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Video of the President's Address

PRESIDENT’S Spring ADDRESS
January 19, 2006

ALEXANDER GONZALEZ
SACRAMENTO STATE

Good morning. It’s nice to see so many of you here this morning. I hope you all enjoyed the winter break, and I’m pleased to welcome you back to another semester.

I'd also like to welcome our many community supporters who have joined us today. Thank you for your efforts on behalf of Sacramento State, and thank you for being here.

As always, the new semester brings with it a sense of excitement and potential. That’s part of the joy of higher education – the intellectual growth in our students that each new semester promises. When our students return next week, this campus will be energized by the enthusiasm and determination of our student body and by the equally enthusiastic response from you, our faculty and staff.

Those of us in higher education are fortunate in that we are in the business of making society better. We’re able to see the results of our efforts every day. We’re able to watch as the education we provide changes students’ perceptions, attitudes and goals. We become personally invested in their success. That’s what makes coming to work here at Sacramento State so rewarding for all of us.

So thank you, for all you do, on behalf of our students and the university. Thank you for your work and the role you play in making this a fine campus.

Today I would like to talk to you about our academic and student programs and how they relate to Destination 2010.

Destination 2010 is a far-reaching plan that encompasses all aspects of the university. Broadly, we seek to transform Sacramento State from a mainly commuter campus into a premiere metropolitan university. This is no small task . Instead, it is about positioning ourselves for success and stability in the face of constantly changing budgets, demographics, and enrollment. You should be acutely aware of our funding challenges during the past few years.

You may not know, however, that we currently face enrollment challenges. For years, this campus has grown steadily without much concern that things might change in the near future. Well, over the past three years, our enrollment has actually not grown as projected, and our student retention rate has remained below the average for the system. We know that we will face such challenges constantly.

The question is how we choose to face them. The goal of Destination 2010 is to get us out of the year-to-year, ad hoc responses.

We spend too much of our time and energy merely reacting -
we need room to breathe.

We need to make ourselves a university that provides students, faculty, and staff the stability and freedom to develop. To the extent that we become a destination campus, a university of choice for prospective students throughout the West, we are that much less held hostage to the whims and vagaries of economic and demographic changes. Destination 2010 is about providing us with that room to breathe.

The Destination 2010 initiative is described in detail online, and a link to the website is available from the University homepage. If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to do so. Once again, our over-arching goals are clear. We will:

- Foster excellent academic and student programs
- Build a welcoming campus
- Create a dynamic physical environment, and
- Develop community support

During the past year or so, I have had to focus more on that part of Destination 2010 that relates to the physical development of the campus. As you know, when I arrived on campus two and a half years ago, there were a number of pressing issues related to the campus’ physical plant that had to be addressed. An initiative to build new student housing had faltered. Student leadership was pursuing a referendum to build a student recreation center. In addition, the capital plan for the campus had to be developed further to get much-needed buildings and improvements in line for funding at the system level.

With the passage of the student referendum in the spring of 2004 to build the Recreation and Wellness Center, I committed to raise $25 million as the threshold needed before the student fee authorized by the referendum would be put into effect. We are making strong headway toward that goal. In addition, we are making progress on developing the University Village that will provide much-needed faculty housing, and within a few months we will also be moving forward on a project for new student housing on campus.

With these initiatives in place, it’s time to focus fully on the core element of Destination 2010: excellent academic and student programs.

There are a number of efforts underway aimed at fostering excellence in our academic and student programs. The campus is continuing the WASC accreditation process, and we are focusing on areas related to student learning, campus life, community engagement, and the University’s planning process. We have also established a new Strategic Planning Council, which will make recommendations on University priorities and will revise the campus Strategic Plan.

Since the spring of 2004, Academic Affairs has been working with the campus community to develop a new Academic Strategic Plan. The plan is on the Academic Affairs website.

Through it, we seek:

First - To excel in the academic preparation of our students through improving recruitment and graduation rates; developing critical thinking and information technology skills; and ensuring a global perspective and an appreciation for the diversity of our state.

Second - To enhance excellence in teaching and learning through supporting our faculty’s professional development, including addressing workload and salary equity issues.

Third - To serve the Capital Region and the New California through emphasizing policy expertise and regional professional workforce development.

And finally - To develop resources for instructional needs through sponsored research and gift development in a manner that enhances our academic excellence.

Destination 2010 ultimately is about the academic strength of our university. All of its other elements support our academic goals.

The Provost has indicated that the priority of Academic Affairs is the improvement of Recruitment, Retention, and graduation Rates. To that end, we will continue to work with area high schools through our early assessment program to improve college entry level skills. The Provost will work with the deans and outreach staff to form interdisciplinary teams to visit middle schools, high schools, and community colleges. We will continue to develop formal agreements with area community colleges to improve student preparation and transfer rates.

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.

Getting students here is, of course, only a part of the answer.
We must help them stay enrolled and graduate them in a timely manner. I think you all have seen the 22 points identified by the Board of Trustees that will be the focus of the system’s efforts to enhance graduation. In this vein, through Destination 2010, Sacramento State is committed to improving student services and programming.

Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, and the Faculty Senate are working together to offer a more comprehensive advising program.

Student Activities, the Office for Community Collaboration, ASI, and others are bolstering their leadership and experiential offerings.

We have a sophisticated e-mail system that keeps students informed about registration, financial aid, and transcripts.

The Career Center continues to help our students take advantage of options and opportunities.

We want the best learning experience for our students. I am also pleased that as the Faculty Senate undertakes the General Education program review, they will focus on more than simply program size and complexity. To meet the needs of California’s future, the substance of GE needs to be refocused into areas such as communication skills, technology and globalization.

Similarly, the use of technology to enhance teaching is no longer an option; it is a necessity. Our students expect it. I’ll continue to support efforts to keep our faculty on the cutting edge of teaching.

Our planned Science and Space Center will contain a high-end science lab and equipment, which will strengthen a number of degree programs and make the campus more attractive to prospective students. Planning for the Center came about through the efforts of Professor Randy Phelps and a number of other faculty members in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. I thank them, and we all thank Congresswoman Doris Matsui and her late husband, Congressman Bob Matsui, for helping us obtain federal support for the project totaling $1.5 million.

We have also recently received an important leadership gift in support of the University’s academic programs. The Rumsey Community Fund will provide $250,000 to our Native American Studies program for scholarships and program support. We’re very grateful to the Rumsey Community Fund. Karen Charney, the executive director of the Fund is with us today, and I would like to acknowledge her.

We’re also very proud of our ongoing partnership with Eli Broad, a nationally known philanthropist and education leader. Last fall, the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Foundation pledged a $2 million leadership gift for a new field house south of our Stadium.

But that’s just the latest commitment to this University by Mr. Broad.

As many of you know, Mr. Broad is also committed to helping us develop our Placer Campus, for which he has pledged 300 acres within the proposed Placer Ranch project. Creating this new campus will be a monumental achievement. It will change the character of Placer County forever, just as this campus has forever changed the Sacramento Region. Here with us today representing Mr. Broad is Holly Tiche, Vice President for Placer Ranch. Thank you Holly, and thank you, Mr. Broad, for your support.

As we work to develop and strengthen our academic programs, we will continue to emphasize the heart of what we do here: excellent teaching. That’s a commitment that makes a real difference.
There are many examples. Our current Destination 2010 website features:

Jennifer Lundmark in Biological Sciences. She is known for her hands-on class exercises and use of interactive computer programs.

Rita Cameron Wedding, from Ethnic Studies and Women’s Studies.
She has inspired her students as a member of a statewide commission and as a Fulbright Scholar.

And Francis Yuen in Social Work. He succeeds in making his classes both demanding and fun.

These three and hundreds like them are the source of our academic strength. We have to continue finding new ways for all of our faculty members to interact more closely with our students. That is what our students need and expect.

I am pleased to see our new Honors Program, under the direction of history professor George Craft, taking shape. It starts this fall and is designed for high-achieving, highly motivated students.

I am also pleased with our efforts and plans to link the academic experience and our students with our communities. Internships, cooperative education experiences, service learning and related co-curricular programs help students make connections between their learning and their world. Our local communities benefit when the energy and ideas of our students are focused on them.

Our location in a large urban area and the capital of the nation’s most populous state creates important opportunities. Our College of Continuing Education has recently signed a major $3.5 million agreement with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The College will take advantage of the expertise of our faculty as well as community experts to provide leadership training for the Department, which is facing high leadership turnover in coming years.

There is also the Sacramento Regional Research Institute, a joint venture of the University and SACTO, which conducts regional demographic and economic research. Our students intern at the center, and Professors Stephen Perez and Suzanne O’Keefe from our Economics Department have recently joined the institute as the lead economists.

The Office of Water Programs works closely with CalTrans on statewide water quality studies and other projects. Our Center for Collaborative Policy strives to bring stakeholders together to solve some of the toughest public policy challenges. Our Center for Small Business offers students a chance for hands-on business management experience through its work with about 100 businesses each year.

There are many other efforts underway at Sacramento State to engage the University with local communities and state policymakers. We have an enormous potential to make our region and the state a better place to live.

Finally, we recognize that, to foster excellence within our academic program, we must make attracting and retaining top teacher-scholars a top priority.

Our efforts today will have a major impact for decades to come.

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. These new faculty members need more opportunities to pursue research and projects in their fields of interest. We need to look at workload as part of ensuring that faculty members have the time to work one-on-one with students. And this has to include looking into new and more effective ways of delivering our classes. We need to look at compensation as it relates to recruiting new faculty members, as well as compensation issues related to those faculty members who are already here.

We also have to make sure that we are recruiting a faculty that reflects California. Our faculty members must bring a variety of perspectives and cultural backgrounds to the classroom and the campus as a whole. 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.

Today I’ve touched on just a few of the important efforts underway to enhance our academic programs, and the key goals we have set as part of that effort. I shared a few examples of the people and programs that make this University strong, and please be assured that I know that was only a small sampling of the great things happening here.

The primary thing I want us all to remember is that strong academics is the key to making our campus goals a reality. Universities earn reputations as destination campuses because they are strong academically. They make student welfare and student success a top priority, and they provide an academic and campus life experience that students cherish for life. And they become known as premier metropolitan universities because they are able to translate strong academics into a strong engagement with the community.
For all of us – those in the classroom and those who aren’t – supporting the University’s overall academic mission is the top priority.

I know that we can help Sacramento State live up to its potential.
We have great students, the support and goodwill of our community – and a dedicated faculty and staff who love what they do.

Thank you all for coming today. Thank you again for all of your hard work on behalf of our students. Please keep up the good work, keep up your spirits and have a great semester.