Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White – October 18, 2019

Remarks by Timothy P. White (as prepared)
Chancellor, The California State University
Graduation Initiative 2025 Symposium
Closing Remarks
Sacramento, California
October 18, 2019

Lande, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your thoughts regarding the future of public higher education. The CSU is deeply appreciative of the administration’s demonstrated commitment to higher education and to California’s students from all walks of life.

I want to acknowledge Eloy Oakley, the chancellor of the California Community Colleges, one of our most vital partners in our ability to succeed in the CSU.

Please also join me in thanking Loren Blanchard, James Minor, Sabrina Sanders, Jeff Gold and Ed Sullivan, indeed all of the folks in Academic and Student Affairs, along with the event and communication folks from the Chancellor’s Office and Sacramento State, including the students who have made this event such a success.

I’ll be brief in closing, knowing that you’ve packed a lot into these two days – and that there are planes to catch and roads to navigate.

First, I want to thank you for the way you have leaned into this year’s symposium. The energy level has been through the roof – in the Grad Talks, the breakout sessions and even in the informal conversations I’ve observed. It’s indicative of your passion for what you do and your total dedication to our students’ success.

As we adjourn today, I want you to leave with your head held high. Reflect on the remarkable progress we have made and on the very real, tangible impact it has had. Your work matters. It helps elevate lives, families and communities. It creates hope for hundreds of thousands of people every day.

So hold your head high but set your jaw firm with resolve because the ambitious goals before us represent the challenge for our time: raising success measures for all, while eliminating equity gaps for students from historically underserved communities.

Our work won’t be easy, but the goals are within our grasp. The data are clear – we’re making significant progress. As we’ve heard, the governor believes in us. The state is committed to our work.

This is our moment in time. So let’s roll up our sleeves and seize it with a unity of purpose and with redoubled effort.

As I think about California State University, my inquisitiveness and curiosity often make me wonder if we are named correctly, not because of a proclivity to wordsmith but because it enables me to think more deeply of purpose, of why, and of what could – indeed, what should – be.

You may have heard me previously speak about us as Compassion State University – compassion for each other and the issues that face us. And I still believe that is true.

This morning you heard our president and our governor talk about our importance as Connected State University, where every student finds – in a personalized fashion – academic substance and an inclusive and welcoming culture with faculty, staff and students who both challenge and support, who inspire and celebrate.

And throughout these few days, we realize we must also be more bold, more courageous, to be Change State University, adapting to and creating change. It is hard, contentious and difficult work. Think about discussions about executive orders, general education, quantitative reasoning, the cost of attendance, the cost-delivery curve, etc. Paraphrasing John F. Kennedy from my freshman year in high school: This is a challenge the CSU is willing to accept, unwilling to postpone and we intend to win.

Yesterday, I encouraged you to leave this convening with three new student success measures you could implement upon returning to your campus. I ask that you put those strategies into practice starting Monday. Be bold. Be innovative. Throw fear of failure aside. Build on the energy and momentum from this conference and allow the work you do in the coming days and weeks to set you on a trajectory for your best year ever. 

As you leave this afternoon, please know that you have my deepest appreciation and gratitude for your commitment to this extraordinarily significant initiative.  Thank you again for all that you do on behalf of the California State University and its students.

And finally, yes, one more “C” for CSU. Confluence State University. Mark my words. You are contributing to a once-in-a-lifetime moment.

Close your eyes and imagine that you are in Lewiston, Idaho. To the south are the Seven Devils Mountains, to the east are the Bitterroot Mountains, to the south are the Sawtooth Mountains and to the west are the Blue Mountains, with the Clearwater River, the Snake River and many tributaries contributing along the way to create the magnificent Columbia River. This confluence of rivers powers hydroelectric energy, fish and wildlife habitats, hospitality, tourism, recreation and agriculture, logistics and weather. Now open your eyes. Our place is equally beautiful.

The confluence of 23 campuses is itself remarkable. But the once-in-a-lifetime career perspective comes because of a larger confluence. Today we have need to build capacity for the growing demand and value of our degrees. We have a healthy economy and we have political clairvoyance, especially with our governor and legislative leaders.

The CSU is blessed with talent, top to bottom and left to right. And we have principled leadership in the Cal State Student Association, the Academic Senate, the trustees, our magnificent presidents and their teams, and of course, the secret sauce – our dedicated and capable staff.

We have demonstrated to elected officials, the public, parents and business leaders – with our focus and new investments – that we deliver. We deliver alumni with skills, knowledge, experience and the swagger to lead, to stimulate the economy, to ascend socially and to preserve the environment.

As the Clearwater, Snake and Columbia power the Northwest, CSU’s confluence powers California forward, and therefore, this country and the world.

Thank you very much.