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AABHE National Conference - Welcome Remarks

Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White
Chancellor, California State University
AABHE National Conference – Welcome Remarks
Long Beach, CA
April 7, 2016

Good afternoon… and welcome to Long Beach.

I want to begin by thanking Ken Monteiro for his leadership of the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education… and for his commitment over the years to the mission of the CSU.

I also wish to thank Jacqueline Mimms from Cal State Bakersfield and Tony Ross from Cal State LA for their dedication to this association and the CSU.

And I also want to express my deepest gratitude to Cal State Bakersfield president Horace Mitchell… Cal State LA president emeritus Jim Rosser… and Pastor Myesha Chaney for their passionate efforts creating opportunity and excellence for CSU students and the people of California… and to congratulate them on their awards.

It is indeed a privilege to continue our partnership with AABHE as we work together on our shared commitment to ensure quality educational opportunities for our Black students.

And as partners, I wish to share with you where the California State University is heading… where we’ve charted our course… and why our partnerships with AABHE and our sibling institutions are so incredibly valuable for our students, faculty, staff and alumni.

Last year, the CSU’s 23 campuses enrolled over 20,000 students identifying as Black and African American.

Half of the bachelor’s degrees earned by African American students in California came from the CSU… And we employ more than 2,500 Californians who identify as Black or African American… with one-third in faculty positions.

We view these enrollment and employment figures not just as facts for our Wikipedia page… but rather as confirmation of our six-decade-long work to educate all Californians… regardless of one’s race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, sexuality, immigration or financial status.

We know that the educational opportunities we help foster for African American communities today lead to our nation’s successes tomorrow.

We also know that California is an economic and social leader… we are one of the national trailblazers for higher education… and that the rest of the country look to us to lead the way forward.

We know that the social, economic and political imperatives at stake compel us to push forward on improving access for Black students… and making sure that we overcome the challenges and obstacles that prevent students from graduating at the same rates – and within the same amount of time – as their peers.

Our Graduation Initiative 2025 is a vital effort toward this imperative. Yet… the objectives of Graduation Initiative 2025, however noble, are only steps in the right direction.

Our ultimate goal in the CSU – I call it our moon landing – must be a quality bachelor’s degree for every Californian willing and able to earn it… with an achievement gap of zero.

Zero.

That means the same opportunity to succeed for every student.

That is how we empower the disenfranchised. That is how we achieve both inclusivity and excellence. Only together.

We are indeed making progress – and while I think the moon is indeed still in sight – we still have a lot of work to do to reach our ultimate goal.

Yet, I’m bullish on this front, because I know that the CSU has the right people in place to achieve this goal.

We have engaged students, an excellent faculty and terrific support staff. But for the CSU to succeed, we also need the people of California committed to our goal.

The only way for us to make consequential progress on any of our shared goals is to empower those who have been disenfranchised… and provide those previously excluded from quality educational opportunities with the tools needed to earn their degree.

Fifty-one years ago… the Watts Rebellion forced many in this state and country to come face-to-face with the decades and centuries of discriminatory policies and attitudes that deliberately and systemically blocked access to quality educational opportunities, among so many other things.

At the time, then-Governor Pat Brown… father of our current governor… held the revolutionary idea that education – and only education – can lift up individuals, families and communities.

And from the activism and ashes of the Watts Rebellion rose Cal State Dominguez Hills… which this year, celebrated its 50th anniversary… and now boasts nearly 100,000 alumni, with nearly two-thirds living, working and succeeding within 25 miles of the campus.

I love telling this story, and do so often… because it truly encapsulates our vision and values…. it points to our history as the people’s university… and it reminds us all of the academic and social mission that the California State University was founded upon.

This mission is also why we’re working hard in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. to increase opportunities and pathways to success.

In Sacramento, we’re pushing for reinvestment in public higher education… asking legislators and policymakers to Stand with CSU.

This past year, we were very successful in telling our story… and the CSU received its first fully-funded budget request in nearly a decade. Those of you aware of the fiscal challenges that California faced over the past 15 years, know that a fully-funded budget is something close to a miracle.

Yet, we achieved it because we came together – students, faculty, staff, alumni, civic leaders, business partners and friends – and we reinforced the power of the CSU to transform lives and communities.

We also committed – through this additional funding – to enroll an additional 12,500 eligible Californians, previously turned away from the CSU due to a lack of resources.

And in Washington, along with our partners, we continue to push to make the financial aid process easier… and more equitable… for the students that our institutions serve.

We’re working to bring back year-round Pell grants to better assist the students who often do not take the traditional flight plan toward earning their degree.

As you know, many of our students, particularly those who are first-generation, low-income or a variety of personal and familial responsibilities, are unable to take the traditional route to a degree.

We know that if our students are able to receive financial aid over the summer term, they will have more flexibility and are more likely to graduate on-time… with less of a financial burden.

We’re pursuing additional funding for teacher preparation programs that help ensure that high-quality educators – particularly in the STEM fields – are not only teaching in our underserved communities… but that they represent those communities as well.

These advocacy efforts – along with our Graduation Initiative 2025 plan – are helping to build pathways – or, in the context of our moon landing goal, flight plans – to success.

That’s why this year’s AABHE conference theme, Powerful Partnerships for Powerful Results, is so relevant to the work that we are doing at the CSU… and I imagine similar work that you are doing on your respective university and college campuses.

Partnerships – in all forms – play a key role in promoting opportunity, quality and success for our students.

CSU campuses like Cal State East Bay and Long Beach State are partnering with local governments, school districts and community groups on College Promise programs… creating a clear flight plan for student achievement… from early start to bachelor’s degree.

Systemwide, our CSU African American Initiative – which celebrated its 11th anniversary last month – is partnering with churches in California to increase the college preparation, enrollment and graduation rates of African American students.

And for the eleventh year in a row, our Super Sunday event has brought together campus presidents and university leadership with over 100 church congregations across California to highlight the social, economic and political necessity for higher education.

We provide resources and tools to help families navigate college preparation, application and financial aid.

This year, I was honored to speak at the Acts Full Gospel Church in Oakland. My message to potential students and their families that day was that you can go and succeed in college, and the CSU is ready to help you along that path.

We are ready because it is our responsibility – and our opportunity – to make certain that we meet the needs of our African American communities… in California… and across the nation.

We are ready because of our founding mission to serve the people of California… and our university’s history as a revolutionary force in higher education… opening new pathways and providing quality opportunities for disenfranchised, underserved and underrepresented students to succeed…

And we are ready because of our partners, like AABHE… and because of the incredible legacy of determination and excellence that the trailblazers here in this room forged for future generations.

Thank you, and welcome again to our great city.