Our congratulations similarly go to faculty members such as the Department of Theatre and Dance’s Melinda Wilson and Linda Goodrich for direction and performance in major local theatre productions.

Congratulations also to Arts and Letters Dean Jeff Mason whose book, Stone Tower: The Political Theatre of Arthur Miller, was released by the University of Michigan Press.  He joins a number of recent authors in that College, such as History’s Afshin Marashi and Aaron Cohen.

The Department of Government’s Mark Brown will see his new book, Science and Democracy, released in October by MIT Press.  He joins many other SSIS authors such as James Raye and Tim Fong.

John Wiley & Sons recently published The Zen of Helping, by Andrew Bein of the Division of Social Work.  And 2009 saw Professor David Rolloff and Department of Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Administration colleagues complete a $600,000 funded survey of visitors to California State Parks.

And you have probably noticed the influential regional economic forecasts in the Sacramento Business Review by Dean Sanjay Varshney and faculty members from the College of Business Administration –  Hao Lin, Sudhir Thakur, Denver Travis, and Yang Sun. 

Dr. Lin and Dean Varshney also had an article published in the highly rated Financial Analyst Journal.

In short, people often fail to realize just how talented our faculty is and how much expertise its members bring to our students.  And I’ve named only a few.  I want you all to know that I too am proud of the attention you bring to Sacramento State.

These are just some examples of the fine work we do here.

I know that as you walk around campus you can see the continued physical changes that are taking place.  Let me give you a quick update on those as well.

To begin, I think everyone is aware that the Recreation and Wellness Center is well under way.  It is projected to be on time and within budget, and the official grand opening will be in September of 2010.  I’m sure this will be an event like no other. 

Except for a few finishing touches to the landscaping and grounds, the new student housing project is complete and ready for students to move in tomorrow.  Not only was the 606-bed suite facility built on schedule, but under budget as well.  It is aptly named “American River Courtyard” and will feature a green quad-like space for barbequing, outdoor recreating, and just hanging out.  It is a very exciting project that will help us better serve our students and the region.

In fact, by special arrangement, Student Affairs and the University Union will offer tours of both facilities right after the address this morning.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to see them, I urge you to take advantage and see for yourselves what wonderful facilities we’re adding to the campus.

Since University Enterprises moved into their new home on the third floor of the Hornet Bookstore, the renovation of Del Norte Hall will begin soon and will include the development of a large classroom on the first floor.  Human Resources will move to the third floor.  By the time this space is finished and being used by students and staff, we’re all going to forget that Del Norte used to be called the Old Bookstore.

This year we will also be busy with preparations for the actual move to the CalSTRS building.  Nursing along with Speech Pathology and Audiology will be occupying a portion of the building while the rest will be leased to an off-campus entity.  Not only will these programs get expanded new facilities, but also the clinics they offer will be more accessible to the public, and we will be much better able to serve some of our community’s most vulnerable citizens.  In addition, Science Two is still in play and we continue to move it forward.

On the governmental relations front, there are some positive developments.  I want you to know that we have a great friend and ally in Congresswoman Doris Matsui.  She has been working on our behalf to secure federal funds for our various needs.

In late July, she announced that the House of Representatives had approved an appropriation request for Sacramento State.  Specifically, the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics is scheduled to receive $350,000 to help modernize science equipment.  This is a wonderful boost to our efforts to improve our classrooms and labs for students and faculty alike.

There’s more.  To date, five proposals submitted by faculty to various federal agencies for funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and another proposal submitted by the College of Continuing Education, have been funded.  Those are grants totaling nearly $1.3 million in all.
Congratulations to the faculty in the NSM and the College of Education and Dean Alice Tom’s team at CCE for their success in securing those federal stimulus dollars.

As you can see, there are many exciting things happening at Sac State.  And, when you think of Destination 2010, I think you’ll agree that we’ve made much progress in reaching the goals we set.  However, 2010 is right around the corner and now is the best time to consider what the next five, ten or twenty years will bring for our campus.  That’s why I want us to focus this next year on working together to develop a plan for what we want to see happen as we continue to strive to be a destination campus and in fact, the best campus in the CSU.

What are the factors we need to consider?  Of course, there are a myriad of variables, but if we focus on the most apparent, we can develop a picture of what the future will look like.  For example, we can be certain that the continued growth of the region as well as the change in demographics that will sweep California and the nation will have a direct influence on us.  Moreover, it should be abundantly clear that the use of technology has had a profound influence not only on how we do our jobs but also in just about every aspect of our lives.  I think it’s safe to assume that we need to take this dramatic shift into account as we move forward.

On a much broader level, how will our continued dependence on fossil fuels not only affect transportation but also our ability to deal with issues of sustainability?  What about our workforce here on campus?  Are we preparing our staff and faculty to deliver our programs and support in the best ways possible?  What will our student body look like?  How many buildings will we need?  Will there be changes to our curriculum?

Fortunately for us, we have put into place the mechanism to continue this dialogue about the future of Sac State.  Through a series of planned events as part of the Futures Initiative, we have begun these discussions throughout the last year.  I just ask that as we engage in these conversations and dialogue that we keep in mind the good work that the Strategic Planning Council has already completed.  From my perspective, I think the basic tenets of Destination 2010 are just as appropriate for the future as they are today.  They are:

  • Foster Excellent Academic and Student Programs
  • Build a Welcoming Campus
  • Create a Dynamic Physical Environment
  • Develop Community Support

 

In addition, as we begin our work we need to continue to focus on the three principles that I introduced last year.  It is my hope that they will become the basis for all we do at Sac State.  They are:

  • Positive Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Transparency

CONCLUSION
Let me conclude this morning by pointing out that this is a critically important time for Sacramento State.  While economic troubles present many problems and difficulties, they also give us the opportunity to examine what we are doing and how we can do it better and more efficiently.

Yes, we have some challenges ahead of us, but I think we also have the energy and commitment to face them together. 
We are making important progress toward making Sacramento State an even better University for current and future students.  Sacramento State is on the way to becoming a premier metropolitan university and a vital partner of California’s Capital city.

I would like to close by reminding you what an important institution this is, and how vital your work is to its mission.  More than 28,000 students come here to pursue a higher education, to improve their lives, and to achieve their dreams.  Each year more than 6,000 graduate—each one a success story of personal sacrifice, achievement and joy.

You help that happen.

Thank you for your dedication to our students—in and out of the classroom.  Thank you for working to help this University develop its potential, and thank you for all that you do each day. 

Let us all commit to building a better future for Sacramento State, for our city, and for our region.

I hope to see you all during the year as we continue our dialogue and work together to make this year the best we can.  Have a good semester and thank you very much.