CHESS Conference

Remarks by Timothy P. White
Chancellor, California State University
CHESS Conference
Sacramento, CA
April 7, 2013

Thank you, Mr. President.

Good evening. It is truly an honor and a pleasure to be here.

I've been spending much of my first 100 days traveling around the state and the country; visiting campuses and meeting CSU community members, alumni, and supporters.

But it is my time with our students that is always most rewarding. When I meet with students:

  • It keeps me focused on why we are here;

  • It helps me stay in touch with the real issues on our campuses;

  • It keeps me inspired by all of the amazing things that our students are doing every single day.

I know that you prepared to embark on legislative visits. I think what you are doing – coming together in Sacramento, speaking face-to-face with our legislators, telling your story – is so important.

Because the CSU matters – advocacy matters. Thank you for your work on Prop. 30 and getting the student vote out.

I want to talk about stories today – about my story, the CSU's story, and your story.

    1. My Story

In all of my visits I have been telling people I am proud to be "Made in the CSU."

In fact, I’m so proud of my journey, I came prepared…[removes jacket to show CSU t-shirt]

I was the first in my family to venture beyond high school. And even in high school I was told I wouldn't amount to much.

My experiences at Diablo Valley Community College, Fresno State and Cal State East Bay (which we used to call Hayward), and UC Berkeley – helped shape me and give me direction.

Now I am in a position to give back to a state where I've had a chance to live my edition of the American Dream.

If I can be pulled up and then launched by the CSU… and go on to have an interesting life and contribute to society…then anyone with aptitude and a work ethic can as well.

That's why I have such strong confidence and belief in our students and in our campuses.

    2. CSU System

The CSU also has a great story to tell.

I'm learning more about that story each day from the perspective of my new office. But this isn't from my office on the 6th floor of Golden Shore in Long Beach.

It's my other office, typically a window seat on a bright blue and orange Southwest Airlines flight, as I head from Long Beach to Sacramento or a campus.

This window seat gives me a moment to reflect on the power and promise of the California State University from 30,000 feet.

And as I look out over this diverse patchwork of California, I realize this diversity of terrain is more than the changes in geography of our state, it is a diverse patchwork of our communities that make California vibrant and strong.

Take a moment and think about a beautiful quilt…

  • Squares of fabric each with a deep color, texture and feel that come together in a way that produces a beautiful blanket with richness, quality, strength and value that cannot be achieved by a single piece of fabric.

In very much the same way the individual campuses of the California State University all have a color, texture and feel that make them unique.

But when properly harnessed, our competitive edge comes from the way in which the 23 campuses - each a beautiful piece of fabric on its own – comes together to produce the quilt that is the California State University.

  • From Accounting at San Diego State to Zoology at Humboldt.

  • From desert studies in Zzyzx to navigating the waters of the Pacific with the Golden Bear from Cal Maritime in Vallejo.

The California State University covers the diversity of academia and the diversity of our state in a way in which no other university in California, the United States or the world can.

Yes, the CSU is powerful based on sheer numbers alone…

  • We are the largest four year university, with 23 campuses, 427,000 students, nearly 3 million alumni.

But it is the power of our 23 campuses combined that allows us to answer the confluence of challenges – and opportunities - that California faces this century.

    3. Your Story

And that's where I transition to Story #3 – your story – the story about who you are and whom you aspire to become.

I've saved the best story for last.

Each of our students has capacity and the potential to help California succeed in an increasingly competitive, complicated, global environment where the skills learned in higher education will be the basis of our competitive edge.

That to me is the true value of our students. And we multiply that value by 100,000 times a year, which is the rate at which we graduate and credential students.

If the CSU sows the seeds of prosperity for our future economy…then our future alumni here this evening are the lush plants, flowers, and trees that add color, depth, and character to our communities.

We need to tell people our stories – of hope, determination, and overcoming great odds. A story of pride in our campus or campuses. A story of inspiration and perspiration to succeed in school, and all that follows in life and the work place.

Many of you have overcome significant hurdles to get where you are today.

I think it is important for you to share that story not only in your communities, but especially here in Sacramento.

Let our legislators know that you are here because you strived to get this far, and because this is the path that you have chosen.

Let them know how the California State University is allowing you to fulfill your dreams and reach toward a brighter future.

I know sometimes people tend to think, "I'm just a student," or "It's just one person's story," but I am here to tell you that those stories are the ones that make the biggest impact.

In Sacramento, your voice is more powerful than mine. It is more powerful than a campus president's.

We are the hired guns to tell that story. You are the story.

You can hand legislators sheets of graphs and charts, but when they are sitting in a hearing or preparing to vote on a bill, the words from you that they will remember the most are the stories that have the most personal meaning.

The more we share these personal stories about our experiences at the California State University – and the paths we have traveled and seek to travel – the better advocates we will be for this system.

I wish you much success today, tomorrow, and on the rest of your educational journey.

Thank you again for inviting me to join you this evening, and I look forward to hearing about your success stories in the months and years to come.