Throughout this past holiday season, the unique closeness of our campus community was made even more vivid by faculty, staff, and students who spread cheer not just by caroling and gift giving, but also by volunteering to serve and provide for the less fortunate in the surrounding neighborhoods. These actions personify our university; it is who we are and thanks to each of you, it is who we will remain in 2014 and beyond.
I hope you enjoyed the holiday break and returned to campus eager to re-join our Toro family as we look to an even brighter future for our students and the university.
A National Model for Student Success
In many ways, our stated goal to build CSU Dominguez Hills into a national model for student success grounded in academic excellence is achieved primarily through building on the many initiatives already underway on campus. For example, one such program, the Encounter to Excellence Bridge Program begins with a six-week summer intensive program, targeting incoming freshmen requiring additional math or English preparation we believe necessary to have access to the full academic curriculum and succeed in the collegiate environment. After the summer experience, Encounter to Excellence (ETE) works with students for two years, offering supplemental instruction, intrusive advising, peer mentoring, and other proven student success practices.
As a result of the program’s success over the last five years, Drs. Sue Borrego, William Franklin, and Paz Oliverez were asked by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) to present their findings to other DOE grant-funded institutions across the country at the 2013 Higher Education Program Project Directors’ Meeting and at the 27th Annual Conference of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. ETE was also recently recognized at theCelebración de Excelencia and was included in the 2013 edition of What Works for Latino Students in Higher Education: Examples of Excelencia Compendium.
Here at home, we successfully expanded cross-divisional collaboration on the six-week summer ETE component of the program, which is offered at no cost to the student. This past summer, 650 students, the largest cohort in the program’s history, participated in the Bridge experience with over 90% achieving the goals established for them. The program also continues to demonstrate that participants are retained year to year 15 to 20 percentage points higher than their peers not participating in the program.
I will provide updates on other campus initiatives that are proven building blocks to upward mobility and focus not on our students’ risk, but rather on their promise and our obligations to them.
Student Research Day
Participation in our annual Student Research Day (SRD) is up nearly 25 percent from 2011 to 2013. Last spring, a record 225 students delivered 174 presentations on a wide array of research disciplines with more than 60 faculty and staff mentors supporting and assisting them.
Impressive numbers, but ones we hope to continue growing in our efforts to dramatically improve retention, graduation rates, an increased sense of engagement, and post-graduate and career aspirations—all proven outcomes of student research. I encourage students to prepare and submit their projects by the abstract submission deadline of January 18.
More information regarding 2014 Student Research Day can be found here.
The Faculty’s Role in Student Success
Faculty Development Center
The one constant associated with increasing student academic success is the critical role of faculty. While the Faculty Development Center (FDC) has been developing and enhancing teaching, learning, research, and scholarship for more than 14 years, the recent re-opening of a brick and mortar location on the first floor of the library (LIB C-121) further elevates this mission. It also provides a venue for faculty to cultivate and expand their skills, recognize each other’s outstanding achievements, and share best practices.
Moving forward, the ongoing activities and services provided by FDC, such as this month’s Writing Institute, New Lecturer Orientation, and Blackboard Training, will take place in its new home and I am confident the renovation and re-opening of this much-needed facility will serve to support faculty excellence and, in turn, student academic success.
CSUDH Faculty and Vincent Tinto
The arrival of Dr. Ellen Junn, our newly appointed Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, allows us to further enhance our efforts to identify, support, assess, and make known classroom-based practices associated with increased student success. Our measuring stick for these practices stem from our own faculty’s rich background and experience and also from top scholars in the student success arena, such as Vincent Tintoof Syracuse University.
Recently, Dr. Keith Boyum, Special Assistant for Strategic Academic Initiatives, in consultation with the Academic Senate Executive Committee and Academic Affairs leadership, convened a group of faculty to begin to more fully involve the campus community in identifying a set of high impact practices and strategies for student success. Led by Dr. Munashe Furusa, Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, the group includes Dr. Sharrell Luckett, Associate Professor, Theatre Arts and Dance; Dr. Ed Zoerner, Professor of English; Dr. John Keyantash, Associate Professor, Earth Sciences; Dr. Keisha Paxton, Associate Professor of Psychology; Dr. Elvira Teller, Lecturer, CBAPP; Dr. Enrique Ortega, Assistant Professor, Health Science; and Dr. Deandrea Nelson, Associate Professor, Teacher Education.
Among other tasks, the group will read and discuss selected literature on student retention and success, including the works of Tinto and others, and will present a report on their findings to me at the end of March. I look forward to sharing the results of the report and further advancing use of high impact practices at CSU Dominguez Hills.
I appreciate the work of Dean Furusa’s group and the many other faculty on our campus who strive to promote student success through proven classroom-based practices.
The Staff’s Role in Student Success
Faculty members are not the only ones who can directly provide “high impact” educational opportunities for our students. Last month, I was pleased to present the Management Excellence Award to Central Plant Manager Kenneth Seeton for his work with students and faculty to develop a cost and energy saving lighting retrofit project at CSU Dominguez Hills. Mr. Seeton’s merging of academics and facilities management helped facilitate hands-on learning for our students, a decreased carbon footprint by our campus, and energy savings for the university.
All of our staff members, regardless of title or position, contribute to our students’ success, and these many opportunities—some hidden, some obvious—have had a large impact on our students’ lives. I applaud Mr. Seeton and others who have sought to embrace these challenges and look forward to many more stories of our faculty and staff supporting our students both in and out of the classroom.
Enrollment Management Summit
Achievement of our ambitious enrollment targets over the past few years and projections for continued enrollment growth have resulted in additional baseline funding that contributes to many important campus goals, including hiring additional faculty and staff and strengthening operating budgets. However, enrollment growth and student retention efforts are not without their challenges and campus-wide collaboration is critical in exploring ways to manage them.
With this in mind, an all-campus discussion on Managing Our Success: Balancing Improved Student Success and Increased Enrollment will be held this semester and will include presentations on enrollment planning and management, results to-date of new student success initiatives and the CSU graduation initiative, and opportunities for group discussion of issues and challenges resulting from our current (and future) successes. Additional information on the time and location will be provided in early February.
Strengthening Our Assessment
The success of our stated goals, specifically in the arena of student learning, co-curricular achievement, shared governance, and accountability, hinge on our ability to continuously and competently assess our various programs, the academic progress of our students, and the institution as a whole. To that end, we recently engaged the services of Dr. Karen Dunn-Haley, former Director of Academic Assessment at UC Davis and highly regarded assessment consultant, who will be working with campus leaders, faculty, and staff to further define and strengthen our assessment infrastructure and related processes. I am grateful to all who have already been involved in our assessment efforts and look forward to faculty and staff working closely with Dunn-Haley to further enhance our culture of quality and learning outcome assessment practices in the near future.
Successful collegiate athletic programs are proven to foster a greater sense of community and “the college experience,” which can lead to higher retention and graduation levels. Despite this fact, our athletic budget, like many others around campus, is appallingly inadequate—one of the lowest funded in the CSU—and the outstanding level of performance by our student-athletes, coaches, and staff is far beyond what we have any right to expect given our insufficient facilities and sparse number of student scholarships.
In addition to addressing this gross underfunding, it is equally important for us to have a firm grasp on the key initiatives in intercollegiate athletics and a voice in how they are developed. To that end, our athletic leadership team and I are attending the 2014 NCAA Convention in San Diego this month, where we hope to share CSU Dominguez Hills’ recent successes, such as our record 162 student-athletes earning Honor Roll status in the 2012-2013 academic year, and take part in educational sessions that could prove transformational for our student-athletes and institution. I look forward to sharing this information with the campus as we work to take Toro sports to a new level of excellence.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
On Monday, January 20, our campus will be closed in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. While the life and accomplishments of Dr. King will be celebrated around the world, his legacy remains especially poignant at CSU Dominguez Hills. In the year our university was founded, Dr. King spoke of his refusal to believe that there are “insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.” More than 50 years later, CSU Dominguez Hills remains one of the nation’s preeminent “vaults of opportunity,” not just for African Americans, whom we confer more bachelor’s degrees to than any other university in the state, but for all Americans who seek the transformative power of higher education and the path to upward mobility it provides.
This year, I am honored to represent CSU Dominguez Hills as part of the procession in the annual Kingdom Day Parade, widely considered the largest parade in the nation honoring and preserving the legacy of Dr. King. The parade, which travels through Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard to Leimert Park in South Los Angeles, is on Monday, January 20, at 9:30 a.m. and will be televised live on ABC 7 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
I appreciate all of you who extend Dr. King’s legacy through your work at CSU Dominguez Hills and hope you join me in honoring his memory.
Strengthening our University
In my September convocation speech, I requested each member of our campus community to think of, write down, and implement one act that would strengthen the university and one act that would directly impact the success of a student or students. I also promised to revisit this issue to talk about our individual acts aimed at making an additional difference in the lives of our students. I will soon host a luncheon to discuss and share your ideas, actions taken to implement them, and the difference they are making for our students and the university. I will announce the date of this luncheon soon and look forward to the energy and action our ideas have generated in the name of student and university success.
Willie J. Hagan