Welcome back.

In all my years as a college administrator, I don’t think I’ve seen the level of activity or felt the sense of excitement and anticipation that this new academic year holds.

We’re making strides and headway in so many areas of the university – advances that you’ve made possible with your ceaseless efforts, hard work and dedication.

Our retention and graduation rates are getting stronger, the ranks of our outstanding faculty and staff are increasing, and a sweeping variety of projects and initiatives continue to advance, which will ensure our position as a first-class university for years to come.

The upcoming year is made even more special as we mark the 50th anniversary of the Watts Rebellion, an event which directly led to our campus being where it is today.

So with this President’s Update, I invite you to take pride in some of Cal State Dominguez Hills’ recent achievements, with the promise that there will be many more to come with your continued support. I apologize in advance for not including everything that deserved mention here and for including more than I perhaps should have. Future updates will be shorter.

Enabling Greater Student Success

The CSU’s No. 1 goal is to increase the retention and graduation rates of its students. At CSUDH, we have seen first-time freshman retention rates improve to 79.9 percent, the best performance in 22 years, according to Academic Affairs. At the same time, the retention rate for our transfer students reached 85 percent.

Meanwhile, six-year graduation rates are climbing, too, projected to reach 52 percent by 2019 (for the 2013 freshman cohort) based on current persistence rates.

These improvements don’t just happen. We have undertaken several major initiatives and action steps that have built an environment and culture of success.

Dominguez Hills First-Year Experience (DHFYE)

This past summer, we expanded the First-Year Experience to include all of our incoming freshmen. In effect, we built a wider, more inclusive bridge for our students transitioning from high school to college. While some of our “summer” students took courses to strengthen their English and math skills, others enrolled in a STEM-oriented pre-calculus class or a GE course in music, art, dance or oral communication. All of the instruction, advising, mentoring and transition-type activities served as an early bonding and motivating experience, giving our freshmen an early boost and confident head start toward achieving a college degree. About 1,200 freshmen participated, a record number for the university.

At the same, we’re building a stronger bridge for our transfer students to help them transition and acclimate to their new campus and keep them advancing toward their degrees. Some of these enhancements include comprehensive advising while they are still attending community college; the opportunity to take a CSUDH upper-division GE course through cross-enrollment; early access to their major department advisor; transitional enrichment workshops; and one-on-ones with a transfer peer coach.

Second Freshman Convocation

Building on the success of our inaugural Freshman Convocation, we welcomed some 1,000 freshmen to the StubHub Tennis Stadium, challenging them individually and as a class to meet us again in the same arena in four years hence to claim their diplomas. The Freshman Convocation builds on the momentum established by the First-Year Experience, giving us another great opportunity to get our freshmen off to a great start on their college careers.

High-Impact Practices (HIP)

We allocated up to $10,000 each for six additional departments to integrate high-impact learning practices into their curricula.

HIP can take many forms, such as writing-intensive courses, undergraduate research, service- and community-based learning, internships, and capstone courses and projects.

With the expansion and further integration of HIP, our goal is that every CSUDH student will participate in two or more high-impact practices before graduation, enhancing the quality of their CSUDH educational experience.

McNair Scholars Program

The 2014-2015 academic year marked the 10th anniversary of the federal McNair Scholars Program on the CSUDH campus. Established in the name of Ronald E. McNair, the late NASA mission specialist who perished in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, the program has become a national model for how first-generation college students from traditionally underserved communities who aspire to pursue advanced degrees can stand out.

The program at CSUDH has an impressive 93 percent graduate school acceptance rate. A total of 128 students have now graduated from CSUDH and moved on to graduate school with the significant academic edge that the McNair Scholars Program provides.

Strengthening Support for Male Success Alliance, African American Leaders for Tomorrow

The City of Carson was recently named a 2015 All-America City by the National Civic League, thanks in large part to the role CSUDH’s Male Success Alliance (MSA) plays on our campus.

MSA aims to reduce alarming high school dropout rates and improve access to higher education, retention, and graduation rates primarily among but not limited to young African American and Hispanic men through academic support, professional development and mentoring.

Meanwhile, CSUDH in partnership with the California Legislative Black Caucus, also hosted a four-day African American Leaders for Tomorrow (AALT) conference to cultivate the next generation of African American leaders. More than 100 African American high school students from across the state attended.

Our Team

In June, we added one more critical management piece with the appointment of Dr. William Franklin as Vice President of Student Affairs. Dr. Franklin joined us in 2007 as director of the Education Opportunity (EOP) and the federal TRIO programs, which I note because he was able to leverage his longtime service to the university and as well as his intimate knowledge of these and other programs to help us win a significant grant to support the educational advancement of our veterans.

Similarly, we’ve welcomed 15 new deans and associate deans to our campus, who will each provide the stability, leadership and vision that will be critical to the rising success and reputations of their respective schools and colleges. I want to thank the faculty and staff who have borne the burden of so many search committees.

I’m also pleased to report that consistent with our University Strategic Plan, CSUDH is increasing the “tenure density” 1 or overall percentage of excellent, highly qualified tenured and tenure-track faculty from 41.9% in 2013 toward our campus goal of 60% by 2020-21.

We added 22 new tenured/tenure-track faculty positions in fall 2014 and 17 in fall 2015 and plan to hire an additional 20 new tenured/tenure-track faculty annually through 2020-21.

1 NOTE: The 2013 CSU-system average was 58.2%. “Tenure density” as defined by Academic Human Resources in the CSU Chancellor’s Office is computed as tenured/tenure-track FTE divided by total instructional FTE (includes instructional faculty but excludes coaches, counselors, and librarians.

Staff Development

The recruitment of the new Training & Professional Development Manager responsible for designing and implementing a comprehensive staff development program is underway. This new position will play a critical role in ensuring staff and managers receive the knowledge and training to stay current and succeed in their respective fields and have opportunities to expand their thinking and learning. Training and development programs will include workshops on business and financial processes and practices, human resource principles and best practices, team building, customer service, and effective supervision and leadership.

Interdisciplinary Research Grant Program Award Winners

Last fall, the university launched a pilot Interdisciplinary Research Grant Program to encourage and enhance research and stimulate creative and scholarly activities among faculty from different academic disciplines. The objective is to foster and develop promising inter- or multi-disciplinary ideas addressing current national or community issues. Funded proposals are eligible to receive up to $20,000. A total of 38 faculty members from three different colleges submitted proposals that covered a wide range of topics.

Student Support Services -- $2.3 Million Veterans Grant

News came just days ago that CSUDH has been awarded a $2.3 million five-year grant to increase the college retention and graduation rates of our students who have served in the military and been honorably discharged.

This award did not magically appear. Despite the long odds, Student Affairs, under the leadership of Vice President William Franklin, undertook the challenge. “It was a longshot,” Dr. Franklin said, “but it was a shot worth taking for the men and women who served our country.”

Because of this grant, many of our veterans on campus now will benefit greatly, gaining access to a host of new and expanded support services.

$3 Million One-Time Grant from the Governor

In May 2015, CSUDH received $3 million in recognition of its efforts to reduce the average time to earn a degree and increase graduation rates. The university was one of only five CSU schools to receive the one-time infusion of funds.

In its winning submission, CSUDH highlighted its “National Laboratory and Model for Student Academic Success” initiative, which integrates and institutionalizes several evidenced-based high-impact practices (HIP) that have been shown on the CSUDH campus and at other institutions to increase student learning, persistence and overall success. Examples included expanded interactions with students before they start their first semester (Summer Bridge Program), comprehensive advising throughout a student’s time on campus, peer mentorship, increased opportunities to participate in undergraduate research, internships, and service-learning activities.

The $3 million will be used to continue building on that initiative through technology enhancements, laptop distribution, curricular design and classroom conversion to active learning ones, professional development for professors, new intervention methods, and refinement and expansion of practices designed to increase and specifically impact student success.

$2.9 Million PEGS Grant

Last fall, we received a five-year $2.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s (DOE) Title-V, Part B-PPOHA (Promoting Post-Baccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans) program to launch the Graduate Writing Institute for Excellence (GWIE).

The DOE grant has enabled the Promoting Excellence in Graduate Studies (PEGS) program on campus to expand its existing services to support and advance the academic achievement of CSUDH’s graduate students. The PEGS GWIE has hired Faculty Fellows, graduate writing consultants and current doctoral students as Cross-Aged Peer Student (CAPS) mentors who will be working with students within the 24 graduate-level professional and credential programs at CSUDH, thereby implementing the multi-pathway writing and research skills enhancement program.

$12.45 Million Department of Education Grant to Educate STEM Teachers

This grant -- the largest awarded nationwide under the DOE’s Teacher Quality Partnerships grant competition -- has allowed CSUDH to implement its STEM Teachers in Advanced Residency (STAR) program, a blended 15-month credential and master’s program designed for individuals with a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

CSUDH’s STAR prepares highly qualified secondary math and science teachers to teach in high-needs schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), which, in turn, will help LAUSD in its efforts to boost student achievement. “This project will allow us to develop a teacher pathway like none other in the state of California,” said grant recipient Kamal Hamdan, associate professor of education and director of the Center for Innovation in STEM Education (CISE) at CSUDH.

Leveraging Our Unique Resources

To ensure our future growth, we are looking not only to outside sources of funding, but also to our university’s unique on-campus assets and resources.

In particular, to realize our goal of utilizing our land resources to strengthen and enhance our academic programs and facilities, including the construction of a new science center and a new business building, we initiated a Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) of regional land-use specialists to help us better understand the current market values of our abundant land assets and potential uses related to our mission and strategic plan.

Further, we completed feasibility studies for new student housing and a student health and wellness facility. I will be working with the Academic Senate to establish a land development committee to review and recommend various land development opportunities.

Bringing Our Classrooms into the 21st Century

While many of our larger-scale projects and goals will take time to develop, we’ve been steadily transforming and upgrading our campus with a number of smaller projects whose positive results are already improving our student success. Over the summer, we brought two active learning classrooms (ALCs) on line. These technology-rich classrooms increase learning gains, with students reporting high satisfaction with the new learning environment. Teaching in an ALC requires certain mastery, so we recruited and trained an initial pool of 24 faculty members on how to thrive in these new state-of-the-art classrooms.

Additionally, we renovated 17 classrooms last year to improve the student learning environment and promote greater student success.

California’s Rising Star

This summer, Stesha Selsky, a student working toward her Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), learned she had received’s “2015 California Rising Star Award.” The Rising Star Award is presented annually to a licensed nurse who possesses strong nursing knowledge and clinical skills, but has been working in health care for less than five years. To receive the Rising Star Award, nominees must show “special characteristics and traits indicative of future leadership strengths, have personal and career goals in place, and have demonstrated knowledge of current professional nursing issues.”

Working as a nurse informaticist at UCLA Health System’s Ronald Reagan Hospital in Westwood, she could not attend classes in Carson, so she moved her education online. “The nursing program at Cal State Dominguez Hills is a blast,” she said. “The professors are excellent. It’s the best online nursing-only program I’ve ever encountered.”

Philanthropic Foundation

Another way to help launch and sustain the many projects, programs and initiatives so vital to the success of CSUDH is through the Philanthropic Foundation that we established as of July 1, 2015. It will focus almost exclusively on enhancing university philanthropic endeavors and increasing gifts and donations to the university. The existing Foundation will continue to focus on business-related enterprise, including retail and dining and other commercial activities such as filming, and grants and contracts. Establishing separate foundations and boards of directors for philanthropic, business and commercial enterprises allows each foundation to focus on their core areas of expertise.

Current commitments from board members include: Dr. Martha J. Kanter, Distinguished Visiting Professor of High Education at New York University and former U.S. Under-Secretary of Education; Dr. Marilyn Sutton, major donor and emerita faculty member from CSUDH; Michael Rouse, President of the Toyota U.S.A. Foundation and CSUDH alumnus; Alberto Mier y Teran, Executive Vice President, Univision Television Group; Towalame Austin, former President of the Magic Johnson Foundation, Inc. and a current executive with ROC Nation and CSUDH alumna; and Ken Putman, major donor and successful businessman.

Invitations have been extended to additional individuals through personal one-on-one meetings.


Given that the 2015-16 academic year marks both the 50th anniversary of the Watts Rebellion and the 1965 decision by California Governor Pat Brown to relocate the state college we know today as CSUDH from Palos Verdes to its present Carson location, we have a unique opportunity to reaffirm our mission and purpose as a university.

From the start, we have been dedicated not only to preparing our students for the jobs of today and tomorrow but also infusing our students’ educational mission with a service-learning component that directly benefits their community. This community-mindedness connection has only grown deeper over the years. For example, as part of our Day of Service activities in August, many of our students, along with faculty and staff, joined residents in the Watts community to beautify Fire Station 65 and the Bradley Milken Family Source Center.

Over the summer, our students also helped our campus serve as one of the major hosts of the 2015 Special Olympics World Games, during which we housed about 100 Special Olympics athletes and coaches from around the world.

Meanwhile, in the spring, we hosted the Male Success Alliance’s 6th Annual Spring Summit, where more than 700 young men from 19 schools converged on our campus to participate in interactive workshops and attend a college resource fair to show them that obtaining a college degree is within their reach.

Of course, our CSUDH campus will be alive with a series of events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Watts Rebellion, compelling our community and university to revisit how far we have come since those troubled, turbulent days 50 years ago, and how much farther we still have to travel to create more economic opportunity and upward mobility for area residents and businesses.

Los Angeles World’s Fair

With our diverse student body, faculty and staff, CSUDH – maybe more than most universities – has seen the strengths and opportunities of adopting and promoting a global perspective. As such, CSUDH has joined our four sister L.A. regional CSU campuses in agreeing to participate in the Los Angeles World’s Fair planned for 2022-2024 across the greater Los Angeles area. Emphasizing the connectivity of the city and promoting technology and culture, the LA World’s Fair will feature expositions located in pods and pavilions dispersed throughout the 88 incorporated cities making up Los Angeles County along new transit infrastructure. Millions of people from around the world are expected to attend the fair, generating thousands of additional jobs and millions in additional revenues for the greater Los Angeles economy.

Expansion of International Programs

International experiences and engagement and global learning are high-impact practices that are proven contributors to student success. Consistent with objectives for expansion of our international programs articulated in the University Strategic Plan, a university Internationalization Task Force recently completed a strategic plan for internationalizing the campus. This strategic plan for internationalization also was shared and discussed with an external visiting review team organized though the American Council on Education, receiving accolades and affirmation regarding our plans and direction.

Dr. Gary Rhodes, newly hired Senior International Officer and Associate Dean of International Education in the College of Extended and International Education, will play an important role in working collaboratively across campus to facilitate successful implementation of the plan.

Outreach to Cuba

This coming week, I will join CSU Presidents Dr. Karen S. Haynes (CSU San Marcos) and Dr. Leroy M. Morishita (CSU East Bay), on a high-level American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) Presidential Mission to Cuba to help facilitate the process of building educational ties with the island nation, which we hope will lead to future student and faculty exchanges and other important educational partnerships.

Our participation in this important mission is largely based on the excellence of our many educational programs, ranging from our deep commitments to STEM education and special education to our overall global education perspective. We are also fortunate that CSUDH Sociology Professor Jose Prado has many academic connections in Cuba from his years leading academic seminars and workshops there.

We have an ambitious agenda planned, as we will meet with a wide range of officials, including the Minister of Education, and visit a diverse range of public, private and technical universities, including the University of Havana, the Polytechnic Institute, the University of Information Sciences, and the Center of Marti Studies.

Upon my return, I hope to share many of my impressions and thoughts regarding how we can advance these new relationships. Until then, let me say how proud I am AASCU has selected CSUDH to participate in this historic mission.

Moving Forward

Whether you’re speaking about education on a local, regional, state, national or even global level, CSUDH is becoming part of the conversation. Our unique approach to education, with its service-learning component, isn’t just turning heads; it’s producing graduates, now more than 95,000 strong, who are ready to contribute not only to their respective fields, but also their communities.

If we’ve learned anything in the last 50 years it’s that the absolute best institutions have an absolute sense of mission.

Undersecretary Ted Mitchell Comment

At a meeting last spring, Education Under Secretary Ted Mitchell relayed to a CSUDH manager that President Obama asked him what are the three most important and remarkable campuses where “things are happening.” Ted replied, “Hampton, USC and Dominguez Hills!”

Enough said!