Fall 2011 Convocation Speech

Andrew Rogerson
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Fall 2011 Speakers
August 22, 2011

Ruben Armiñana
President

Andrew Rogerson
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Ben Ford
Chair of the Faculty

Alex Boyar
Associated Students President

Dolores Bainter
Staff Representative to the Academic Senate

Provost Andrew Rogerson

Welcome faculty, staff, administrators and students to the start of the new academic year. Let me start by extending a special welcome to our new faculty joining our University from many locations across the state.  You bring a wealth of talent and expertise that will enhance SSU’s teaching, learning, discovery and service.

Please stand and be recognized when I call your name.

Dr. Jenny Bent is an assistant professor in music and has been named director of choral activities.  Originally from New Hampshire, Jenny completed her doctorate at the University of Illinois. Dr. Bent will be teaching courses in ear training and conducting technique – and will be conducting the Chamber singers and SSU chorus.

Dr. Parissa Tadrissi joins the Department of Modern Languages and Literature in the School of Arts and Humanities.  Parissa is no stranger to SSU having worked as an adjunct professor in the Department for some time. Dr. Tadrissi received her Ph.D. in Hispanic Languages and Literature from the University of California Santa Barbara with an emphasis on Women’s studies.

Dr. Kyuho Lee joins the Department of Business administration as an assistant professor from Western Carolina University. Dr. Lee received his Ph.D. in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Virginia Tech. His research and teaching interests include wine marketing, winery tourism, branding, marketing strategy, entrepreneurship and restaurant management.

Dr. Merlin Hanauer also joins the School of Business as an assistant professor of economics. Dr. Hanuauer received his Ph.D. from Georgia State University. Merlin’s research focuses on elucidating the economic and environmental impacts of protected areas such as national parks and other legally protected lands.

Dr. Sandra Ayala adds to the tradition of hiring ‘Ayala’s’ to the school of education – although she is not related to either Emiliano or Carlos.  She joins the Department of Educational Leadership and Special Education as an assistant professor. Sandra received her Ph.D in special education from UC Riverside and is currently working on a pilot study focusing on the use of video modeling to support reading fluency.

Dr. Jack Ou joins the School of Science and Technology as an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Science.  His Ph.D is from Rutgers University and he comes to us from Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts. His research interests are in mixed signal and radio frequency integrated circuit design.

Dr. Bulent Sokmen also joins the School of Science and Technology as an assistant professor but into the Department of Kinesiology. He completed his Ph.D in exercise physiology at the University of Connecticut. He has considerable research and teaching experience with various CSU campuses and is presently looking at exercise regimes that reduce the build up of arterial lipoproteins.

Dr. Michelle Kelly is the third new assistant professor to the School of Science and Technology.  Michelle received her Doctor of Nursing Practice from the University of San Francisco and is well known to the University as a former lecturer.  Her scholarly work is in the areas of refugee health and in post hospital measures to prevent readmission.

The School of Social Sciences welcomes three new assistant professors. Dr. Napoleon Reyes joins the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies. His Ph.D is from Sam Houston State University in Texas and he is particularly interested in crimes committed by heads of state and how national governments respond to such crimes.

Dr. Michelle Goman joins the Department of Geography and Global Studies. Michelle received her PhD from UC Berkeley and was a senior research associate in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Cornell University.  Her research focus looks at reconstructing climate change and human impacts to the environment in the United States, Mexico and Kenya.

Dr. Melissa Garvin joins the Department of Psychology.  Melissa earned her Ph.D in child psychology from the University of Minnesota.  One of Dr. Garvin’s research interests examines how effective parenting can facilitate recovery from early adversity, how this varies based on the nature of early experiences and how this helps in our understanding of the development of social relationships.

The University Library welcomes two new faculty – Felicia Palsson comes from the USC Library where she was lead trainer for all Library faculty and staff on virtual reference software.  She also coordinated distance learning and outreach services. Felicia received her Masters in Library and Information Science from San Jose State University.

Nicole Lawson comes from UC Santa Cruz where she was head of Access Services, Circulation and Reserves. There she launched a consortial borrowing service, integrated the circulation and reference areas, and restructured access staff and services under a new organizational model.  Nicole received her Masters in Library and Information Science from Drexel University.

An impressive group of 13 new faculty – please join me in congratulating our new ‘stars’ – and lets all strive to make them welcome and successful in the coming years.

And of course … I am new as well.

Before joining the campus on the 18th July – I asked a respected Provost how I should handle my first 6 months, he said I should walk around a lot and ‘kick the tires’. There is actually a concept in the literature called ‘management by walking around’ and although I won’t be afforded the luxury of just kicking the tires for that long, I do intend to get out and meet you all, be seen, and listen to your ideas. As I said at my interview, I believe a provost’s role is to facilitate the good ideas coming from the faculty.

So how has my first month at Sonoma treated me – well I think it’s fair to say I have been busier than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. And that’s how it should be as I familiarize myself with the ways of SSU.  I can already see some areas where I need to focus my attention but rather than laboring these, I would like to highlight some of the challenges facing higher education so that we can begin discussion about how forces beyond our control might impact the way we do business.  To thrive in the future we must use the wealth of intelligence and creativity in this room,  focus on the right strategic issues and then demonstrate the institutional will to act.

There can be no doubt America is facing an educational crisis – in part driven by competition with the vast populations of China and India  who lend urgency to the need for the US to do a better job of educating our own citizens.  It’s not good when Bill Gates, when asked where he would look to hire computer engineers – promptly answered Beijing. 

We are being forced to look at how we meet the challenge of doing a better job of preparing the workforce of tomorrow.

There are three forces in education that complicate our task – declining funding, rising expectations and rapidly developing technology.

I don’t want to focus on funding – everyone here is aware of the State’s budget woes. But I do want to point out the obvious that in the future we must deliver high-quality education, at less cost, to an increasingly diverse and often academically underprepared undergraduate population.   On the positive – it can be done as outlined in a recent article in Change magazine entitled ‘Fostering student success in hard times’.  Data was gathered from 20 colleges and universities that were unusually effective in fostering student engagement and success. By comparing graduation rates in 2002 with today, the authors concluded that educational advantages can be sustained and perhaps enhanced even under difficult circumstances when institutional leaders and other are committed to student success.

I don’t want to belittle our financial challenges but let’s remember that  although the economy will recover in the long run it is unlikely the state will ever adequately fund education. Thus universities can, and should, turn to other sources of revenue to supplement reduced state funding. I hope that over the coming year we can have discussion about donor support, increased grants and contracts activity, extended education options, and greater international and national student recruitment. But we also need to be thinking about the other two great challenges facing how we do business.

The second challenge comes from rising expectations -  The U.S. administration’s goal is to have America display the highest college completion rate of any nation in the world and to provide increased access to higher education by 2020.  At the moment only 35% of the U.S. cohort aged between 25 and 34 hold a college degree. As the bar is raised, we will have to beat the top 5 countries – Canada (55.8%), South Korea (55.5%), Russia (55.4%), Japan (55.3%) and New Zealand (47.3%).  Catching up presents a significant challenge – since it’s not enough to just ramp up numbers – we must provide high quality education and show students that education is a valuable investment that can improve their lives and the country’s fortunes.

Currently, the US ranks 10th – and along with Germany is one of only two nations where young adults have attained less education than their parent’s generation. To replace the combined experience of the 78 million Americans who comprise ‘the best educated cohort in America’s history’ will require larger numbers of the young generation to obtain a college degree to contribute to the nation’s competitiveness.  We must quickly address this critical need to educate our students to be wise and knowledgeable architects of our future.

The years ahead constitute a unique moment in the history of higher education . Although the short term will be a time of flux as we wait for the economy to recover, the coming years will present significant opportunities particularly for agile schools willing to change. Virtually all public higher education institutions must work to increase the rate of student retention and success in earning a quality degree.  

Some believe that if traditional universities cannot, or will not, choose to re-conceptualize how they deliver higher education, the new paradigm competitors are poised to fill the void and render them increasingly irrelevant. One model  gaining popularity for reducing costs and making education more accessible, particularly for students who need to manage work and family obligations is, of course, on-line education.   Let me stress, as I stand here,  I am not advocating distance education – I have seen it done well and badly – but it’s a subject we, as a university, need to discuss since it is a mode of instruction that is gaining popularity. Nearly 2/3 of the nation’s largest institutions (with enrollments above 15,000 students) offer fully on-line programs.  And for the for-profits, on-line has been their salvation. The University of Phoenix has the largest enrollment of any American University. The common characteristic of these on-line universities is an emphasis on openness, use of digital resources, a distributed student and faculty base, and global reach.  Information technology is a critical infrastructure for such institutions.  Between 1998-2008, enrollments at traditional universities increased 31%, however, ‘for profit’ enrollment increased 225% over the same time period.

Just last month, the Chronicles of Higher Education reported that Harvard and Yale are backing the ‘Floating University’ – and the projects first production course called ‘Great Big Ideas; An Entire Undergraduate Education While Standing on One Foot’.  This survey course will be offered for credit to incoming freshmen this fall at Harvard, Yale and Bard – and will contain videos and related readings  to serve as prompts of in-class discussion. The 14 video lectures are from scholars such as Yale’s Paul Bloom (psychology), Berkeley’s Deborah Nolan (statistics), Bard’s Leon Botstein (art) and Harvard’s Steven Pinker (linguistics).  It is similar to the course ‘Big History’ currently backed by Bill Gates.

And this mention of technology brings me to the third challenge – dealing with rapidly developing technology and the generation of students who have grown up with this technology.  Consider the following:

One million iPads were sold in the first 27 days in the U.S. and Amazon sells 143 eBooks for every 100 hard copies.

The University of San Antonio opened the first bookless library in 2010. 

For Americans 12 years of age and older – 84% have cell phones, 70% have broadband internet, and 50% have Facebook accounts.

Because of easy access to technology, students are now dealing with privacy issues, cyber bullying, depression (from physical isolation), illegal file sharing, plagiarism, a culture of immediacy, classroom behavior and difficulty with validation of information.

The world is changing and there is a need to consider new models of course design to include student-centered learning, undergraduate research and scholarship, and project based learning. Likewise, we should become familiar with new models for instructional design to include new forms of student engagement, use of technology in teaching, and some of the tools used in distance education. 

Much of this has been captured in the American Association of State Colleges and Universities initiative known as the ‘Red balloon Project’.  Reimagining higher education is a complex problem, but the support for this project from many regional comprehensive universities, including several CSU campuses, shows that higher education might be in a period of ‘creative destruction’ (as termed by the economist Joseph Schumpter) where we have to ask hard questions to rethink education.

And so back to what I have ‘learned’ in my first month -

  1. I am firmly behind the ongoing campus initiative to increase student success – it is not enough to say a student leaves SSU because they were unprepared – their leaving is often a failing of the institution, not the student.  So I will support the ongoing efforts spearheaded by the Core Implementation Group – and make this a top priority – we accepted these students it is our responsibility to do everything in our power to make them succeed.
    The CSU graduation rate initiative requires us to raise the 6 year graduation rate for first time, full-time freshman by 6%. The Core Implementation Group on campus has set in place many new initiatives, including an array of freshman year experience courses and programs that serve 1100 of our 1900 freshmen.  I am delighted to report that the retention of first year students admitted in 2009 has increased by 4% to 79.8% - wonderful progress and an example of student success amid our hard times. I look forward to working with the Group to implement more initiatives to further improve the success of our students.
  2. I am passionate about undergraduate research and scholarship – and would like to move towards providing increased opportunities for our student to work with our professors. Such opportunities are transformational in the lives of our students – they open up future career opportunities and helps students develop critical thinking skills.  Just one example - the future development of the Galbreath Wilderness Preserve will offer many opportunities for field based scholarship across all disciplines.
  3. Last year the campus brought in 8 million dollars in external funding. We should be able to improve upon this if we target grants and contracts appropriate for SSU . We shall be starting to circulate a weekly electronic funding newsletter from the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs – and addressing the lack of a research director is high on my priority list.
  4. The number of graduate students in the US has increased by 57% since 1988 – and 2/3 of the three million graduate students in the U.S. are in master’s programs.  I believe we have a responsibility to our students to build our graduate programs and help more of our students attain this higher degree.
  5. And finally, I encourage you to take ownership of the new Faculty Center in the library.  Under the direction of the professional sub-committee this will become a ‘one-stop-shop’ for faculty wanting help with professional development and academic technology. How this evolves will be up to the faculty – but in the short term it will be the place to get help on campus, it will be the place to receive Moodle training, and it will be the place to attend a series of lectures from visiting experts.  Perhaps the greatest outcome will be a clear understanding of what faculty need in this arena.

So thank you for your time this morning – and I look forward to working with you to build an even more distinctive SSU that focuses on  ‘Sonoma Success’.