One year ago, I stood before you as the new interim president of Cal State Monterey Bay. I talked about my decision to come to this campus. I called it a wonderful opportunity to lead an outstanding university which is poised to make a quantum advance in quality and regional and national impact.

I stand before you today, a year older, and no longer an interim president. I must say that nothing has happened in the past 12 months to change my assessment of CSUMB and its potential.

The faculty and staff members with whom I have worked, the students I have talked with, the community members who have welcomed me and Holly to this vibrant area have only reinforced my belief in Cal State Monterey Bay.

I thank you for all you have done and look forward to what we can accomplish in the future.

Looking back over the past year, one of the most significant events was one over which we had little control. The voters’ approval of Proposition 30 was welcome news in two important ways.

First, it put us on a stronger financial foundation to face the challenges ahead. While we still have far to go to reverse the damage of years of budget cuts, this measure finally allows us to establish some positive momentum.

Second -- and to my mind nearly as important – the voters’ strong endorsement of Proposition 30 showed that they understand the importance of public higher education and are willing to raise their own taxes to support it.

We owe our fellow Californians thanks for that vote of confidence. We also owe them our best efforts, our best thinking, as we make certain that their dollars are well-spent.

It is the mission of Cal State Monterey Bay, and the whole Cal State system, to educate the diverse population of this state. We must help guarantee that this generation of Californians is even more educationally prepared than their parents and grandparents were so they can face the challenges ahead.

President Ochoa address staff and faculty

Unfortunately, that is not a sure thing. While rates of college attendance are relatively high nationwide, rates of college completion are not. A 2012 report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says the United States is now the only major economy in the world where the younger generation will not surpass the preceding generation in terms of schooling.

 

Earlier this year, the National Commission on Higher Education Attainment issued a call to colleges and universities nationwide to adopt new strategies to improve retention and graduation rates.

First and foremost, the commission stressed changing the campus culture to promote student success.

Its report said: “Institutional leaders must frequently and publicly underscore their personal commitment to increasing the number of students who graduate. This is priority number one. Above all, they must convey that this is a pressing problem in order to make the case that the entire campus needs to be involved in improving retention and completion.”

Unfortunately, our CSUMB’s six-year graduation rates are among the lowest in the CSU: third-lowest for the most recent class (2006) for which we have data, at 36.8% compared to the CSU overall graduation rate of 51.4%. The reasons for this are undoubtedly complex, and our recent efforts at retention are not yet fully reflected in this statistic. Nevertheless, the large performance gap clearly calls for renewed efforts on this front.

As most of you know, we begin our new academic year with a new academic leader on board. We are pleased to have Dr. Julio Blanco join our campus to serve as interim provost. He has a sterling record of accomplishment at CSU Bakersfield, where he served as dean of the School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Engineering.

There, they were able to make substantial progress in raising the numbers of students majoring in the STEM disciplines. CSU Bakersfield also was able to sharply increase Latino majors in these areas, and to shrink the gender gap.

Contrary to what you may have heard, Dr. Blanco and I have never worked together before; in fact, I met him for the first time during his interview visit to CSUMB last Spring. Our position announcement elicited an overwhelming response—42 applications. This forced us to quickly construct a more extensive consultation process than anticipated to help us sort through the large field. The finalist group was vetted by the SLT, the Deans, and the Senate Executive Committee and Dr. Blanco emerged as the clear choice. Julio brings good ideas and a fresh perspective and I believe he will be a strong academic leader for Cal State Monterey Bay.

Our efforts in improving graduation rates go hand in hand with another initiative I announced earlier this summer.

While our campus’s commitment to diversity dates to CSUMB’s founding, that commitment needs to be coupled with a sharp focus on educational excellence. We need to leverage our campus diversity as a strategic asset in preparing our students for a global, multicultural society.

To that end, I asked Dr. Patti Hiramoto to serve as our university’s associate vice president for inclusive excellence and chief diversity officer. Patti, who most recently served as vice president of University Advancement, has a great breadth of knowledge about CSUMB and about diversity issues.

Her job is not to assume sole responsibility for addressing diversity concerns. Instead, she will serve as both a catalyst and a coordinator working with faculty, staff and students university-wide.

We need an integrated and strategic effort and a set of benchmarks to measure where we are and where we can go. I am confident that Patti is the right choice to help lead that effort.

Inclusive excellence is an increasingly important concept in higher education these days. The Association of American Colleges and Universities has defined it as having four elements:

  • A focus on student intellectual and social development.
  • A purposeful development and utilization of organizational resources to enhance student learning.
  • Attention to the cultural differences learners bring to the educational experience and that enhance the enterprise.
  • A welcoming community that engages all of its diversity in the service of student and organizational learning.

I believe this is an exciting and necessary initiative for our university to undertake and I look forward to continued progress in this area.

One established program that provides a good example of inclusive excellence is our Undergraduate Research Opportunities Center. UROC, led by Dr. William Head, continues to bring students from varying backgrounds and academic areas together with faculty mentors and to help those students become outstanding and award-winning researchers.

Again this year, UROC students have excelled. Three current students and one alumna received National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships. The results our students have earned through this program continue to be the best in the CSU system and surpass results achieved by many far larger universities nationwide.

This is an excellent example of what our university can accomplish when it establishes lofty goals and tenaciously pursues them.

Another aspect of adding to campus diversity is our effort to increase our enrollment of international students. Although we are located in a most attractive area which attracts a large influx of international visitors, Cal State Monterey Bay’s enrollment of international students has been small.

Through the leadership of Tim Angle and his staff, we have made considerable progress in this area. We are expecting about 140 international students this fall, up from about 40 last fall.

A growing cohort of international students will add immeasurably to the campus culture. Our university that prides itself on educating a diverse group of students to be leaders in an increasingly global culture. Attracting more international students is not only consistent with that mission, it is fundamental to its success.

In my speech at this event last August, I established three priority areas for my presidency. One was exercising national leadership in developing new sustainable models of liberal learning.

Ours is a diverse campus. We educate many first-generation students. So, we are educating the very students that this nation must educate if we are to raise our nation’s rates of educational attainment and college graduation.

Even with an improved budget picture, we must continue to seek ways to educate more students without dramatic increases in resources. In seeking new and cost-effective pedagogic strategies, we must look to advances in both technology and cognitive science, as we find out more about how humans learn and how the brain works.

In the last academic year, I focused the president’s speaker series on disruptive innovation in higher education. Candace Thille from Carnegie Mellon; Sebastian Thrun, a co-founder of Udacity; and Jamie Merisotis of the Lumina Foundation provided great insights into how the higher education landscape is changing.

Just as important, they were able to interact with faculty, staff and students to share insights and ideas.

I continue to be impressed by how receptive our faculty has been to new ideas and innovations. The same spirit that was so apparent at the founding of our university is very much alive today. The universities that will thrive in this new era will be the ones that maintain and nurture a spirit of innovation. That is one more reason that I am so excited and proud to be the president of Cal State Monterey Bay.

That spirit was displayed again by the strong faculty response to the request we issued this spring for proposals to promote innovation in teaching and learning. We awarded 23 grants, funded through contributions to the CSUMB Annual Fund, from more than 40 proposals.

I greatly appreciate the generous donors who made this possible and the dedicated faculty members who were willing to spend time over the summer to explore new ideas in pedagogy and classroom technology.

We will examine the outcomes of their research and determine which areas may need further attention as we allocate future grants.

Another promising example of innovation and cooperation is our CSIT-in-3 program with Hartnell College. Earlier this year, I joined representatives of Hartnell in Washington, D.C. for the announcement of a $1.1 million grant to help support the three-year computer science degree program.

The grant results from a joint partnership of the National Science Foundation, General Electric, and Intel. The grant will allow us to provide additional student support in a program that has attracted great interest from prospective students and education policy-makers, including Gov. Jerry Brown, who button-holed me at a trustees meeting and asked me about it.

This program addresses the need to educate more computer science and engineering students and places those students on a fast-track to graduate. It has met with a strong response. We have recruited 32 students into the Fall 2013 cohort and brought them to college-level readiness for Math and English.

Credit should also go to our faculty and faculty from Hartnell who beat the bushes to find students who could enroll in this program. Since many area schools do not offer computer science classes, the number of students who were interested in the program was relatively low.

Another of my ongoing priorities for our university is to reach for excellence in strategically selected fields, in response to regional needs and our own programmatic capacity.

We have made an important step forward in that effort by establishing our new College of Business and bringing Shyam Kamath to CSUMB as the college’s founding dean.

Establishing this as an independent college responds both to the needs of our students and of our community. Business remains our most popular undergraduate major and I believe interest in that area will only expand. Construction of the new Business and Information Technology Building, which we expect will begin next year, will provide an outstanding facility and additional momentum for the new college.

This is a college that needs to grow its faculty and achieve AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) accreditation.

In Dr. Kamath, we have attracted a dean with strong international experience, who is comfortable working in both the public and private sectors. He begins his new duties on Sept. 1, but he has already begun conversations with faculty members about their goals and aspirations for the new college.

I expect our College of Business will build even closer ties to the community through the development of programs in the areas of hospitality management and ag management. Agriculture and the hospitality industry are two of the pillars of Monterey County’s economy. Cal State Monterey Bay should be an instrumental partner in their continued success.

Our marine science program is yet another area of distinction that can help set our university apart. Our location makes this a natural area of emphasis, but what is even more important is the presence of outstanding researchers in programs such as the Institute for Applied Marine Ecology and the Seafloor Mapping Laboratory, brilliantly led by Professors James Lindholm and Rikk Kvitek respectively.

I snuck into a meeting in the Chancellor’s Office of a consortium of Southern California campuses that were interested in expanding in marine science. They were making the point that the CSU has a great presence in that area and they gave as a shining example the Seafloor Mapping Lab.

It is impossible to view the work being done by faculty, staff and students in these programs and not come away with a sense of the great potential that lies ahead.

Sometimes an outstanding program develops for reasons that aren’t necessarily about the local economy or proximity to natural resources. For CSUMB, one such program is Cinematic Arts and Technology. Thanks to outstanding faculty and gifted and creative students, we continue to produce graduates who move into jobs in film, television and other creative industries. As the Otter Pipeline to these industries continues, I expect the influence and reputation of this department will continue to grow.

The successes in this area lead me to the third of the initiatives I spelled out in my Day of Welcome speech last year. Our university needs to increase our catalytic role in regional cultural and economic development.

To put this another way, it is important for CSU Monterey Bay to act as a “steward of place,” to be—and to be seen as—a strong and positive influence on the community we serve.

In this regard, we start from a strong foundation, in large part because of the efforts of our award-winning service learning program. Our students, working across our many communities, have made a difference in people’s lives. At the same time they are sending a strong message, particularly to young people, about the relevance and the importance of higher education.

Still, perhaps because of our location or our relative youth as a campus, we face something of a challenge in reminding people what and where we are.

This spring, we were honored to hold the Welcome Home event for an icon of this community Leon Panetta. It was a great pleasure to host the event because of the instrumental role that Leon played in the founding of our university and our close ties with the Panetta Institute.

I was particularly gratified both by how well the event was organized, and by the stream of positive comments I received from community members. Some said they had seldom, if ever, visited our campus. Needless to say, they came away with a most positive impression. The event represented another important step in building bridges to the larger community.

Similarly, I must remark upon the continued success of CSU Summer Arts, which ran through the month of July on our campus. It was a pleasure to be able to host an event that brings community members together with an eclectic mix of outstanding artists, performers and lecturers from around the world.

Another aspect of being a steward of place concerns the future development of this remarkable area we call home. Residing on the former location of Fort Ord, our university has a continuing responsibility to encourage land uses that meet the needs of the wide range of constituency groups who value this incredible site.

I am committed to taking an active and personal role in the FORA process, where we have an ex officio seat. I strongly believe that the best development solution will combine recreational opportunities with knowledge-based businesses that can be supported by the expertise offered by our university.

While I understand the interests of the surrounding communities in achieving immediate increases in tax and development-related revenue, our larger vision must be more long-term.

To help encourage that long-range vision, our university plans to host several colloquia for FORA members this fall. The colloquia will feature thought leaders in planning, economic development and environmental protection. We would like to broaden the discussion from the merits of specific projects to a more all-encompassing vision of the best way to meet the long-run needs of the community. I will share more news of those events as details are finalized.

Another aspect of being a steward of place is taking an interest in the lives of our potential students in our community long before they reach college age.

When I came to this area, it quickly became apparent to me that this community cares very much about its children.

School districts are focused on producing the best possible educational outcomes. Their efforts are augmented by a number of social service agencies and non-profits who are working every day to improve the outlook for our young people.

The question here, as it in communities from coast to coast, is how to coordinate those efforts to have the strongest impact.

A strategy that has succeeded in many communities nationwide is the Strive Network.
The network’s motto is “Every Child. Cradle to Career.” Strive Network communities promote a broad commitment among agencies to work together to achieve agreed-upon goals for student success.

We have taken the first steps toward building such a network in Monterey County. We will soon to hire a coordinator to oversee the project, and to keep us all on track as we attain benchmarks to measure our progress.

We do not have to look far from our campus to see the symptoms of societal breakdown. The gang violence that plagues too many of our neighboring communities is a sign of desperation, as young people see no meaningful alternative to turf wars and violence.

Some students do rise from gang-plagued neighborhoods to attain a better life. And some of those students end up at our university, where they succeed and graduate.

One such student, Julio Castro, addressed our Have a Heart Scholarship dinner earlier this year. He told of growing up in the Alisal and seeing the toll of gang violence first-hand.

Through his own initiative and a supportive family who stressed the importance of education, Julio graduated from high school and enrolled at CSUMB. He graduated in May.

Julio told the audience at the Have a Heart dinner about his experience coming to our campus. “I would soon discover a whole new world here at Cal State Monterey Bay. All these years there was a jewel of a community that I had not been exposed to. A completely different world was waiting for me across that curtain of fields.”

I hope the development of the Strive Network will allow us to work with agencies across the community to help create more success stories like Julio’s.

Ours is a university with great potential. We achieve it by developing fully the potential that lies within each of our students.

I appreciate the hard work and commitment that all of you put forth in pursuit of that goal, and I look forward to working with you in the year ahead.

Thank you.