2014 SSU/NB Business Journal

Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White
Chancellor, California State University
2014 SSU/NB Business Journal
Economic Outlook Conference
Rohnert Park, CA
February 19, 2014

Thank you, Brad (Bollinger). And thanks to all of you for gathering to reflect on the important needs of the North Bay region and of the state of California.

I understand that this is the first major business event to be held in this spectacular new ballroom and I am very pleased that we are able to hold this landmark event here, especially with such a diverse and talented panel of speakers. I hope it is the first of many such events

Late last month I delivered what was my first “State of the CSU” address to the California State University’s Board of Trustees.

I presented a vision of what we are doing for students, and I spoke of our need to further enhance our work in supporting students all the way through graduation.

To give you the one-sentence distillation: We are here to help students, and in the process, we are here to help you. We want our students to do well, so that they can go on and succeed in the workforce. And so your business succeeds.

And we are going to continue to do more, all the time, to help our young people go on to pursue meaningful careers and enrich their own lives and the lives of others in their communities.

Today, I want to share a little more about the CSU’s plans for the future, and how we hope to work closely with all of you as these plans unfold.

During my first year at the helm of the CSU system, I visited all 23 of our university campuses and saw the CSU in action first hand. I met with the students, faculty, staff, community members, and partners who help us fulfill our noble mission every single day.

I rode by car, airplane, bus, and Segway. I played a kazoo. I pardoned a turkey and kissed a camel. I analyzed a crime scene, worked in a laboratory, and explored a digital history museum.

I got a chance to see the range of innovative, meaningful, and relevant learning and discovery opportunities for our students. To highlight just a few:

  • Focused educational programs that attend to our state’s workforce needs and help employees remain relevant in an ever-changing economy.
  • Applied research with heavy student involvement in laboratories, fields, clinics, studios and public schools. Worth noting: Here at Sonoma State, 65 % of students are involved in some kind of internship or research project.
  • Service learning that engages students with the community to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world challenges and opportunities.
  • A growing and impressive array of online, hybrid, and flipped educational courses and options.
  • African American, Asian Pacific Islander, Latino, and Native American outreach initiatives that  speak to increasing the access, achievement, graduation and employment of these historically underserved populations.

The CSU covers the long ground, taking students from the whole spectrum of academic readiness and helping them transform into dynamic leaders…change agents who are ready to improve California and the world, and to change it for the better. 

I am proud of what we do, whom we serve, and how much value we add to their lives and to the public good.

We are truly “first in class” in what we do - and California needs more of it.  Our state needs one million more graduates by 2025 to enable the health of our economy. This need is enormous, and we must intensify our efforts to do our part to meet that need.

To this end, I have pledged to work with faculty, staff, campus and chancellor’s office leadership, students, alumni and our Board of Trustees to further invigorate our efforts on student achievement and degree completion.

The CSU is preparing to invest an additional $50 million in seven key areas designed directly to advance student achievement and high quality degree completion.

This ambitious goal will require a solid and sustained commitment from the people of the CSU – and it will also require investment by our public and private partners across California. But it will be done with our eyes on a collective goal: a strong, successful, and prosperous future – for our students, our communities, our state, and our nation.

Internal and External Needs

But we’re up against some significant challenges, the first of which is establishing our priorities as we move forward.

The Master Plan for Higher Education is a brilliant document that laid out the CSU’s role in California. But now it is more than 50 years old, and it clearly was written for students and society in another time. Our state’s population has more than doubled since 1960. Our student body at the CSU is almost five times what it was in 1960. Our state is pressed with changing needs and new challenges that the plan’s authors could never have imagined.

That’s why we will be wise to assess our future through the lens of the Master Plan while understanding the need to bring it into the 21st century.

The recession also contributed to our challenges, as our state support went down and our physical, technological, and human resources needs increased.

On the student side, we are currently receiving the same amount of money from the General Fund in constant dollars that we did 20 years ago, and yet we are serving approximately 100,000 more full-time students than we did back then.

At the same time, we are facing a growing state need for residents with college degrees. The Public Policy Institute of California, among others, has estimated that our state will need about 60,000 more baccalaureate degrees per year to reach the goal of 1 million additional college graduates by 2025 – which would require degree production 40 percent higher than current levels.

Given that the CSU awards nearly one-half of the state’s baccalaureates, that outcome weighs heavily on our shoulders in this university system. And given our state’s demographic realities, the CSU’s challenge and opportunity will continue to be serving those students who are often the most difficult to reach - working-age adults and Californians from low income households.

The demand for us is most certainly there. This year we received the largest number of applications we have ever received for fall 2014 admissions – roughly 760,000 applications from 284,000 students – an increase of nearly ten percent from two years ago.

With the pressure of these demands both internally and externally, we cannot simply replace what we had in the past... we must redesign with a new focus on our greatest areas of need.

And that doesn’t mean rebuilding in the sense of replacing old broken windows lost with the economic storm with identical new ones. It means re-designing and revitalizing the core of our mission.

Our top priority will be to firm up our fiscal and policy commitments to access, persistence to degree, and degree completion – to improve the educational experience and degree attainment for all students, and to enable students to earn a high-quality degree in a shorter amount of time. 

The Commitment: Student Achievement and Degree Completion

We have already made important progress in this direction. And the past 10 years have been the most productive since the CSU was created, with approximately 900,000 degrees granted.

But we need to design innovative ways to do more to help our students achieve. To do this, we will focus on seven key areas that will facilitate student success and achievement and degree completion – with a total commitment of $50 million. 

The seven key areas include:

  1. Tenure-track faculty hiring: We are committing to appoint more tenure-track faculty in areas that matter most to California’s future, and begin to reverse the long-declining ratio of tenured and tenure-track faculty to lecturers.
    1. Why is this important? It is our outstanding faculty who go above and beyond to help students secure a meaningful future.  Like Benjamin Ford, a mathematics and statistics professor here at Sonoma State, who is the founding faculty advisor for the North Bay Mathematics Project, providing professional learning opportunities for K-12 teachers. Since he joined Sonoma State, he has received more than $9 million in external grant funding, primarily supporting educational partnerships within the university and with K-12 schools.

  2. Enhanced advising: We will appoint more professional staff advisors on campuses to leverage the work already underway with e-advising technologies and current staff that give “real-time” advice for students.
    1. Who benefits from good advising? Students like Casey Sullivan, who came to Sonoma State with experience in construction, but wanted to move from blue collar to white collar jobs. He worked closely with Sarah Dove, the career center director, and earned a prestigious summer internship with Target. After graduating he was hired by Consolidated Electrical Distributors, who had had their eye on him since before graduation.

  3. Bottleneck initiative: We will expand investment to find more innovative solutions for bottleneck courses, to support more online concurrent cross-campus enrollment courses, and provide students with more choices for filling their schedules with courses they need when they can take them.

  4. Student preparation: We must invest more to help incoming first-year students attain college readiness before arriving on campus, and support under-served students by expanding Early Start.
    1. Our students look up to role models like John Michael Vincent Coralde, a senior kinesiology major at Sonoma State. He is a native Filipino who suffered extreme poverty in his home country…and when he moved to the U.S. at age 14, he struggled with the language and the culture. Now he is a successful college student who is active in leadership roles on campus to help other students transition to college life. He has served as a guide in programs ranging from Summer Bridge to peer advising and community service advisor…and he still makes time to do volunteer work, even while working three jobs and taking 19 units.

  5. High-impact practices: We will invest to accelerate implementation of high-impact practices that drive student achievement.  This includes service learning, undergraduate participation in applied research, internships, study abroad, and first-year student learning communities.
    1. Did you know that Sonoma State has the highest number per capita of any CSU campus in student applying for study abroad? Hope Embry Ortiz, the International & Exchange Programs Advisor, tells us, "I'm passionate about international education because of the exceptional and visible benefits it provides our students. The best part of this job is seeing how students developed during their time abroad.”

  6. Expand data-driven decision making: We will expand data collection and data-driven decision making to improve the quality of our programs and implement programs that advance student success. Why is this important?
    1. To make the wisest decisions possible, they need to be evidence and data based, and often times we can’t access the information in a timely fashion on a campus or across the system…without making 23 phone calls.

  7. Bolster transfer degree completion rates: Improve access and degree completion within two years by community college transfer students through a host of new strategies including admissions preference. Why?
    1. Because of transfer success stories like Kelly Cummings, who came to Sonoma State as a transfer student from Santa Rosa Junior College. She met school of education faculty member Susan Campbell at a transfer student information meeting.  They kept in touch during her undergrad program for two years, and then she entered the credential program. And now she has a job teaching 1st grade in a Santa Rosa public elementary school--Austin Creek in Rincon Valley.  She is the kind of dynamic teacher every kid would love to have.

Those are the seven components that make up our commitment to student success. And to those who ask about the total cost of this $50 million commitment, I reply it is not a cost.  It is an investment. 

The cost to California will occur if we don’t do it.  The liability to California will occur with more unemployment costs, more costs for social services and the criminal justice system, and state revenue foregone because of lower wages.

Moving Forward with Partners

Looking ahead, we believe that we must work hand-in-hand with our partners to be truly successful.  We will continue to reach out to policymakers; colleagues in P-12, community colleges, and higher education; our trustees, faculty, staff and students; the public; and of course business and community organizations. That’s why I’m glad to be with you today.

Sometimes I get the question: When you work with private industry, is that a step toward privatization of the university? To that I respond: With decreased support from our state, we lose our ability to serve as a public good. So by partnering with private industry, we preserve and enhance the public nature of our university.

Let me give you some examples: We have a Hospitality Industry Advisory Board, made up of leaders from the hospitality industry from across the state who advise us on our hospitality and tourism programs. Sonoma State has been especially active on this board, as it was the first university in the nation to offer a wine business degree.

Through continued input and advisement from business partners, the campus also offers industry-driven certificates in subjects including Wine Industry Finance and Accounting. This is a perfect example of how we align, refine, and expand our curriculum to address workforce needs.

And to offer an even more recent example: Sonoma State has just formed a North Bay Engineering Industry Advisory Board - made up of twelve representatives from hi-tech companies and educational institutions in the area, to forge a strong and mutually beneficial public-private engineering research and education collaboration between SSU students and faculty and the local industry. The board will also help identify ways to collaborate on research activities and projects with the goal of ultimately meeting more local business needs.

In other words, through our close partnerships with private entities, we are enhancing our ability to serve as a public institution.


Let me finish by stating that we care about the impact we make in the individual lives of our students, but know that impact is only the first ripple in the pond of their community.  With every graduation season we celebrate not only the milestone for our graduates, but also the impact we have made in the communities they call home. 

And we do so proudly because we are the California State University, a public good worthy of public and private investment, and we produce the graduates that are needed to lead and improve the quality of life for all peoples in this state of California and this nation.

Working together for the public good is our ultimate goal. It is our future. And it will be our legacy. I look forward to continuing our journey together with all of you.

Thank you very much. I will be glad to take any questions you may have.