Prepared Remarks for
President's Third Annual Convocation

Jolene Koester
President, California State University, Northridge

Thursday, September 12, 2002
Performing Arts Center, CSUN

Today we gather to take stock of the University's accomplishments, challenges, and, most especially, opportunities.

Let me sum up the state of this University in clear and simple terms: Cal State Northridge is a university on the move!! Confident in our excellence and committed to our mission, we are willing to continually transform ourselves in order to better serve our students and our region.

This University is on the move by virtue of the accomplishments of our faculty, staff and students. We are on the move by our attention to institutional priorities. And, finally, this university is on the move by our willingness to respond to the unique circumstances of our state and campus contexts.

This is the description of a university on the move. I begin with a celebration of the accomplishments of the past year that also have set a momentum and direction for the future. The energy that propels this University emanates from our stellar faculty who receive incredible support from an excellent staff. Our faculty are driven by passion, curiosity, forward thinking and an unwavering commitment to our students, to the region, and most importantly, to the University's future.

Last year in this convocation address I asked all of you to consider the greatness of our University. I had come to understand that California State University, Northridge is a great university; that we are indispensable to this region; that we are a substantial economic force; that through our academic programs, we are a major provider of the region's intellectual capital; that we are a stimulus for the cultural and creative spirit; and that we nurture and tend to the human needs of life in this region. I challenged you to see Cal State Northridge as a great university because of our success in fulfilling this mission.

The accomplishments of the past year certainly bear witness to this understanding of our University. I shine the spotlight first on our all-university commitment to the education of future K-12 teachers. In the Spring, Cal State Northridge was identified by the Carnegie Corporation of New York to be one of only four universities in the country to take part in a landmark initiative called "Teachers for a New Era," which is designed to strengthen K-12 teaching. At the same time, we were finalizing plans for a unique partnership between CSUN and LAUSD on the curriculum and program for the Valley's first new high school in 30 years. Then in May, the University's College of Education received a generous $7 million gift from Michael and Jane Eisner through their family's Eisner Foundation.

Each of these examples of the work of this great University is related to a critical aspect of our core mission-the education of future K-12 teachers-but each example occurred because of the work of faculty all across the university and the hallmarks of the academic programs offered in each of the University's colleges.

Let me elaborate. The invitation to participate in the Carnegie initiative came through an unusual process, as Carnegie used publicly available data to select a small number of campuses for an on-site visit. Only after receiving the invitation from Carnegie to participate were we then asked to prepare the traditional grant application. When the Carnegie staff was here, they talked with faculty from six of our Colleges. What those visitors saw was the commitment, involvement, and innovativeness of faculty and staff from across the university. They heard from professors who have used their pedagogical skill, scholarly work, and commitment to collaboration with each other and the local school districts to improve the preparation of teachers. They heard from faculty willing to take risks in order to do a better job, while always preserving a strong grounding in theory and scholarship.

Along with Michigan State, the University of Virginia, and Bank Street College of Education, we have been identified by objective national experts as a university that is poised to become a model for the rest of the nation. The work to be undertaken over the next five years under the auspices of the Carnegie initiative will build on our strengths but will require from us a deep commitment to excellence and innovativeness.

The second leg of this University's recognition for greatness in preparing teachers is our partnership with LAUSD in the conceptual and physical development of an Academy High School, which will be contiguous to our campus. This is the only LAUSD high school located on a university campus. The school will bring CSUN and the school district together in recruiting and preparing future teachers. We are proud to be a partner with LAUSD on this innovative project to create a high school that supports and nurtures students who are interested in teaching, and which helps high school students to be prepared and ready for the rigors of college.

The impact of the Carnegie invitation and our work with LAUSD was magnified by the announcement in May that the Jane and Michael Eisner Foundation has given our College of Education a $7 million gift to support an initiative that will help prepare teachers to understand and manage differences in learning among children and adolescents. Our College of Education has been renamed the Michael D. Eisner College of Education and our faculty colleague, Dr. Michael Spagna, has been named the Eisner Chair in Teaching and Learning. The Eisner family gave this gift because they saw the commitment of our Education faculty to our students, current and future, who will help to make it possible for all children to learn to their maximum capability.

Because of the prestige and influence of the Carnegie Corporation, the magnitude and reputation of the Eisner gift, and the unique partnership with LAUSD in the Academy High School, literally the eyes of the nation will be on California State University, Northridge over the next five years as we are "on the move" to improve how we educate those who will go on to the indispensable task of educating the new generation. The challenges are substantial. Responding to them will require the same kind of effort that allowed us to receive the recognition in the first place. You have all heard the oft-quoted statement of wisdom that it takes a village to raise a child. Honoring these sentiments, at this juncture in our history it is clear that it takes a whole university to educate and prepare future K-12 teachers. This is a sacred trust that has been given to us.

The signs of the greatness of our university extend beyond our work in educating those who will teach in the K-12 system. A brief and incomplete identification of some of the achievements of this greatness, principally from the previous academic year include:

College of Arts, Media, and Communication:

  • Music Professor Elizabeth Sellers arranged music for the parade of athletes at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
  • CSUN's Cinema and Television Arts Department was recently hailed as the top television and film school in the region by the Association of Independent Feature Film Producers.
  • Cal State Northridge's Music Department is recognized as the flagship among state university music departments in California. U.S. News & World Report ranks the program as one of the best in the country. CSUN's Studio Jazz Band, directed by music professor Gary Pratt, recently won first place at the prestigious Fullerton Jazz Festival in the category for four-year universities.
  • Last fall semester, a performing troupe of 10 CSUN faculty and students from the Theatre Arts Department was invited to participate in the Second Shanghai International Experimental Theatre Drama Festival and Academic Workshop. They gave three performances of a play called "Pterodactyles." CSUN was one of three universities representing the United States at the international festival.

College of Business and Economics:

  • Alumni Kathleen Utgoff was named Commissioner of the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • A team of five CSUN students from our Department of Accounting and Management Information Systems finished first in the Business Systems Analysis and Design category of the Information Technology competition for Southern California.
  • Each year, more than 250 CSUN students go through an intensive training program so they can provide free tax preparation assistance to low-income families and individuals. Last year, the students prepared more than 16,000 state and federal tax returns.

College of Health and Human Development:

  • This Spring we graduated the first students from the on-line Master's Degree in Communication Disorders and Sciences. Over 90% of these students passed the national examination, against a national pass rate of only 65%. This program is a collaboration with the College of Extended Learning.
  • Professor Ben Yaspelkis, Kinesiology, received a five year grant from the National Institutes of Health for more than $773,000 to study the effects of insulin signaling and metabolism in insulin-resistant muscle.
  • Professor Audrey Clarke continues work on her $600,000 Head Start Higher Education Hispanic Partnership award that provides information to students on advising, course work, tutoring, and financial aid, and also provides opportunities for Head Start employees to enroll at CSUN.

College of Humanities:

  • This past year, faculty in the College published 17 books and 24 articles or chapters in books.
  • Tobias Gregory from the English Department received the prestigious Mellon Fellowship.
  • Nayereh Tohidi from Women's Studies spent a year as a scholar-in residence at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.
  • Eight Women's Studies students presented original research at the Pacific Southwest Women's Studies Association Conference.

College of Social and Behavior Sciences:

  • Geography Professor William Bowen's Digital Atlas of California - an evolving online project with everything you might wish to know about California, has received over 1.5 million internet hits during the year and received recognition for its excellence.
  • A National Science Foundation survey of 529 comprehensive public universities found that Cal State Northridge, and in particular its College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, was first in the number of university graduates who go on to earn doctorates in social sciences and psychology.
  • In a quiet laboratory in a corner of the campus, three CSUN Graduate students are helping Northridge Psychology Professor Maura Mitrushina and her UCLA colleagues identify the early markers of Alzheimer's disease. Their research could eventually help doctors and clinicians differentiate between people who are experiencing symptoms of normal cognitive decline associated with aging, and those suffering with Alzheimer's.

College of Engineering and Computer Science:

  • The College has created a joint degree program in electrical engineering, along with Fresno and Bakersfield, up in the Antelope Valley.
  • Mechanical Engineering Professor Stewart Prince was selected to received the Distinguished Engineering Educator of the Year Award by the San Fernando Valley Engineers Council.
  • The student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers made it to Nationals for the third year in a row.
  • Computer Science Professor Shan Barkataki has received a patent from the U.S. government for a software design that includes reusable components for use in the aerospace and defense industry.

College of Science and Mathematics:

  • The College continues its strong record of success in receiving support from public and private agencies. Current multi-year projects that total over $10 million are led by our colleagues Maria Elena Zavala, Steve Oppenheimer, Kathie Marsaglia, Vicki Pedone, Virginia Vandergon, and Gerry Simila. These grants support faculty/student research, efforts to recruit and retain more under-represented students in the sciences, improved science and mathematics instruction in schools, and intensive after-school programs to increase K-12 student interest in the sciences.
  • Science and Math and Engineering are collaborating on two projects. Advisement center directors Frankie Augustin and Karla Johnson-Majedi are working on a project funded by the Department of Navy to raise student interest in science and engineering.
  • Science and Math annually hosts the L.A. County Science Olympiad, which draws some 1400 students and their families, teachers, and parents to CSUN.


  • The Library has received a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education geared toward strengthening Latino student research, and it allows expansion of a collection of books related to Latino history.
  • In its first season competing in the Big West Conference, the baseball team won the Conference championship, winning 15 of its last 17 games, and advanced to the NCAA regional championship tournament.
  • In May, the women's track and field team won the Conference championship, with a CSUN student athlete, Annetta Wells, winning the Female Athlete of the Year Award.
  • CSUN students spend about 160,000 hours each year doing community service work. They are in classrooms helping teachers, in group homes helping troubled young people, in retirement homes assisting the elderly, and in low-income neighborhoods testing groundwater samples and surveying areas for economic recovery.

    I know that you share my pride in this great University.

While most universities would describe their faculty as strong, here at CSUN we also hire excellent faculty with an unparalleled commitment to students, a commitment to sustain academic programs that have as a hallmark a link to the world of application. This is a faculty that recognizes that knowledge is not compartmentalized and thus they are willing to work across colleges to address key regional needs.

A recent Policy Perspective publication from the Knight Higher Education Collaborative made what I believe to be a very powerful statement about the role of university faculty in a world in which lifelong learning is now an accepted need. The paraphrased statement is: " earlier tendency was to observe that those who can't do, teach; today the more apt observation is that those who teach, empower."
Through the greatness of this University's faculty we will empower the people of the region to live, work, teach, and shape our collective future. The accomplishments and commitments to future excellence made by our academic programs, and their faculty and staff, are clear indications of a university on the move.

As a campus community we have also devoted ourselves to addressing key institutional priorities-priorities that will continue to drive our work and energy in this current year. Two years ago I identified four major priorities. Our campus publication @CSUN has begun to highlight our accomplishments with respect to these priorities. The first priority, to improve our contributed fund efforts, was featured in this week's edition. Why is it important that we continue to improve our fundraising efforts? Outside support must be sought and gained in order to strengthen our academic programs and to sustain our overall linkages to the community.

The good news is that for the second year in a row, CSUN has exceeded the Board of Trustee's goals for contributed funds. In fact, we substantially surpassed the $15 million target they set with an annual total for this past year of $24 million. We have improved enormously the infrastructure for fundraising on the campus in the last two years, but there is so much additional work to do. For the 2002-03 year, we will again seek to meet and exceed the Trustee determined goal, but more importantly we are working to routinize and make predictable these fundraising successes.

Each Director of Development, Dean, and any faculty member who is interested should on a weekly basis be out there talking with alumni and potential donors to the University, telling them the powerful story of this University. The goal is to have annual fundraising totals for the university that are substantial and predictable. Our efforts in the last two years have been heroic. Ideally, fundraising achievements will become commonplace and ordinary.

A second priority I identified two years ago was to make the campus more user-friendly. All of us can see the impact of this priority in a campus that is now a pleasure to be on, to walk around, and even to play croquet on! We owe a debt of gratitude to our many colleagues in Physical Plant Management who have worked so hard to bring this campus to such a lovely physical state. All of us should take a moment to thank them while we're enjoying this beautiful campus!

The challenge inherent in this priority is to improve continually the ways in which we conduct life and work on this campus. In each of the Divisions of the university, there has been a great deal of effort and change directed toward this priority. From signs on the campus, to personnel forms and transactions on the web, to work that has reduced long lines in the Student Services Building, each Division of the University has worked to make their services and business processes better for students, faculty, and staff.

There is one major effort to make the campus more user-friendly that must be singled out. Many on campus, and many with us today, spent much of last year, and will do so again this year, working on the implementation of our PeopleSoft project. In the Fall, when these systems were going up, I had numerous conversations with staff in campus departmental offices, and I understand that the impact of the PeopleSoft implementation on doing your jobs was enormous. For some it was a stretch technologically; for all it is a major demand on an already-busy work schedule. The PeopleSoft implementation at Cal State Northridge is occurring with a mixture of distress over having to create and adapt to new business processes and with satisfaction at the opportunity to change antiquated systems that don't "talk" to each otheror us, for that matter! I appreciate your patience and support for our campus's PeopleSoft project, the immediate results of which are not always evident. Your dedication to work through the challenges of such a large-scale implementation for Human Resources, financial, and student administration applications will advance the creation of effective business practices that will better serve our students, faculty, and staff in the near future. I am proud of you, and I thank you, for your commitment and perseverance in making this work.

This year will also see an effort lead by our colleagues in Student Affairs to expand and enhance the delivery of services to students through the use of the web. Student Affairs and ITR [Information Technology Resources] are collaborating on the development of electronic student services, thus allowing students to access information and receive interactive services at any time from any location.

The third identified priority is to improve the graduation rates of our students. Another way of describing this priority is the need to reduce the time it takes for our students to receive their degrees. As is fitting in a university community, efforts directed at achieving this priority have been carefully undertaken using a broad-based consultative approach. The Graduation Rate Task Force, created in the Spring semester 2001, submitted a set of recommendations to the campus community in Spring 2002. The Task Force members have now considered responses to their recommendations and will soon be sending forth their revised recommendations for consideration by the campus community.

While these deliberations continue, there are notable areas of achievement: Our PACE cohort programs in business administration and liberal studies have been particularly successful. Our Freshmen Seminar program has been particularly successful in helping our students move toward their degree objectives by completing their developmental math and writing requirements. The First Year Experience Committee, a collaboration between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs, is now looking holistically at how we communicate with, provide services to, and instruct our new students in order to facilitate their transition to and persistence through the University.

The importance of reducing time-to-degree has become even more critical as our enrollments have risen and our budgets have not been able to keep pace. As the Graduation Rate Task Force Report points out, many of our majors require a higher-than-average numbers of units; some have two, three, or more concentrations; and most have a large number of courses committed to General Education. One way to limit the impact of the enrollment and financial pressure is to assure that students can complete their undergraduate degrees in 4, 5, or 6 years or within the number of units we require for a degree. Some departments may have to employ strategies that include impacting the major, reducing the units in the major, limiting the department's course offerings in General Education, and/or limiting the number of major options. None of these recommendations will lessen the quality of our degrees. What they do suggest is how much we value helping students reach their graduation goal in a timely manner. It also suggests how strongly we view our stewardship of the state's limited resources.

The final institutional priority I set two years ago is to strengthen the University's connections to the community. As a university we must communicate two critical messages to the people of this region: first, the breadth and depth of this University's strength, quality, and achievement is incredible; and, second, the impact we have on the community is enormous. Despite our size, the number of our alums, the range of our academic programs, and our substantial history and involvement, there are still many people who live in this region who have very little understanding of who we are. A major objective of our work on this priority has been to reshape the public's understanding of what the University is and what we mean to the community. We began last year with a series of new communications about the University, and we created new venues in which we introduced the people in our community to the University. The new publications include a community version of the campus newspaper, @CSUN, that goes out to our local neighbors. We have also debuted a one-sheet mailer called "Did You Know..." which gives brief, digestible facts about the University. And the new "Snapshots" campus tours have hosted the visit of more than 120 people since it began. Helping to shape the public's understandings of what this University is and what we mean to the community will continue to be one of my goals.

While I take whatever opportunity is presented to represent the message of Cal State Northridge's role in this region, it is also now critical that each of you begins to take up the advocate's mantle, both formally and informally. In your classes, in your neighborhoods, and in your community activities, I ask you to help those with whom you interact to understand how important this University is to this region. The imperative for all of us is to convince the public that higher education is not just a private good but also a public good.

California State University, Northridge is on the move as we address critical and important institutional priorities.

The final section of my remarks about this university on the move places our work here at CSUN in the context of state and campus circumstances and the challenges that arise from them.

An obvious elephant under the table is the state budget situation in California. The state legislature and governor were able to reach agreement on, and finally approve, a budget for the State in the beginning of this month. For two months we have operated with no formal budget--planning, deciding, and spending without knowing what the actual dollars would be. Obviously, we had committed to almost half of our expenditures for the fiscal year through our decisions linked to the Fall semester schedule. This year's state budget specifically includes the possibility of additional cuts by the Governor. Most prognosticators predict that the Legislature and Governor will once again impose additional mid-year cuts. Our approach at Cal State Northridge for the current fiscal year has been to plan well to buffer the programs of the University from these anticipated mid-year cuts with a budget that assumes a 5 percent overall reduction in the dollars available to us this year.

We have commitments that must be met: we must continue to hire new faculty, we must continue to respond to the enrolled students with reasonable class schedules, and we must continue to move forward with the PeopleSoft implementation.

The longer-term issue is that the legislative analyst identifies major shortfalls for the State for the next five years, which could total upwards of $52 billion. The important message to all of us at CSUN about this set of circumstances is that, as a publicly- supported institution, there is always an ebb and flow to the amount of resources that we receive from the State. The energy and direction of our great university will not be repressed by these budget woes. We may need to adjust how we accomplish our mission, but accomplish our mission we will.

The good news from the State Legislature is that our governmental officials have given the people of the State the opportunity to vote on a bond issue for facilities for education. Proposition 47, if passed by a majority of the voters of California, would bring to our university a $15 million renovation to our Engineering building-a 37 year old building constructed when we did not even have a Computer Science program. Both Engineering and the College of Health and Human Development will benefit if this bond is passed. In addition, the bond issue, if passed, will bring to our campus $3.6 million to be used in the Minor Capital Outlay program, allowing us to make improvements in Sierra, and Nordhoff Halls, as well as to some of our intercollegiate athletics facilities.

At the County level, a unique bond addresses the quality of cultural arts facilities in LA County. If passed by a two-thirds vote, Proposition A would provide $15 million to Cal State Northridge for a performing Arts Center. While we would have to match the dollars with philanthropic support, you can imagine the hope and excitement that such an infusion of resources means to those in the University seeking to fulfill our mission to be the cultural hub of the Valley. In both cases, I urge you to consider carefully these measures, to vote on them, and to urge others to vote in this important election. Remember: that's Prop 47 and Prop A!

Our own campus circumstances bring to us particular decisions and implementation strategies that are going to severely test our institutional values. This year, just as last year, we have a tremendous enrollment crunch. We are at a projected 23,600 annualized FTES (the target had been 22,175) with 3,675 freshmen. We will have approximately 1,475 more FTES than those for which we receive funding from the State of California.
As a university committed to this region, and as a university community that understands the power of higher education for the individual, it is imperative to do everything we can to manage our enrollment while simultaneously continuing to represent access. This is a very difficult balancing act. I have asked a group of our campus leaders, led by Assistant Vice-President for Student Life William Watkins, to advise me on policy choices that will allow us to respond to the challenge of managing our deeply held twin values of access and quality without compromising either.

An additional challenge from our campus stems from the importance of the role of shared governance. Last year witnessed numerous conversations, some contentious and difficult, about the role of shared governance at CSUN. While all, I think, believe in the importance of shared governance, we do not have as a community, common definitions and expectations about what it means, which issues demand consultations, and the consequences of the consultations that occur. The role of students in a system of shared governance is often overlooked. Faculty President Michael Neubauer and I have had numerous conversations about these issues and will shortly be inviting faculty and students to participate in a series of dialogues about the meaning and nature of shared governance.

Finally, as a university community we face numerous challenges from the national tragedy that occurred 366 days ago, and from the activities set in motion by those events. Yesterday, we gathered as a community on the steps of the Oviatt Library to commemorate the horrific and heroic events of a year ago. In that ceremony, we honored the individuals who died and the collective tragedy that the events meant for the nation and this University. But we also came together as a University to affirm that we are one community, diverse yet united. Yes, we are a heterogeneous community, which I view as a reason to celebrate. I value highly the differences among us with respect to race, religion, ethnicity, culture, life styles, and ideologies. And I also acknowledge that events such as 9/11 often highlight the stresses, strains, and fissures that naturally exist among communities as diverse as is ours. But yesterday's commemoration also reminds us that the principles of free speech, civil discourse, and graciousness toward others despite substantial differences still guide how we must interact.

As a university community, we stand as a microcosm of and a model to a larger world of domestic and international interrelationships, whose dynamics increasingly reflect the heterogeneity that characterizes our community here. This is both our strength and our overriding mission. And while there are challenges aplenty in fulfilling our mission, there are even more wonderful opportunities that we can seize with equal measures of boldness, planning, and hard work. As we begin this new academic year, I am thankful that, together, we are "on the move" to make California State University, Northridge, a great university, even better than it has ever been.

If you have comments about this page, please contact the President's Office.
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September 2002