This webpage of presidential updates delivers on my pledge of open and clear communication with the Cal State San Marcos campus community. Along with my speeches, open forums, and video messages, these timely web reports will convey my thoughts about pressing issues and recent events directly to all of you, and this new avenue of communications seems fitting for our tech-savvy 21st-century campus! As I am a firm believer in two-way communication, I hope you will send me your thoughts via my email@example.com e-mailbox. I'm eager to hear what's on your mind and learn which topics you might like me to address in future reports.
Sept. 6, 2016
Keeping the Civility in Civil Discourse
Summer is typically a quiet time on our campus, as it is at most universities across the country.
But this summer included unexpected and unfortunate challenges.
We sent out messages condemning shootings and violent acts in Orlando, Fla., Baton Rouge, La., Dallas and Falcon Heights, Minn. We’ve had to lower flags to half-staff far too often, in memory of people killed in the United States as well as places like Nice, France, and Munich, Germany.
And university campuses across the country will continue to be challenged this fall as some people walk a fine line between free speech and hate speech during the final months of a contentious presidential election cycle.
From horrific acts of violence to venomous political rhetoric, it shows once again the importance of civil discourse.
There is nothing wrong with disagreement. In fact, spirited debate is an important part of any institution of higher learning. Universities are places where ideas should be shared. Our purpose is to produce students who are not only academically qualified but socially responsible and ready to engage in a globally connected and diverse environment.
Our responsibility is to send graduates into the world prepared to affect change and engage in the civic conversation. To do so, we need to model what civic and civil discourse is and what it isn’t.
Civil discourse isn’t about who voices their opinion loudest. It’s not about rushing to judgment. It’s not about disrespectful communications.
Civil discourse is about taking time to understand all aspects of an issue. It’s about considering how our words and actions may be perceived by others. It’s about working together to ensure that all voices can be part of a discussion.
It is up to all of us to nurture a campus environment that will allow us to learn from one another.
Cal State San Marcos has been committed to finding solutions to societal challenges since our founding 26 years ago. We continue to be a pioneer in issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, respect and openness. And our values extend into the community around us.
We may never come to agreement on controversial topics or political choices. And that’s OK. The world would probably be a pretty dull place if we agreed on everything. But disagreement doesn’t absolve us of our responsibility to consider the opinions and beliefs of others.
While we offer the broadest latitude possible in exercising free speech, it’s critical that we continue to foster an environment in which all people are able to embrace our shared values of diversity, civility and respect.
August 29, 2016
I Remember That Day
It was a mix of emotions that day – partly excited, partly scared. Never before had I spent more than an overnight away from home; but there I was, the first in my family, moving into the dorms at Goucher College, an all-women’s college just outside of Baltimore, feeling homesick well-before my parents even dropped me off.
Being the first was hard. And the transition for me wasn’t easy.
Although I was an honor student in high school and often at the top of my class, my college courses challenged me in ways I didn’t anticipate. For the first time, I found myself among very smart and talented young women, many of them second- and third-generation college students, and some with grandmothers who were college-educated, which was rare in the 1960s. Most came from families of privilege. That wasn’t my story. My parents had to stretch to give me this opportunity.
I felt intimidated. I felt socially unprepared, as well as academically worried.
And I struggled through my first quarter. Yes – struggled.
I remember sitting down with my parents during a rare home visit after that first quarter with grades below my usual straight As that had previously come so easily. My father gave me an ultimatum: raise your grades or move back home to New Jersey.
That lit a fire inside me. I have always been someone who likes being faced with a challenge and meeting it. I said to myself: you can do this. After that quarter, I changed my self-talk. I befriended other first-generation students; I saw that many of my peers, even second- and third-generation college students, were also finding their footing, and that collective experience grounded me. I made sure to attend social events to deepen my new roots.
And though my homesickness persisted, I began to thrive.
Having navigated those early experiences of college as a first-generation student, I know how easy it can be to want to give up. And as I think of our very own students starting their journey, some of whom I had the privilege of meeting during move-in, I know first-hand how pivotal this moment is; it is hard, but it is also transformative, both academically and socially.
Looking back, I can now say some of those hard times are well worth it. What can feel like a world of hurt, whether it’s homesickness or struggling to achieve your personal best, can blossom into the sweetest experiences. Perseverance and support are essential.
I had no idea what challenges I would rise to and exceed. I certainly wasn’t thinking then of doctoral work and never of becoming a university president.
Whether you’re a new student, first-generation or following in the footsteps of others, or coming to college a little later in life, the lesson I learned – and the hope I have for you – is keep believing in yourself.
July 25, 2016
Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers
Many people have described teaching as a calling. And great teachers share common traits: They’re caring, determined, enthusiastic and tireless. They have a passion for serving their community and nurturing young minds.
It’s easy to understand why teaching is so often referred to as the noblest profession.
But we’re facing a critical time in education. To put it simply: We need more teachers.
The teaching shortage is a national problem, but nowhere is it more prevalent than California. The California Teachers Association has highlighted some alarming statistics. Among its findings:
But steps are being taken to address these issues.
At CSUSM, our commitment to preparing teachers goes back to the University’s founding 26 years ago.
We’ve grown from preparing elementary school teachers to an impressive list that includes programs for middle level education, high school education, bilingual education, special education and school administration.
Take Elliott Powell, CSUSM’s recipient of the Dean’s Award as the Outstanding Student in the College of Education, Health and Human Services in 2014.
Powell came to CSUSM after a distinguished career in the Navy that included directing the White House Situation Room. He has always had a strong commitment to education and chose to pursue his middle level credential after retiring from the Navy. Today, he is helping to prepare tomorrow’s leaders as a teacher at San Marcos Middle School.
Our Distinguished Teachers in Residence program continues to be a valuable partnership between the University and the community, allowing local school districts to be directly involved in teacher preparation.
Our Robert Noyce Teacher Scholars program, funded by the National Science Foundation, is increasing the number of students completing the math or science single subject credential program and entering into careers as high school Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) teachers.
And on July 29, we’re proud to be one of nearly 40 locations throughout the state hosting the second annual Better Together: California Teachers Summit. The summit is organized by the California State University, the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities and the New Teacher Center.
There’s promise for the future throughout the state. In June, the state legislature passed a budget for the new fiscal year that includes a number of measures to begin addressing the teacher shortage.
Among those measures is $10 million in grants for colleges and universities to establish programs that will allow students to earn their bachelor’s and teaching credential in four years rather than the current five-year plan. EdSource, a nonprofit group that works to educate the public on California’s schools, notes that we’re the only state with a four-year bachelor’s program followed by a fifth year to acquire a teaching credential.
Those grants won’t be a cure-all for the teacher shortage, but it’s a step in the right direction as CSUSM continues our work to encourage future generations to see if teaching is their calling.
January 29, 2015
Showcasing CSUSM on the Journalist Roundtable
Welcome (and welcome back for everyone who is returning) to CSUSM for our Spring 2016 semester! Earlier this month, I was invited to sit with local journalists Kent Davy and Alison St. John for an interview about Cal State San Marcos for the Journalist Roundtable program on KOCT The Oceanside Channel which airs on Cox Cable channels 18 and 19.
I was pleased to talk about CSUSM and the people, programs, and achievements that set us apart. I shared some thoughts on the future of our University.
You can click on this link to see my interview. Best wishes for a productive and successful spring semester!
December 22, 2015
The Promise of the Higher Education Act
This year is the 50th anniversary of the Higher Education Act (HEA), signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on November 8, 1965. Though not often the subject of campus or community conversations, the HEA has a profound and positive impact on students at Cal State San Marcos (CSUSM), as well as on college and university students throughout the San Diego region and across the nation.
The HEA is the source of federal student financial aid programs, including Pell Grants for low- and middle-income students, federal student loans, and various other programs that help disadvantaged students access higher education. With the HEA past due for reauthorization, it is important to appreciate its importance in the current higher education environment and to hold our Federal legislators accountable for giving it the support our nation’s students deserve. (Read about the Higher Education Act)
December 2, 2015
Statement on Diversity
Students from universities across the United States are speaking. From Missouri, to New Haven, to Norman, and locally at Claremont, a diversity of student voices are being heard. They feel unwelcome, unsafe and unappreciated.
The common, shared experience being voiced is that universities are ignoring complaints of ongoing hostility toward students of color at these campuses. In reaction mode the universities are forced to take last-minute measures to navigate the delicate balance of a strategic and respectful vision of what diversity means in an academic institution.
I am pleased that at California State University San Marcos our commitment to diversity and inclusion is not just window dressing but transparent through our long-standing commitment to implement best practices designed to help all students feel safe, valued and appreciated. Rather than reacting, we choose to hold ourselves accountable by being proactive and strategic in our efforts.
As the president of CSUSM, I am personally committed to and fully support our students, faculty and staff as we move forward together to protect and nurture an environment where racism and marginalization cannot flourish. I trust that you know that I am committed to ensuring diversity and inclusion stay central to our mission, vision, core values and strategic priorities. As testament to this transparency, I proudly share a few examples of how we have approached and sustained diversity through several strategic efforts just in the last year alone. (Read our Statement on Diversity)
September 2, 2015
Kicking off Fall Semester with Cuba...and the Campaign
Fall semester is under way, and the campus is alive with the energy of more than 14,000 students – our largest student body ever! Here’s a picture of me on September 1st with our energetic first-year students at the annual CSUSM ‘Leave Your Mark’ event. Several exciting things are happening just in the month of September alone, and I wanted to share a few of them with you. (Read about our Campaign)