President's Office

From the President's Desk October 16 1996

Closing Admissions

In consultation with University officials in Student Affairs and Academic Affairs, I made the decision to close undergraduate admissions to the University at the end of business on October 14, 1996. Graduate admissions will remain open only until the Spring 1997 FTES target is achieved. These actions were required to assure that we could maintain our commitments to existing students and provide additional classes for students we've admitted for the Spring term.

As you know, our multi-year enrollment agreement with the California State University, established after the Northridge earthquake, was predicated on the assumption that it would take four years for the campus to achieve pre-earthquake enrollment levels. The campus committed to an assertive rebuilding schedule, a comprehensive student-centered philosophy and a sophisticated outreach effort - all directed toward restoring our enrollment. The results of these efforts have far exceeded our expectations. Our Fall '96 enrollment of 19,562 FTES is almost 1,000 FTES more than we anticipated. Current data suggest that, without intervention, our enrollment for 96/97 would easily exceed 19,200; this also far exceeds our available budget.

We believe that our highest priority must be to provide high quality instruction and adequate course offerings for enrolled students. Therefore the decision to close admissions at this time is both regrettable and necessary. In recognition of the fact that these decisions will be unexpected by potential students, any applications we receive after October 14 will be automatically considered for Fall '97 admissions.

These decisions also advance two other important policy objectives of our campus. One, by keeping graduate enrollments open until our target is met, we hope to continue our efforts to provide additional trained teachers for the public schools in our region. To that end, I have authorized an additional $600,000 from this year's budget to provide additional classes for our Spring schedule. Secondly, we will implement the CSU Board of Trustees' policy on transfer admissions by beginning an information and consultation process with community college officials and students as soon as possible to assure that students we admit for Fall '97 will have completed GE mathematics and writing.

Along with our education colleagues in our region and in the CSU, we will be updating our enrollment planning information to establish realistic enrollment targets for the next several years. We will keep you advised.

Strategic Planning Retreat

On Friday, October 4, nearly 150 faculty, staff, students and administrators participated in the third university-wide strategic planning retreat, beginning the transition from strategic plan "development" to implementation. The extensive time we have spent on analyzing CSUN's external environment, exploring and debating alternative future possibilities, and constructing succinct mission, values and vision statements seems to have been well worth the investment. The result of that work is a comprehensive list of broad themes - student achievement, human and financial resources, distinction, citizenship, community, and imagining the future- that will focus university priorities, unit planning and budget decisions.

At the retreat, participants worked in groups, each of which addressed one of the six strategic themes. The groups were asked to outline desired outcomes, the assumptions which influenced their choice of major outcomes, and the information they needed to test their assumptions. These discussions serve as a bridge between the broad themes and the development of more focused goals. We learned, again, that reaching consensus on language and themes remains hard work. We also learned that, as a university community, we need more concrete data about the status of our institution before we can develop goals and achieve consensus around them. Our planning activities this semester will incorporate more data about our internal environment to provide a stronger basis for the development of specific goals.

Your continuing commitment to this process is very encouraging. The output from the retreat is being summarized and, as in the past, will be placed on the CSUN Web Page and distributed throughout the university for discussion, modification and refinement. I am eager to continue our internal dialogue about the university we hope to become, and I look forward to your participation in this next stage of envisioning our future.

Next Steps

During the remainder of this year, we expect to move forward in several areas: a) obtain as much data as possible about our internal environment and discuss implications for goal development and strategic initiatives; b) define a process for units to develop goals within each strategic theme; c) develop a coordinating mechanism to align unit goals and university goals; d) allocate discretionary resources toward strategic initiatives and/or building the organizational capacity to undertake strategic initiatives effectively.

We share your eagerness to begin decentralized planning. I have asked Dr. Pat Nichelson, Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee, and our consultants to meet with the leadership of the formal administrative units (Vice Presidents, Deans and Directors) during the next two months to solicit ideas about how to proceed with unit planning and the development of coordinating and monitoring approaches. Among the questions we would like you to address are:

  • Do you know what the major strengths and weaknesses of your unit are? Do you have data to support that judgment? Have you reached a working consensus within your unit on these strengths and weaknesses.

    Just as University planning was begun with an analysis of opportunities and threats in our external environment, unit level planning should be based on reasonable consensus about the current status of the unit. Is it possible for Deans and Directors to accomplish this analysis and achieve a working consensus about strengths and weaknesses within the next several months?


  • Which of the six themes are strategic priorities for your unit?

    We consider it appropriate for units to select one or more themes that correct a major weakness or take advantage of a unique opportunity. In addition to providing a clear focus for efforts within the unit, these selections should, if possible, result in quick "wins", accomplishments that can be achieved in a year or two.


  • Do you have all of the information you need to develop specific goals? If not, what additional information or tools do you need?

    During the retreat, groups found it difficult to be specific about this question. For example, if a unit defined increasing retention or graduation rates as a strategic priority under the theme of Student Achievement, they would need to know what the current retention rates are for their College/Department, what level of retention/graduation would be considered "best practice," what their students' aspirations and perceptions about retention and graduation are, etc., in order to develop specific annual goals and achieve consensus around them. An administrative unit that defined improving processing or response time as a strategic priority under the theme Distinction would need to analyze current response times, determine "best practices" at a comparable institution, ask internal users what they consider a desirable response time, and determine how current processes could be improved. Some data will be available centrally, and some might require faculty or staff training; some might require research about other institutions or surveys within the University.


  • How can the Strategic Planning Committee and/or the university's consultants be of assistance to you during the next several months?

    During this time the Vice Presidents and I will consult with existing University governance groups to seek their views about the most effective coordinating and monitoring approaches. We want to coordinate information and training requests, for example, to achieve maximum efficiency and avoid duplication of effort. Should we create a new committee to monitor progress and prepare annual reports to the community on our strategic planning achievements or should this be done within the normal administrative structure?

Strategic Planning and the Budget Process

One of the most frequently asked questions is "How will the allocation of discretionary funds to support the strategic planning process impact existing program funding?"

The University's base budget supports ongoing commitments to personnel and operations, based, generally, on student enrollment. These expenses comprise the core of our annual budget. Initial budget decisions provide funding for courses, student services, administrative operations and mandatory expenses, such as salary and benefit increases, costs of maintaining new facilities, risk management, etc.

"Discretionary" resources are what remain to be allocated after these necessary academic, support and operational costs have been funded. During the past two years, discretionary funds have fluctuated from $2.1 million in 1995 to $4.4 million in 1996. In these years, discretionary funds have been devoted primarily toward recruitment and retention efforts, technological enhancements, increased professional development funds, strategic planning, and enhancing our fund-raising capacity.

While we don't know what level of discretionary funding will be available next year, the process will be very similar. The deliberations and advice from the University Budget Advisory Board will be used to link discretionary funds to our strategic themes and initiatives, including support for building the organizational capacity to accomplish our strategic goals. The specifics of the allocation process will be developed in consultation with the University Budget Advisory Board beginning at a meeting at the end of October. It is expected that budget decisions made at the Division and unit level will also reflect strategic thinking about the distribution of internal resources. Please let me know if you have questions about this.

A final word: No amount of planning or resource allocation will be effective until each of us holds the University's mission and values in our minds and hearts all of the time. They should infuse our daily activities and choices as well as our special efforts. Remember our mission: Cal State Northridge exists to help students realize their educational goals.


We are pleased to report that over 650 enthusiastic CSUN walkers participated this year in the AIDS Walk Los Angeles. Vastly surpassing our participation rate from last year when 226 dedicated walkers participated, we also substantially increased the amount of dollars raised for this worthy cause to over $20,000. This figure will put us among the top 20 contributors in this year's AIDS Walk campaign.

The commitment to community service and the fight against AIDS shown by our Cal State Northridge community in this event was an inspiring reminder of our ability to come together to pursue an important goal. Many thanks to our campus coordinator Amy Reichbach for organizing such a wonderful experience for the University.

Trip to China

From October 17 through October 29 I will be heading a CSUN educational exchange mission to China. As you know, we have more educational exchange relationships with China than any other country. While our activities were robust during the late 1970's and 1980's, many activities were curtailed following the turmoil in Tian An Men Square.

I will be accompanied by Dr. Justine Su and Dr. Elliot Mininberg from the School of Education, who are interested in revitalizing research programs, student exchanges, and training academies for educators, and by my husband, Dr. Louis Fair. Our host is the State Education Commission of China

We will be visiting Beijing, Xi'an, Nanjing, and Guangzhou, meeting with the leaders of at least six Chinese colleges and universities and members of China's State Education Commission. I will give an address at a forum on higher education reform in China and the United States in Beijing.

During my absence, Provost Louanne Kennedy has been authorized to act on my behalf in any circumstance that requires immediate action by the President. She and the Executive Officers will meet regularly to respond to ongoing needs for University decisions. Please give them your cooperation and support.

NCOD Grant

We have recently learned that the National Center on Deafness (NCOD) was awarded a five million dollar grant over the next five years by the U.S. Department of Education to head up the Western Region Outreach Center and Consortia. Under the grant, the NCOD will provide training in the area of deafness and deaf people to educators and practitioners at postsecondary institutions in the western region of the United States including 13 western states, Guam and the Pacific Islands.

Building upon our reputation for excellence in supporting the needs of deaf and hearing impaired individuals, this new grant will extend the Center's influence in assisting deaf students, faculty and staff at postsecondary institutions. It also allows our own students to benefit from the latest theories and training approaches through the work of the Regional Outreach Center.

I hope you will join me in congratulating NCOD's director Herb Larson and the members of his staff who obtained this extraordinary grant. Their excellence and recognition is a source of pride for the entire University community.

United California State Employees Campaign

I'm pleased to announce that the United California State Employees Campaign is currently underway throughout California and that Cal State Northridge will be participating again this year. Provost Louanne Kennedy has agreed to lead this year's drive on campus.

This Campaign gives all of us, as state employees, an opportunity to express caring for our communities and neighbors, and to assist many of the volunteer agencies which helped Cal State Northridge and Southern California after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. The inevitability of major disasters underscores the important mission of these organizations and reminds us that these volunteer agencies represent the very best of our national character.

The Campaign provides a quick and convenient opportunity to contribute to the charity of your choice. When you receive your participation request, I urge your generous support of the Campaign. We have all benefitted individually and as a community from the work of the voluntary organizations supported by the Campaign, so I hope you will participate generously.

Community Forum

I invite the entire campus community to join me at the 1996 Fall Community Forum. As in past forums, I welcome the opportunity to receive your comments and advice and engage in a candid dialogue regarding your ideas and concerns. The community forums help me to know how to support your work and help us all make the university a place of which we can be proud.

The 1996 Fall Community Forum will take place on Tuesday, November 5, 1996, in the Grand Salon in the University Student Union. As in the past, we will schedule two sessions, one starting at 11:30 a.m. and one starting at 1:00 p.m., so that faculty, staff and students will have the opportunity to attend. If there are specific issues you would like addressed at the community forum, please contact my office in advance of the forum, so that I might be sure to respond to your concerns.

You will also note that November 5th is Election Day. In view of the many important issues facing voters in the last presidential election of this century, I hope you will take the time to exercise your right to vote.

I look forward to seeing you on November 5th.

Blenda J. Wilson