Spring Convocation 2017

University Convocation Spring 2017

February 14, 2017

  1. Welcome

Welcome to our first Spring Convocation since our return to the semester calendar. With so much happening at Cal State LA—and in the nation—it’s fitting to gather in the spring, as well as the fall, to celebrate and take stock of the state of the university. As you know, 2017 marks Cal State LA’s 70th anniversary. This is also a historic, some would say unprecedented moment, in our nation’s history. Let me begin by reiterating what I’ve expressed in communications to the campus since the last election.

  1. Campus Climate

Cal State LA is a diverse community, bonded by mutual respect for all people regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, or immigration status. We are a welcoming and inclusive university that prizes learning, critical inquiry, and social justice. At all points, we will continue to protect the richness of our community, as an essential element of the public good and our dedication to the free exchange of ideas. During this period of continuing uncertainty, let me encourage you to remain informed and engaged with current issues. Please check out the University’s Post-Election website, which you can link to from the home page, and which provides a range of resources that we will be updating continuously.

As I have stated previously, we continue to have the interest of our students and their success as our highest priority. We recognize this is a tense time. We are continuing to take measures to increase our support. We continue to work collaboratively across the campus.

  1. Octavio Villalpando Introduction

Let me take a moment to introduce Octavio Villalpando, our new vice provost for diversity and engaged learning and chief diversity officer for academic and student life. Octavio will work with faculty, staff and administrators across the university to develop and enhance initiatives that close the graduation gap, increase faculty diversity and strengthen community engagement. He has introduced a forum called Democracy in Action. I applaud this work and invite you to attend, and invite you to welcome our new colleague with a round of applause.

  1. Increase in Applications/Campus Life

Cal State LA opened its doors in 1947, after the end of the second World War as former soldiers returning from duty settled into the city. The university graduated its first class in 1948. There were seven students. Our first graduates would not recognize the campus today. Applications for Cal State LA have reached a new high. We received more than 57,000 applications for the fall 2017 semester.

One sign of a healthy campus is a vibrant student life. Participation in student clubs and activities is growing. There are 154 recognized student organizations. The number of students participating in student organization has increased at a steady pace: from 4,254 in 2012-2013 to 4,969 last year.

Cal State LA is number one in sales of spirit wear among Barnes & Noble College bookstores across the country.

Our homecoming last week drew the highest attendance that anyone can remember for a sporting event.

  1. Psychological Services
  • Last fall, I announced that we have increased the number of psychological counselors available to students. In 2013, the wait time for counseling services was often several weeks. Now students who request services will be seen, in most cases, that same day. Many thanks to our new Director of Counseling and Psychological Services, Jonna Fries, and our terrific counseling staff, for implementing this new approach to services, which will contribute immeasurably to student success and well-being.
  • Our Mind Matters initiative continues to integrate health and inner well-being into the fabric of university life. Please check out the Mind Matters link on our home page, where you will find videos and podcasts by our students, counselors, and First Lady Debbie Covino; as well as information about our speaker series, therapy dogs (and cats!), First Year Experience Town Halls, and more.
  1. Budget

Last month, Governor Jerry Brown released his 2017-18 budget plan. In May, following our advocacy season, he will release a revised version of the budget. The current plan includes $157.2 million in additional General Fund dollars for the CSU. The proposal falls short of the $343.7 million requested by the CSU. We’ve witnessed the power of advocacy in the past. Again we will visit lawmakers in Sacramento and Capitol Hill to request full-funding. We’ll be working hard over the course of the spring to achieve a revenue-positive result.

  1. Listening Tour Response

Last fall I heard from many of you during my listening tour. The tour allowed me an opportunity to discuss issues that are on your minds—from food choices, to sustainability, parking and campus life.

  • In response to your requests, more campus venues are now open past 2 p.m. We are also increasing healthy food options offered at our various venues. A new salad bar is planned for Salazar Hall and we’re adding a food cart.
  • We are addressing the issue of food insecurity with the creation of a student food pantry on the third floor of the University-Student Union. The pantry, which is scheduled to open in early March, will provide pre-selected/pre-filled bags for students to pick up on a designated day of the week. The food will be provided by donations from the university community and our community partners. In addition, the CalFresh Center is now open in Student Affairs 113 where students can seek assistance in applying for CalFresh benefits, formerly known as food stamps. Thank you to Jen Miller, dean of students, and Stephen Fleischer, executive director of the University-Student Union, for leading this important effort.
  • We’ve launched a number of sustainability initiatives, many of which will be featured in the forthcoming issue of Cal State LA Magazine.  We’ve added hydration stations; we joined and earned a silver star from the Association for the Advancement for Sustainability in Higher Education; we participated in a pilot program with the SCAQMD to test and purchase zero emission grounds equipment. And we became a signatory member of Second Nature’s Climate Commitment, which seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • We’ve added more parking shuttles and extended shuttle hours in response to the need to move more cars off campus and to our off-site lot.
  1. Our prominence continues to grow because of the dedication and accomplishments of our outstanding faculty, staff, students and alumni.
  • Our alumni gala earlier this month was the most successful in the history of Cal State LA. 
  • Last fall we broke ground on the new Rongxiang Xu Bioscience Innovation Center, which will house LA BioSpace, our bioscience incubator. The incubator will offer our students and faculty an opportunity to work with some of the region’s most innovative entrepreneurs.
  • I’m pleased to announce a $1.5 million gift from The Ahmanson Foundation to improve the State Playhouse. 
  • One of our most accomplished alumni is Pat Chin, who received degrees in nursing from Cal State LA, and later returned to become the director of our nursing programs. The School of Nursing is now the Patricia A. Chin School of Nursing, which will include the new Chin Family Institute for Nursing, funded by a $7 million gift from Pat and Bill Chin.
  • Our nursing programs have been consistently ranked among the best in the country.
  1. Upward Mobility
  • A groundbreaking study by The Equality of Opportunity Project examined the role of colleges and universities in helping individuals climb the income ladder.
  • The study’s authors included researchers from UC Berkeley, Stanford and Brown University. The research is based on anonymous tax filings and tuition records from the federal government following 30 million college students from 1999 to 2013.
  • Records from more than 2,000 colleges and universities were studied.
  • Cal State LA has propelled a higher percentage of students from the bottom fifth of income into the top fifth of U.S. earners, the study found.
  • The study ranks Cal State LA number one in the nation for affecting the upward mobility of our students.
  • A story about the study ran in The New York Times and has sparked media coverage and many other stories.
  • I applaud and thank our faculty, staff and students.