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President's Fall Address
August 28, 2008

Alexander Gonzalez
Sacramento State

INTRODUCTION

Good morning and thank you for being here today.  It’s nice to see the campus community gathered together again after a summer filled with uncertainty about the economy, the state budget and gas prices that have affected all of us.  Nevertheless, I hope you all had an enjoyable break, and that you were able to enjoy extra time with family and friends.  And if you took a “staycation,” I hope you enjoyed that as well.  It’s important that we take the time to rest, relax and recharge and get ready for the coming year.

With that in mind, I’d like to remind you that we’ll be gathering for the faculty and staff welcome-back event this evening at the Serna Plaza in front of the bookstore.  Last year was great and I hope many of you plan to attend this year.  I know it will be an enjoyable evening.

I also want to thank all the community members and friends of the University who have joined us today.  In addition, we have several officials from the City of Sacramento in attendance this morning including our mayor, Heather Fargo,  City Councilman Steve Cohn, and City Manager Ray Kerridge.  They are here for a special event that will conclude today’s address.  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’re sure to confront, we 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 freshman class of faculty that numbers forty-eight this year.  They are joining our various colleges in departments like Speech Pathology and Audiology, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Psychology, and Music.  They come from universities across the nation such as, Brandeis, the University of Michigan and UC Berkeley.  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 number of 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 also have two relatively new people in leadership positions in Student Affairs.  Although many of you already know them, Charlene Martinez is the new Director of the Multicultural Center and T.J. Chowdhary is the new Director of Student Enrollment Operations.

The Provost will have two ACE Fellows working with him this year.  Don Taylor will continue the work he has been doing in preparation for the WASC review.  In addition, Lakshmi Malroutu has returned to campus after a year at Cal State Northridge where she was an ACE Fellow.  As part of her fellowship, she will be working with the Provost this year, as well.

University Advancement filled two vacant positions from among their ranks.  Gloria Moraga is the new Associate Vice President for Public Affairs and Rebecca Thompson is now the Associate Vice President for Development.  In addition, Jennifer Barber has been hired as our New Alumni Relations Director and Marti Gray has joined University Enterprises, Inc., as Interim Executive Director.

In IT Ted Koubiar has begun as the Director of Operations and Systems Services and Lucinda Parker is the new manager of IRT’s Projects and Policy.  And here in the Union, Bill Olmsted is the new Director while Mirjana Gavric will be the Director of the New Recreation and Wellness Center.

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

Today marks the beginning of my sixth year as president of Sacramento State and my thirtieth in the CSU.  While this is a milestone for me personally, this year also marks the beginning of the seventh decade of operation for this campus.  This morning while providing you with updates and information, I would also like to focus on the need for planning for Sac State’s future and on some of the major issues we must address.  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 have been waiting for some resolution.  I’m glad to say that because of the excellent work of the University Budget Advisory Committee (UBAC) and the Budget Office we are in a relatively good position regarding the budget planning process for this campus.  If you recall, UBAC developed a process for reviewing and developing budget recommendations.  All during the past year they not only reviewed each division’s budget, they also examined the allocation and expenditures of the entire university.  As a result, they submitted 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 I have endorsed UBAC’s recommendations and will be implementing them for this year.

At the state level however, the CSU has joined forces with labor and together we have worked effectively as the CSU Alliance.  Throughout the spring and summer, the Alliance has been very active in working to preserve the budget that was proposed by the governor and modified with the May revise.  More important, they have sought to maintain our ability to provide a quality education for our students.  The Alliance’s activities will continue on our campus and have scheduled the next event for September.  I want to recognize Lila Jacobs and the other Alliance members for their efforts.  

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, any necessary reductions, as well as how we will deal with them.  I’m certain that you will join with me in meeting the exigencies that we will face as a result of this inadequate budget.  I ask that you remember that the economy and its effects on the campus are cyclical.  Ironically, it’s in times like these that the demand for education rises.  As more people are displaced in the workforce, they consider returning to school to either complete their education or obtain additional training.  Keep in mind that we’ll come out of this down cycle and hopefully, be prepared for when things do improve.

On the other hand, I’m pleased to announce that University Advancement met its fundraising goal for last year 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 majority of the resources raised will have a direct impact on our students since it is for student scholarships.

Related to the budget of course is enrollment.  I’m happy to say that this year’s enrollment is right on target.  For Fall 2008, both the undergraduate admission goals were met in early June.  The Freshman Goal of admitting 12,000 students was surpassed; we admitted 12,124 freshmen or 101% of our goal.  We also met our Transfer Student Goal of 6500 and we admitted 6,937 or 107% of our goal.

Overall fall enrollment compared to last year is up.  Compared to last year at this time, headcount is up by 1% and FTES is up by 2.1%.  In addition, compared to last year at this time, Average Unit Load is also slightly higher.  Of course, we’ll need to wait until census to see how this all plays out.  I want to thank the deans and chairs, in these difficult financial times, for all the work they are doing to advise students about course and schedule openings.

Transfer Credit Evaluations (TCEs) for new students are also way ahead of last year.  Last year at this time the Fall 2007 TCEs had not been started.  This year the Fall 2008 TCEs are over 50% complete with an expected completion date in October (prior to Spring 2009 Registration).

Finally, Financial Aid processing is ahead of last year and on Monday of this week disbursed $35.5M, more aid than ever before in Sac State history.

The reason I’m sharing this level of detail with you this morning is to point out what a great job you are doing for our students.  These last two examples highlight how Student Affairs is doing all they can to help our students; especially in these tough times when our students’ planning and resources mean so much.  I want to acknowledge Ed Mills, Craig Yamamoto and everyone involved for making this level of service possible for our students.

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

This year WASC will be visiting us for our reaccreditation review.  I want to extend my thanks to the many people across the campus who have been working so hard on that effort.  Mike Lee has played an especially important role in this project.  Remember that WASC Accreditation is a full campus effort and everyone's help is essential if we are to be successful.

This year I've asked all the VPs to focus on the Strategic Plan—especially its implications for budget decisions.  The Strategic Planning Council will continue its work to move planning forward at Sac State.  In fact their work has already begun.

In addition to mandatory orientation and advising, Academic Affairs and Students Affairs have pursued the first priority of the campus’ Strategic Plan that focuses on recruitment, retention, and graduation by developing a data-informed focus on students who are on probation.  We are instituting proactive measures such as early alert, attention to high-risk groups, and far more hands-on advising of those students who are in this category.  Unfortunately, this is a significant number of students who especially need our assistance.

We are also moving ahead and doing well with our learning outcomes assessment efforts, in line with priority 2 of the Strategic Plan.  This is especially important given the pressure to demonstrate our effectiveness as an institution and the push for accountability at the federal, state and local level.

On the programmatic side, Provost Sheley is working with the deans, Academic Technology and Creative Services, and IRT to move forward our efforts to develop a greater inventory of hybrid courses for our students.  This effort is in line with the Board of Trustees recently implemented Access to Excellence initiative.

The beginning of the year will also see the initiation of a Graduate Council to advise the Graduate Dean and the coordinators of graduate programs on policy and planning.  And yesterday, the Faculty Senate had its retreat that focused on General Education, Graduate Education, Class Size, Pedagogy, and Curriculum.  I look forward to other discussions like this throughout the year.  These are all very important issues that affect our programs and their delivery.

While on the topic of graduate education, our new independent Doctorate in Educational Leadership program is now in its second year.  The Director, Carlos Nevarez, from the Department of Educational Leadership, is working with Associate Director Ted Lascher, of our Public Policy and Administration program, to move the program forward.

Individually and collectively our faculty had many successes last year as did our students.  Let me provide you with just a few examples.

The Center for Practical and Professional Ethics, directed by Chris Bellon, of the Dept. of Philosophy,  partnered with the Sacramento Region Community Foundation to offer a series of educational events to promote ethical practices and behavior within the University and in the broader regional community.

The 2008 Sacramento State Annual Survey of the Region, directed by Amy Liu of the Department of Sociology, is widely cited, including in the Wall Street Journal.

Sacramento State ranked third among 19 CSU campuses in the number of undergraduate students who presented posters of their research at the 2008 annual symposium of the CSU Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology.  Also, Sacramento State's student research presentations at the regional meeting of the American Chemical Society were so strong that the organizing committee has asked to hold a future meeting at Sacramento State instead of the usual site in the Bay Area.  These efforts are part of the University's STEM initiative.

Monica Lam and Russell Ching, of the College of Business Administration, have successfully brought the Student Academic Progress program to the college curriculum.  It is fully funded by Sutter Health and helps students plan their academic careers with attention to the parameters of financial aid.

Sacramento State has partnered with United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Sacramento and the Alta Regional Center of California to establish the Autism Center for Excellence, an after-school recreational program for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Centered in the College of Health and Human Services, the program involves faculty from 10 different programs across campus.

Students from the College of Engineering and Computer Sciences' Construction Management Program, with strong support from the Sacramento Construction Management Education Foundation, achieved two first-place finishes at this year's Associated General Contractors and Associated Schools of Construction National Competition

And finally, Juanita Barrena was presented the 2008 Champions of Health Professions Diversity award from The California Wellness Foundation.  She received the award because of her work as the Director of Sacramento State’s Science Educational Equity program that provides comprehensive academic support for students who face social, economic, and educational barriers to careers in the health professions, science research, and science teaching.  Dr. Barrena is well known for her individual attention to students and her dedication to their success.  As part of her recognition, she also received a cash award of $25,000.  Congratulations Dr. Barrena.

These are just some examples of the fine work we do at Sac State.

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

To begin, I think everyone is aware that the Eli and Edythe Broad FieldHouse has opened and is now in full use.  As a result, this summer we began work on the Recreation and Wellness Center.  The projection is that the cost of construction will be within budget and the official groundbreaking is set for October 1 at 10am.  This will be a ground breaking like no other.  Beyond the formalities of the speakers and the gold shovels, there will be a full program including food, demonstrations, club and organization tables, a noontime band and giveaways.  The grand opening of the building is set for September 1, 2010.

The new student housing project is also well on its way.  The 606-bed suite facility is scheduled to open exactly one year from now.  The new facility has been aptly named the “American River Courtyard,” as it will feature a green quad-like space for barbequing, outdoor recreating, and just hanging out.  In fact, the plan is to have some units completed by early spring semester to use as models so that potential students and their parents can begin to make housing decisions.  I took a tour of the project this summer and I can tell you that it is first rate.  It’s a very exciting project that will help us better serve our students and the region.

University Enterprises has moved into their new home on the third floor of the Hornet Bookstore.  As a result, the renovation of the Old Bookstore will begin soon and will include the development of a large classroom on the first floor.  Human Resources, currently located in Sacramento Hall, will move to the third floor of the Old Bookstore as well.  By the way, the new name will be Del Norte Hall.  We can’t keep calling it the “Old Bookstore.”

The University Village Project is now in the demolition stage but because of the slow economy, its development has slowed considerably.  On the other hand, Station 65, a project aimed at enhancing the area around the light rail is moving forward and will incorporate the Sac State Tram concept.

This year we will be busy with planning and preparations for taking over the CalSTRS building.  Preliminary discussions began last spring but decisions have to be finalized this semester in order to accommodate the programs and moves that will be necessary.  It is very good space and presents wonderful opportunities for our campus.  In addition, Science Two is still in play and we continue to move it forward.

Finally, I want to mention our new electronic billboard on Highway 50.  The installation and initial operation were completed earlier this month and thus far, the results have been positive.  In fact, the sign had only been operational a few days when we utilized it for an Amber Alert.  The response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive; especially since we have committed to utilize our panel for public service.  We have established a protocol and procedures for usage and acceptable messages that you can find on our website.

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 developing 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 fuel 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 begin this dialogue about the future of Sac State.  Through a series of planned events as part of the Futures Initiative, Susan Sherry will be leading us through these discussions throughout the 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 completed as well as the basic tenets of Destination 2010 that I think 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 focus on the three principles that I hope will become the basis for all we do at Sac State.  They are:

  • Positive Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Transparency

And now it’s my great pleasure to have you join with me as we celebrate the signing of an historic document that will commemorate the beginning of the future and the next phase of development for our campus.  At this time I’d like to ask the participants to join me on stage.

While they are making their way, allow me to quote from the Memorandum of Understanding that we are about to sign.

The City of Sacramento embarked on the development of the 2030 General Plan in 2004 with the goal of making Sacramento “The most livable city in America.”  In the same year, California State University, Sacramento launched Destination 2010, an initiative to transform Sacramento State into a premiere metropolitan university with a vibrant campus life. 

With this Memorandum of Understanding, the City of Sacramento and Sacramento State seek to strengthen and expand their collaboration and find opportunities to help realize their parallel and complementary visions.  The success of our collective efforts will profoundly shape the quality of life in Sacramento and the surrounding region.  This agreement will enhance our institutions’ ability to be catalysts for economic prosperity in light of rapid demographic change, projected population growth and a collective focus on promoting sustainable communities. 

Thus, the Sacramento State-City of Sacramento Partnership is being established to formalize the cooperative relationship between Sacramento State and the City.  Under the auspices of the partnership, representatives from the two entities will meet regularly to increase communication and collaboration, develop and implement joint projects and help further their respective visions.

I would now like to invite Mayor Heather Fargo to speak.

CONCLUSION

Let me conclude this morning by pointing out that this is a critically important time for Sacramento State.  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 in making this 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, to pursue their dreams.  And 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 and for our city.

I hope to see you at this evening’s celebration.  Have a good semester.