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AOA Annual Conference

Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White
Chancellor, California State University
AOA Annual Conference
Keynote Remarks
San Diego, CA
January 8, 2017

Before I begin, let me extend my congratulations to Joseph Rivas on receiving the AOA Scholarship of Excellence… let’s all give him another round of applause.

Thank you, Christina Brown and Keith Kompsi… thank you to the executive committee, conference planning committee and AOA membership for allowing me to join all of you tonight…

And thank you to our fantastic business partners for sponsoring this event, and indeed, your continued support of our academic mission.

It is a pleasure to be back in San Diego… particularly to escape the harsh and unforgiving winters of Long Beach…

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise… Going from 71 degrees and partly sunny to 75 degrees and mostly sunny really does make all the difference.

And, as I suffered in the frigid 71 degree winter in Long Beach yesterday, preparing for tonight’s remarks, I noticed a confluence of themes – People, Partnerships and Purpose – that I believe will define the CSU and California in 2017 and in the years and decades ahead.

The people, partnerships and purpose represented in this room mean that we can expand access and opportunities for more Californians to earn to a high-quality education.

We can engage in even more directed research, scholarship and creative activity that will shape and redefine California’s dynamic society and innovation economy.

And through the power of people, partnerships and purpose, we will continue to fulfill our commitment… our six-decade-old public mission to serve California.

We are, after all, the people’s university

And it is we as a CSU community, indeed as a people… of 47,000 world-class faculty and staff… of incredible 475,000 students like Joseph Rivas… of 3.3 million-strong alumni network… and certainly, you, our auxiliary colleagues... who drive the partnerships that are so critical to achieve our shared purpose.

I – and the entire CSU – cannot thank you and your colleagues enough.

Over the past few months, my system colleagues and I have spoken a lot about the important role of partnerships in the CSU… about our shared responsibility as a university to reach out, connect to and work hand-in-hand with our local, state and national peers.

At the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities annual meeting in Austin, Texas this past November, I spoke about the role of partnerships with K-12, community colleges and universities to strengthen and expand local and national pipelines to overcome a growing deficit in teacher preparation.

Later that month, I joined our community college partners from around the state in Riverside to discuss the importance of local Promise programs and college preparation in developing strong pipelines and wide pathways for all students to achieve success.

I spoke with our friends in California’s massive and unique entertainment industry to discuss how we can continue to partner to ensure more academic, internship and career opportunities for students in the cinematic and television arts.

In December, Dr. Loren Blanchard joined business and political leaders at the California Economic Summit to discuss their vital role as boosters, supporters and advocates of the CSU – and indeed, to champion our efforts across the state to graduate more Californians, decrease the time to degree and eliminate achievement gaps along demographic lines…

And there is no coincidence that this week’s conference theme is Partners in Achieving Student Success.

We all know just how important partnerships are to the success – now and in the future – of our students and alumni.

In fact, you all are leading the way on this front.

As trailblazers, you and your colleagues have consistently reinvented and reimagined how auxiliaries work, fundraise, support and transform university communities.

You have identified, pursued and mastered new opportunities that allow our students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni to succeed and thrive.

And you have helped provide our campuses the steady ship in which we sail… and have successfully helped guide our ships through the stormy seas of the past decades.

Certainly, all of you here today know how absolutely critical it is for the future of California that the CSU and its auxiliaries are working together in concert to build stronger pipelines to opportunity and wider pathways to success.

The success of our students matter… our economy, society and democracy relies on an educated population.

Education is absolutely vital to our success today, and our success in the future. Yet, today, that future appears uncertain. California faces a looming degree drought of one million bachelor’s degrees in the next 10 years.

Since the CSU produces about half of California’s bachelor’s degrees… our share of that shortfall is about 500,000 additional graduates.

That’s why our signature effort, Graduation Initiative 2025, which we announced last January, is so important. It will require the sustained efforts and best practices from our people and partners.

The purpose of Graduation Initiative 2025 is to dramatically increase grad rates, while decreasing time to degree and eliminating achievement gaps.

Now, I know we are in the era of virtual reality, so I want everyone to put on their imaginary VR headsets and imagine some Cartesian coordinates… with the Y axis as the number of students graduating and the X axis as the number of years it takes to graduate.

Right now, our graduation rates are plotted where we see a big incline on our curve starting just shy of the five year mark… it grows and plateaus around six and seven years… and then tapers as we reach eight, nine and ten years.

So now, I want you to imagine what will happen – and what is already happening – through our concerted systemwide efforts.

Graduation Initiative 2025 is shifting the entire curve up and to the left… meaning that everyone, not just those on the verge of graduating in four or six years, will be able to graduate sooner.

The goal of Graduation Initiative 2025 is not to focus on helping just 30 percent of our students… or even just 60 percent of our students.

The goal is to help all of our students to earn a degree as fast as their life circumstances permit… which will, in turn, lead to academic and future success.

We will reach these ambitious goals by hiring more tenure-track faculty, counselors and support staff… expanding in-person and electronic academic advising… using data-driven analyses to identify and eliminate obstacles like course bottlenecks… utilizing new and effective technologies to increase retention… and ensuring that freshman and transfer students are academically prepared for success.

Graduation Initiative 2025 is about the people – our students and alumni – represented by these percentage points.

And it will be considered a success if our concerted efforts mean a student who… because of their background, their story of perseverance, and their individual, dream-driven path that brought them here… is able to get a CSU degree in six years rather than eight years… or four years rather than six years. I will consider that a resounding success.

Even a single percentage point improvement – in a system our size – translates to several thousand additional students earning their degree each year… becoming our alumni.

In fact, the president of our Alumni Council, Dia Poole, tells me we should rename Graduation Initiative 2025 as the Alumni Creation Initiative… not a bad idea.

Our systemwide goals would result in half-a-million Californians – future CSU alumni – entering California’s workforce, supporting their families and bettering their communities.

That’s massive. That’s life changing… That’s future changing.

But, for us to achieve our goals and the purpose of Graduation Initiative 2025… another five confluences must happen:

First, the state must provide adequate resources that reflect our needs and the resources required to begin achieving our ambitious goals.

This past November, the CSU trustees finalized its initial state appropriation’s request for 2017-2018, including $75 million in ongoing funds for Graduation Initiative 2025.

We should learn this week what Governor Brown’s spending priorities are for 2017-2018, and I am hopeful that the state will recognize the wisdom of that investment in CSU students.

And I applaud California voters for their wisdom on Prop 55… further strengthening California’s educational pipeline.

Second, the CSU must provide excellent learning environments – led by our world-class faculty – with enough courses and academic support programs for students to succeed.

Third, K-12 and community college institutions – as partners in our student’s future – must help prepare students with the knowledge and skills to be ready for the rigors of a university education.

Fourth, students themselves and their families must assure preparedness, with the resolve to succeed academically and complete college.

And, fifth, our communities and business leaders must stand with us… putting the right pressure on lawmakers… providing our students opportunities… and keeping us all accountable.

As our closest partners in ensuring unmatched opportunity, quality and student success, you and your auxiliary colleagues already play key roles in all five.

You continue to help the CSU and its campuses secure resources through fundraising, operations and advocacy.

You continue to provide our campuses with the tools and resources necessary to ensure outstanding learning, research, creative and athletic environments.

You continue to build pipelines and pathways with our K-12, community college, UC and other partners to ensure that students are ready to succeed – and thrive – in college and in life.

You continue to build and expand countless scholarships for our students, helping them and their families with the financial costs of college… and you continue to fund numerous grant programs for our faculty to pursue research that is cutting-edge and student-centered.

And you continue to stand with us in Sacramento and Washington, amplifying and extolling our shared Californian values of quality, diversity and opportunity… which together, is our unique value of inclusive excellence.

That is our shared mission, and the CSU is grateful and appreciative for the work of you and your colleagues to help us achieve this mission.

Thank you.