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Graduation Initiative 2025 Symposium

October 17 - 18, 2018

The California State University Office of the Chancellor is excited to host the Graduation Initiative 2025 Symposium on October 17 and 18, 2018 in San Diego. The symposium will engage national higher education leaders, practitioners and members of the CSU community in rich exchanges focused on improving degree completion.


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

12:00 p.m.
Registration & Lunch
​1:00 p.m.
​Welcome and Opening Remarks
​1:45 p.m.
Opening Speaker

Timothy M. Renick, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Success, Vice Provost and Professor of Religious Studies, Georgia State University
2:45 p.m. "Grad Talks"

Jim Larimore, Chief Officer, ACT Center for Equity in Learning
Ryan J. Smith, Executive Director, The Education Trust–West
Goldie Blumenstyk, Senior Writer, Chronicle of Higher Education
​4:30 p.m.
​Faculty Innovation & Leadership Awards Reception


Thursday, October 18, 2018

8:00 a.m.
Breakfast & Welcome
9:00 a.m.
Breakout Sessions #1
10:15 a.m.
Breakout Sessions #2
12:00 p.m.

Lunch and Keynote Address 

Jamienne S. Studley, President and CEO of WASC Senior College and University Commission

​12:45 pm
​Closing Remarks


Goldie Blumenstyk

Goldie Blumenstyk
Senior Writer
Chronicle of Higher Education

Goldie Blumenstyk joined The Chronicle of Higher Education in 1988. Now a senior writer, she is a nationally known expert on the business of higher education, for profit-colleges and innovation in and around academe. A winner of multiple awards from the Education Writers Association, she has reported for The Chronicle from China, Europe, Israel and Peru, and has contributed to The New York Times and USA Today. Blumenstyk is the author of The Washington Post best-selling book “American Higher Education in Crisis? What Everyone Needs to Know” (Oxford University Press, 2015). She is a graduate of Colgate University, where she majored in history, and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Frank Harris

Frank Harris
Professor of Postsecondary Education, College of Education
Co-Director, Community College Equity Assessment Lab (CCEAL)
San Diego State University

Frank Harris III, Ed.D., is best known for his expertise in racial [in]equity in postsecondary education. He has made important contributions to the field of college student development and the social construction of gender and race in college contexts. His work prioritizes populations that have been historically underrepresented and underserved in education. Harris’s scholarship has been published in leading journals for higher education and student affairs research and practice. He has delivered more than 500 academic and professional presentations and his commentary has been sought by media outlets including CNN, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, to name a few. Harris has worked as a student affairs educator and college administrator in the areas of student affairs administration, student crisis support and advocacy, new student orientation programs, multicultural student affairs, academic advising and enrollment services. Harris earned a bachelor’s degree in communication studies at Loyola Marymount University, a master’s degree in speech communication at California State University Northridge and a doctorate in higher education from the University of Southern California.

Jillian Kinzie

Jillian Kinzie
Associate Director
Center for Postsecondary Research and the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) Institute
Indiana University School of Education

Jillian Kinzie, Ph.D., conducts research and leads project activities on effective use of student engagement data to improve educational quality, and serves as senior scholar with the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA). She is co-author of “Assessment in Student Affairs” (2016), “Using Evidence of Student Learning to Improve Higher Education” (2015), “Student Success in College” (2005/2010), and “One Size Does Not Fit All: Traditional and Innovative Models of Student Affairs Practice” (2008/2014). She is co-editor of “New Directions in Higher Education” and serves on the boards of the Washington Internship Institute and the Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education. Kinzie earned her Ph.D. from Indiana University in higher education with a minor in women’s studies. Prior to this, she served on the faculty of Indiana University and coordinated the master’s program in higher education and student affairs. She also worked in academic and student affairs at Miami University and Case Western Reserve University.

Jim Larimore

Jim Larimore
Chief Officer
ACT Center for Equity in Learning

Jim Larimore is chief officer for the ACT Center for Equity in Learning, where he leads ACT’s strategy to engage students, families, educators and communities to promote equity in learning and success. Larimore’s team develops programs, research and partnerships to improve college and career readiness for all students. His career in higher education focuses on college access and student success. He has served as deputy director for student success at the Gates Foundation, and as a student affairs leader at campuses including Stanford, Dartmouth, Swarthmore and NYU Abu Dhabi. Larimore served on the Advisory Council for the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, and now serves on the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions Advisory Council and the International Student Affairs Advisory Board for the Universidad de Monterrey in Monterrey, Mexico.

Timothy M. Renick

Timothy M. Renick
Vice President, Enrollment Management and Student Success
Vice Provost and Professor of Religious Studies
Georgia State University

Since 2008, Timothy Renick, Ph.D., has directed the student success and enrollment efforts of the university, overseeing among the fastest improving graduation rates in the nation and the elimination of all achievement gaps based on students’ race, ethnicity or income level. Renick has testified on strategies for helping university students succeed before the U.S. Senate and has twice been invited to speak at the White House. His work has been covered by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and CNN and cited by President Obama. He was named one of 2016’s Most Innovative People in Higher Education by Washington Monthly and was the recipient of the 2015-16 Award for National Leadership in Student Success Innovation. He currently is principal investigator for a $9 million U.S. Department of Education grant to study the impact of proactive, predictive-analytics-based advisement on 10,000 low-income and first-generation students nationally.

Ayşe Şahin

Ayşe Şahin
Professor and Chair, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Wright State University

Ayşe Şahin, Ph.D., author of an inquiry-based advanced undergraduate text on dynamical systems, focuses her research on actions of amenable groups. She has published in the areas of orbit equivalence of group actions, tilings of groups and special representations of group actions. Şahin also has interests in curriculum development and teacher training. She has designed special mathematics courses for science majors and future and practicing teachers. She was co-director of a Master in Middle School Mathematics Education program and has designed and organized professional development programs for teachers in the Common Core State Standards in mathematics. Şahin is interested in inquiry-based learning methods in the college classroom and has co-authored an inquiry-based advanced undergraduate level text on dynamical systems. Şahin holds a bachelor’s in mathematics from Mount Holyoke College, and a master’s and Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Ryan J. Smith

Ryan J. Smith
Executive Director
The Education Trust–West

Ryan J. Smith is currently the executive director of The Education Trust – West, a research and advocacy organization focused on educational justice and the high academic achievement of all California students, particularly those of color and living in poverty. His previous roles include serving as the director of education programs and policy for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the Senior Director of Family and Community Engagement for Partnership for Los Angeles Schools and coordinating Communities for Los Angeles Student Success (CLASS), a Los Angeles-based coalition of civil rights, education and community advocacy groups dedicated to closing the opportunity and achievement gaps for students-of-color and students living in poverty. Smith is a current Annie E. Casey Foundation Children and Family Fellow and doctoral candidate in education at UCLA. He has authored more than a dozen editorials and opinion pieces published in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Sacramento Bee, EdSource and others.

Jamienne S. Studley

Jamienne S. Studley
WASC Senior College and University Commission 

Jamienne Studley became the sixth president of WASC Commission in January 2018. Previously, she was deputy undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Education from 2013 to 2016, at times also acting in the positions of under secretary and assistant secretary for postsecondary education. Her focus included accreditation and accountability, development of the College Scorecard, campus climate issues and student success strategies. Studley also served on the federal advisory committee on accreditation, the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) from 2008 to 2013 (chair, 2011-13). Earlier, Studley was the department’s deputy and then acting general counsel from 1993 to 1999.

Studley has served in a number of other higher education roles, including the first female president of Skidmore College; associate dean and lecturer at Yale Law School and scholar in residence at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. She has also been professor of practice in public policy at Mills College, adjunct faculty at UC Berkeley and Stanford Law Schools, board member of the Association of American Colleges & Universities and served on the Visiting Committee at Harvard Law School. A graduate of Barnard College (magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa) and Harvard Law School, Studley also served as National Policy Advisor for Beyond 12 and an independent consultant on institutional effectiveness, accreditation and leadership.

Frederick Uy

Frederick Uy
Co-Director, Center for Advancement of Instruction in Quantitative Reasoning (CAIQR)
Director of Educator Preparation and Public School Programs
California State University Chancellor’s Office

Frederick Uy, Ed.D., is an expert in mathematics, who holds a doctoral degree in mathematics education from Columbia University, and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in pure and applied mathematics. Dr. Uy has done extensive work in advancing elementary and secondary curriculum and instruction in mathematics as a professor and chair of the Division of Curriculum and Instruction at Cal State LA. He has worked on many projects and programs such as Upward Bound, Early College Initiative, Mathematics Preparation Initiative (MPI), Mathematics and Science Teachers Initiative (MSTI) and Mathematics Teacher Education Partnership (MTEP). A former K-12 mathematics teacher and a published author, he continues to present at national and international conferences. Uy also collaborates with school districts, publishers and other educational organizations as a mathematics education consultant.

German Vargas

German Vargas
Assistant Vice President for Academic Student Engagement
Associate Professor of Math
College of Coastal Georgia

German Vargas, Ph.D., serves as the assistant vice president for Academic Student Engagement at the College of Coastal Georgia. He has been teaching at the collegiate level for the past 13 years and is still involved in classroom instruction of courses ranging from developmental math to upper-division courses in the B.S. in Mathematics program at CCGA. In 2011, he was a key participant in the Complete College America grant initiative that funded four institutions in the University System of Georgia to enhance the success rates in developmental programs by incorporating technology and redesigning models of instruction. In January 2013, Vargas was appointed by the USG to serve as a member of the statewide Task Force on the Role of Mathematics in College Completion. He was subsequently appointed by the USG as chair of the Ad Hoc Steering Committee, the group that developed the implementation plan that guided the transformation of mathematics education throughout the system. Vargas was the 2014-2015 chair of the Academic Advisory Committee on Mathematical Subjects, and is the leader of several initiatives including the transformation at scale to adopt open educational resources in Mathematics courses, as part of the Affordable Learning Georgia efforts.

J. Luke Wood

J. Luke Wood
Dean’s Distinguished Professor of Education, College of Education
Co-Director of the Community College Equity Assessment Lab (CCEAL
San Diego State University

J. Luke Wood, Ph.D., serves as the director of the Joint Ph.D. program in education between San Diego State and Claremont Graduate University and director of the Ed.D. program in community college leadership. Dr. Wood is also Co-Director of the Community College Equity Assessment Lab (CCEAL), a national research and practice center that partners with community colleges to support their capacity in advancing outcomes for men of color. Wood’s research has been featured by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Huffington Post, Fortune Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, San Francisco Chronicle, C-SPAN and National Press Club. Wood has authored over 120 publications and authored or edited 14 books including “Supporting Men of Color in the Community College” (2017), “Teaching Boys and Young Men of Color” (2016), and “Teaching Men of Color in the Community College” (2015). Wood received his Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy studies with an emphasis in higher education, and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in early childhood education, from Arizona State University. He also holds a master’s degree in higher education leadership with a concentration in student affairs and a bachelor’s degree in black history and politics from California State University, Sacramento.

Connect with us

All speakers will be streamed online at

Use #GradInitiative2025 to comment, reflect, and ask questions.


Please contact Dr. Sabrina Sanders, Director, Students Affairs Projects & Initiatives:

Access 2017 symposium resources here.