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Report of the Chair

Remarks by Rebecca D. Eisen
Chair, California State University Board of Trustees
CSU Board of Trustees Meeting
Long Beach, CA 
July 19, 2017

Before I begin my report, I wish to provide an update on the trustee assignments to the various board committees:

Trustee Stepanek has been added to the Capital Planning, Buildings and Grounds, Government Relations, Educational Policy and Institutional Advancement committees.

Thank you, Peter Taylor, for chairing the Committee on Committees… and thanks to all my fellow trustees for serving as chairs and vice chairs… and for undertaking the important work of guiding our committees.

I always like the July Board meeting because inevitably it is the time to welcome new additions to our great CSU family.  And today we have three such welcomes:

First, I’d like to welcome Sally Roush… who is serving—and certainly from what I’ve seen is already knee deep—in her role as interim president of San Diego State. 

President Roush is certainly not a new member of the CSU family… having served as San Diego’s senior vice president for business and financial affairs for nearly two decades… and having also ably filled in as interim vice chancellor and chief financial officer here at the Chancellor’s Office during our search for Executive Vice Chancellor Steve Relyea. 

It’s great to see you again, Sally, and welcome.

And recently arrived from the opposite coast… Greenville, North Carolina… is our newest member of the Chancellor’s staff—Melissa Bard—who is serving as the CSU’s new vice chancellor for human resources. 

Having worked with HR officers for almost four decades in my prior life, I know that the intellectual, acrobatic and empathetic skills needed to do the job are immense and we are confident Melissa brings those skills to this very big job.  Our Board looks forward to working with you.

I’d like to also welcome Manolo Morales, who is the new president of the CSU Alumni Council. As many of you know from his introduction in May, Manolo is an alumnus of Humboldt State University. Welcome, Manolo.

Finally, as we do this time each year, we welcome our newest student trustee colleague, Emily Hinton, who comes to us from Sonoma State… where she previously served as Associated Student president. 

I was lucky enough to meet with Emily yesterday and while each student trustee has big shoes to fill, each one has amazed us with their ability to do so.  Welcome Emily… and as is our tradition, I invite you to introduce yourself to our team.

Thank you, Emily.

And one last thing before I dive in to the Board Chair’s report, I would also like to thank our immensely capable vice chair, Adam Day, for serving as the Chair so expertly in May.  I and the entire Board really appreciate your leadership.  

Thank you, Adam.

The other nice thing about the July meeting is that it follows our 23 commencement ceremonies.

This year, CSU alumni ranks have swelled by yet another 105,000… with 13 campuses welcoming their largest graduation classes in their respective histories… and bringing our entire CSU community of alumni, students, faculty and staff to over 4 million.

In the entirety of America, there is only one city with a larger population. 

I know most of my fellow Board members attended graduation ceremonies and I’ve heard about so many impressive speeches at this year’s commencements.

Students told stories of generous faculty, staff and administrators who helped guide, foster and encourage them to be courageous and consequential... to have an appetite for imagination and adventure… and to pay it forward… to find ways themselves to protect those who are marginalized, discriminated against, disenfranchised and even destitute.

Honorary degree recipients, such as Linda Woolverton… Long Beach native, acclaimed playwright and screenwriter of such films as Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and Aladdin, encouraged graduates to go forth and use the traits of creativity, curiosity, and civic-mindedness which they had developed and honed at the CSU to enlarge their own lives and the lives of others. 

That phrase… enlarge your lives… leads me to a brief report on the ongoing efforts of what we call the General Education Task Force.

As some of you know, this task force was created several months ago and is being ably led by two of our faculty—Chris Miller and Jodie Ullman.

The task force includes not only faculty but students, Chancellor’s Office staff, the community colleges and the UCs, and two Board members—myself and Steve Stepanek – as well.

This task force has been undertaking to review and make recommendations regarding our current general education requirements.

As you might expect, that task has us engaged in searching and wide-ranging conversations about the meaning of a college degree, the relevance of our CSU requirements in today’s world, the skills and knowledge and “dispositions” we hope our graduates will have as a result of completing these general education requirements.

We are in early stages but have settled on a core “given” to our work… that general education is and always should be about the very things our commencement presenters addressed—enlarging the lives of our students. 

Our work is ongoing and we will keep you posted in the year to come.

As all of you know, certainly highly correlated with birding (which has enlarged my life), I’ve become devoted to issues involving the preservation of our planet and its biodiversity.  I’m so proud that the CSU's commitment to sustainability and combating climate change grows every day. 

In a recent speech, Governor Brown said about climate change that:

No nation or state is doing what they should be doing. This is damn serious, and most people are taking it far too lightly than the reality of the threat.

You can’t do too much to sound the alarm because so far the response is not adequate to the challenge.

He’s right—none of us are doing enough but I was very glad that Chancellor White has stepped up to the call for action and has affirmed our university’s core values by signing on to the We Are Still In Climate Declaration.

As many of you know, Governor Brown announced a few weeks ago that California will host a Climate Action Summit in 2018… a gathering of countries, states, cities, businesses and others who have made pledges in line with the nearly-globally-agreed-upon Paris Accord.

I offer to Governor Brown and the Climate Action Summit organizers that the CSU and its incredible human and research resources stand ready to help in all the ways we can.

From our 23 campuses… to our affinity groups like COAST, WRPI and ARI… and to our outstanding research centers like Moss Landing and the Desert Studies Center… the CSU is on the cutting edge of discovering and developing new ways to cut emissions, increase energy and resource efficiencies, protect wildlife and secure the environment for future generations.

Like Chancellor White said a few weeks ago at the Transportation Diversity Roundtable… the CSU is ready to go.

Chancellor White?