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Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White – September 21, 2016

Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White
Chancellor, California State University
CSU Board of Trustees Meeting – Chancellor’s Report
Long Beach, CA
September 21, 2016

Thank you, Chair Eisen… I want to first commend your commitment to visit all 23 campuses, both in person and through your board reports…

I also extend my congratulations to all of our Olympians and Paralympians that competed during this summer’s games… and thank them for representing the CSU to the fullest in Rio…

I welcome the incoming presidents of Channel Islands and San José, Erika Beck and Mary Papazian, to their first Board of Trustees meeting. We look forward to your leadership.

I also welcome Dr. James Minor to the CSU. James will be serving as senior strategist for Academic Success and Inclusive Excellence… helping us to achieve our Graduation Initiative 2025 targets. Welcome, James.

As Chair Eisen mentioned in her report, September is indeed an important time of year.
My son’s first day of seventh grade started a few weeks ago. He was ready to go… crisp white shirt… along with all of the new school supplies that make the first day so exciting.

He caught up with some of his friends… and as seventh graders are inclined to do… began tossing back and forth a bottle of strawberry-flavored milk… without the lid secured.

Strawberry milk on a white shirt is never a good look… let alone on your first morning back to school.

So, as the new academic year unfolds… may we all avoid Strawberry Milk on a White Shirt kind of days.

This month also marks a personal milestone… as this is my fifty-first beginning of an academic year... going all the way back to my first day at Diablo Valley Community College as a student.

Starting on that first day in 1966, in my crisp white T-shirt, I’ve been on a college campus every year since.

And I have that same excitement today that I did five decades ago. I just hope no one tosses a bottle of strawberry milk in my direction…

My excitement today is in knowing that the 138,000 new students to the CSU this year – including freshman, transfer and graduate students – are just as excited and anxious for what lies ahead as I was in 1966.

And while we all share in their excitement… and their determination to improve their lives… we must also remember that their trail to success – in academics and beyond – is different from our own experience.

We were reminded of this fact yesterday when we met the incredible 24 Trustee Scholars… and we will be reminded of this fact through commencement next June… when the 110,000 students of the Class of 2017 become alumni of this great university.

The trail blazed by the Class of 1970… is not the same trail as the Class of 2016… or the class of 2020… or my youngest son’s Class of 2026.

Each trail… each path… is different. Our personal, academic and professional journeys leading to this point… this day… is wholly unique to ourselves.

Yet, while each trail… and trailblazer… is different, one common point remains for all of us… California needs more college graduates.

Our economy, society and democracy relies on an educated population in order to maintain and strengthen our standing as the largest and most dynamic economy in the United States… and the sixth largest in the world.

Our economic standing around the world – and the success that comes with it – is not serendipitous.

This socioeconomic engine is fiercely Californian by design… it is the amalgamation of deliberate decisions made by political, business and academic leaders many decades ago to break down the walls of higher education so that anyone capable and willing to do the work could enter.

We are the living results of those decisions… and at the same time, we have the incredible responsibility to continue to expand access to more communities... to foster new opportunities for students from all demographics to achieve… and to graduate more Californians than ever before.

In order to fulfill our responsibility, we must continue the momentum we started in 2009… and renewed last year… to improve our graduation rates and eliminate achievement gaps.

And as we heard yesterday, the connection between the Graduation Initiative 2025 and our budget is unavoidable.

As Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and Tesla will confirm… the biggest gains that lead to the greatest breakthroughs do not come without serious investment.

In this case, we ourselves are not building self-driving cars or reusable spaceships… although plenty of CSU alumni are building those things and so much more, right here in California… but we are working on our own giant leap forward – our Moon Landing – to improve academic infrastructure leading to student success and timely graduation.

As mentioned, the pathways to degree today are varied and most won’t resembles our own personal experience.

To put a face on this fact, I wish to end my report today by showing a video highlighting the incredible work of Fresno State’s Renaissance Scholars program, which works to provide additional support for students that come from the foster system or were homeless.

The video was produced by Kleenex – I assure you, I’m not getting a tissue kickback by showing it – and it emphasizes the importance of holistic support for students… going beyond the classroom and advising office… and making a simple, yet incredibly meaningful difference.

The issues we’ve touched on over the past two days... student research, graduation rates, high-impact practices, budget support and philanthropy… these issues are deeply intertwined and woven into the fabric of what makes the CSU a successful university.

That success is quantifiable… as we have seen in the most recent U.S. News and World Report rankings, which named Fresno State the top public university in the country in graduation rate performance… in addition to rankings released last month by Washington Monthly, which named the Bulldogs as the 25th best university in the country overall.

In fact, the rankings from U.S. News and World Report are really a Who’s Who of the CSU… with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo ranked as the top public regional university in the west for the 24th consecutive year… and six CSU campuses – San Luis Obispo, Pomona, San Jose, Long Beach, Chico and Sonoma – ranked in the Top 10.

An incredible honor – and accomplishment – for all.

Congratulations.

Chair Eisen, that concludes my report.