President's Office

From the President's Desk January 29 2001

January 29, 2001

Focusing on Presidential Priorities: Student Graduation Rates

Welcome to the new Spring semester! During the break, I had the opportunity to participate in my first CSUN Faculty Retreat, held in Oxnard on January 21-23. I greatly enjoyed meeting faculty and senior staff in such a collegial atmosphere. Learning about the challenges and issues that faculty face was enlightening. My congratulations to Faculty President Diane Schwartz, her staff, and the Faculty Senate for putting together such an informative and enriching program. The meeting confirmed the extraordinary commitment of our faculty and staff to our university and students.

Of special interest to me was the presentation given by Provost Louanne Kennedy on "Graduation Rates: Are CSUN Students Completing Their Degrees?" As many of you know, improving student graduation rates was identified, in my first annual address to the campus in August 2000, as one of our four priorities deserving immediate attention.

Provost Kennedy will share with the campus community the details of CSUN graduation rates and the plans being developed to address the issue. I am pleased to offer you an excerpt of her presentation, which was developed with the assistance of Dr. Fran Horvath, director of Institutional Research. Provost Kennedy stated:

Our data, partly collected for our self-study report for our recent reaccreditation, provided confirmation of CSUN's low graduation rates. On average, just 41 percent of transfer students graduate in four years; 48 percent in five years, and only 51 percent in six years. The figures are more disappointing for freshmen: an average of only 3 percent graduate in four years; 15 percent in five years; and 28 percent in six years. While some CSU campuses have comparable rates to ours, CSUN nevertheless ranks low relative to our sister campuses. No campus should find a six-year graduation rate of 28 percent acceptable. It is a disservice that impacts students, faculty and the community.

During the Fall, I appointed an ad hoc Data Group chaired by Dr. Schwartz. The group included faculty and senior administrators with expertise in research design and statistical analysis, and one of their primary objectives was to compile data and identify what additional information was still needed.

I also want to detail some of the work that needs to be done to help students achieve their academic goals and complete their degrees. This includes the need to provide better counseling and guidance for students and to more closely follow existing policies and procedures, such as those that govern the application of incomplete grades in courses and that limit the number of times students may take the same course in an attempt to improve their grade point average. We have taken positive actions to address these issues, including programs like PACE, the proposal to move to year-round scheduling, and the recognition of the needs of our increasing number of "nontraditional" students who are unable to attend courses during traditional days and times. These are good first steps toward our goal of improving graduation rates.

To continue moving forward on this issue, I will appoint a Graduation Rate Task Force to look at the information collected by the Data Group, to increase our understanding of the challenges involved, and to propose creative and positive ways to improve our graduation rates and fulfill our obligation to help students succeed. I will announce more details about these plans soon.

I am encouraged by the willingness and dedication of faculty and staff to face these challenges and to craft creative solutions that will assure student success and excellence.

Clearly, Academic Affairs is taking the lead in focusing our attention on this priority. I invite all campus units to join in the effort to serve our students well and to assist them in their efforts to graduate. I share Provost Kennedy's confidence in the university community and am looking forward to working with all of you to address this important and urgent issue in the coming year.

Vice Presidents for Student Affairs and University Advancement Named

I am pleased to announce two new appointments to the university's executive management team: Dr. Terry Piper as Vice President for Student Affairs and Ms. Judy C. Knudson as Vice President for University Advancement.

Dr. Piper is currently associate vice president for student life at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) and brings to this campus extensive professional experience in the area of student affairs and services. Dr. Piper also served as assistant vice president for student life and director of residential life at UNLV. His other academic experience includes appointments at the University of Iowa and Ohio State University. Dr. Piper earned his bachelor of science in secondary education from Pennsylvania State University, a master's in student personnel work/higher education administration from the University of Iowa, and his doctorate in educational policy and leadership at Ohio State University. Dr. Piper's knowledge of and experience in current practices of student affairs and services management will be particularly beneficial for the university and our students.

Ms. Knudson is currently associate vice president for institutional advancement at Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe, Arizona. She has been involved in higher education management since 1981, with responsibility for external relations and advancement activities since 1983. This experience includes 14 years of managing development programs. At ASU, she is part of the advancement leadership team that is responsible for overseeing and implementing a comprehensive $400 million capital campaign that has already surpassed its goal before the scheduled end date. Her ASU responsibilities also include managing a staff of 100 that encompasses external relations, communications, information services, the news bureau, a public television station, public and special events, and key components of development functions including the annual fund, stewardship and donor relations.

Ms. Knudson earned her bachelor of art degree in Psychology and Sociology from North Dakota State University and a master of science degree in Communications from the University of South Dakota. With the increased expectations being placed on CSU campuses to raise external funds, and to strengthen relations and communications with local area businesses and civic and community leaders, we are fortunate to have someone with Ms. Knudson's background and experience.

As vice presidents, Dr. Piper and Ms. Knudson will serve on the President's Cabinet and provide important guidance and leadership for our campus and their respective divisions. Dr. Piper is scheduled to assume his appointment on March 12, and Ms. Knudson will start on March 15.

I also would like to take this opportunity to thank the two search committees for their work. The search for the Vice President for Student Affairs was chaired by Vice Provost Philip Handler, and the committee included A.S. President Robert Hanff, Dr. Sandra Harris, Dr. Penelope Jennings, Ms. Ellen Mayer, and Ms. Ludim Seja de Manzano. The search for the Vice President for University Advancement was chaired by Dr. Cynthia Rawitch, and its members included Ms. Susan Andraus, Mr. Gary Dickey, Ms. Sucari Epps, Mr. Anthony Ferguson, Dr. William Jennings, Dr. Frederick Kuretski, Faculty President Diane Schwartz, Dean William Toutant, and Ms. Robin Ferguson who provided staff support.

Special recognition also goes to Dr. Fred Strache, interim vice president for student affairs, and Mr. Dick Tyler, interim vice president for university advancement, for their work in ensuring leadership and continued good service in their divisions during this time of transition. I have been grateful for their knowledge and experience and look forward to their continued contributions to the campus.

California State Employees Campaign

The California State Employees Campaign has been a successful program for CSUN through the years. This is in large part due to the generosity and commitment to service that exists among the faculty and staff here, as well as the strong leadership the campaign has enjoyed.

I am proud to report the campaign we just concluded was the third consecutive year the program has experienced double-digit percentage growth in the number of donors and the level of donations. Donations on a net basis for the campus increased by nearly $17,000, while the number of donors grew by 109.

I would like to thank each of the more than 500 donors and the scores of volunteers who helped in this year's campaign, raising more than $70,000. Its success demonstrates again the strong connection between CSUN and our greater community. We can all be proud that CSUN is indeed the community's university.

I also would like to express appreciation to campaign co-chairs Dean Susan Curzon, Dean William Hosek, Faculty President Schwartz, and their team of some 50 volunteers who came from all divisions and ranks of the university. This year's success built on the efforts of last year's team chaired by Provost Louanne Kennedy and Chief Information Officer Spero Bowman.

New Executive Assistant to the Provost

I am pleased to announce a new appointment in the Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs: Ms. Nearlene "Cherie" Francis has just joined the university as the new executive assistant to the provost.

Until her appointment at CSUN, Ms. Francis served as chief administrative officer since 1995 at UCLA's Center X in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. Prior to that, she was assistant to UCLA's director of the Center for African American Studies. Currently completing her Ed.D. in educational leadership at UCLA, Ms. Francis brings to the university extensive background and knowledge about institutions of higher education.

Please join me in welcoming and congratulating Ms. Francis on her appointment.

Campus Achievements

  • Assistant Professor Carol Koprowski (Family Environmental Sciences) and Dr. Sarah Hall (Special Education) have received funding from the University of California Breast Cancer Research Program for "Physical Activity and Diet in Adolescents with Disabilities."

The award will enable Professor Koprowski, Dr. Hall, and their team of researchers from the fields of epidemiology and social/behavioral sciences to use focus groups and interviews to develop assessment tools that will measure physical activity and diet in adolescent females with disabilities. The development of these tools will provide important groundwork for investigating the influence of lifestyle factors and differences among women with disabilities in the etiology of breast cancer.

My congratulations to Professor Koprowski and Dr. Hall for their award and for conducting this important research.


  • Please join me in congratulating our KCSN News Department for winning the Golden Mike Award from the Radio Television News Association of Southern California for "Best Newscast Over 15 Minutes (Division C)." The award, for the September 12, 2000 broadcast of "The Evening Update," was presented to the following Northridge students and staff: Journalism students Lisa Medel, Andrea Chavez (general assignment reporters); Asally Adib (business segment); Kristen Harriman (producer); Andrew Padula, Jacqueline Etcheverry (reporters); Silvia Urbina (writer); Michelle Enriquez (sports writer); and staff members Brian Wamsley (anchor/writer); and KCSN News Director Keith S. Goldstein (executive producer/ reporter).

Presidential Inauguration

The inauguration of a university president is a ceremony steeped in tradition and custom, but more importantly, it is an opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of an institution of higher education to society and its surrounding community.

With this in mind, the campus community should be aware that the date for the president's inauguration has been scheduled for Thursday, April 19 at noon on the Oviatt Library steps. The ceremony will be followed at 1:30 p.m. by a reception in the Sierra Quad. Both events are open to the campus community and general public. Since California State University presidents are appointed by the CSU Chancellor and the Board of Trustees, we anticipate the participation of Chancellor Charles B. Reed, Trustees Chair Laurence Gould, and other distinguished guests.

While details are still being developed by the inaugural organizing committee, related events also are being planned for the days surrounding the inauguration. These special activities include cultural events, academic panels, and lectures underscoring CSUN's diversity and academic excellence. Some highlights include a special inaugural concert, a children's concert, a special exhibition at the Oviatt Library, and a student multicultural "carnaval."

One of the culminating events of the inaugural is the Distinguished Alumni Dinner scheduled for the evening of the inauguration. The Board of Directors of the CSUN Alumni Association, under the leadership of Association President David Novak, has graciously made this year's annual alumni dinner part of the inauguration. The dinner will be held at the Sheraton Universal Hotel in Universal City. The opportunity to spend inauguration day with many of the university's strongest friends and supporters will make this year's dinner particularly special and memorable. The inaugural organizing committee, chaired by Ms. Marcella Tyler in the College of Extended Learning, will announce additional details as they become available.

It is important to me that the inauguration be seen as a celebration of the entire university community. As we mark this occasion in our history, we have many reasons to celebrate a wealth of accomplishments and our hope for an outstanding future.


Jolene Koester