Academic Senate Chair Dan O’Connor Convocation Address 2014

Academic Senate Chair Dan O'Connor welcomed new President Jane Close Conoley during his Convocation speech

Academic Senate Chair Dan O’Connor welcomed new President Jane Close Conoley during his Convocation speech

I. Introduction

Good morning!

Thank you, Provost Dowell, for inviting me to share some reflections on this important occasion in the life of the university.

More than anything this morning, I wish to convey my heartiest welcome to President Jane Close Conoley. We are so very excited about your selection as our president and we all look forward to working together across all campus constituencies, along with our school district partners and our city leaders, to continue to move this university forward.

I am invited to speak this morning because of my role as Chair of the Academic Senate. Long Beach State is a campus where the Senate includes representatives from all campus constituencies, including faculty, staff, administrators, and students. I am proud to serve with my colleagues and I would like to recognize the members of the Academic Senate who are with us this morning. Will you please rise?

Thank you for your service.

II. Renewal and hope

Ladies and gentlemen, Long Beach State is now 65 years old, and as you know, that is the official retirement age. But I am sure that you’ll agree that we are better described as 65 years young. Rather than retirement, I believe a better concept for describing the moment in which this university finds itself is renewal. As members of educational communities, we have the unique opportunity every year of starting over, of renewing our commitment to education.

And with renewal comes hope. I want to share with you some signs of renewal that I have witnessed around campus and also some hopes that I have for the year ahead.

As I’ve walked across campus the last few weeks, I’ve noticed the renewal of many of the buildings and structures: the Liberal Arts buildings are receiving a significant makeover, across campus classrooms are being renovated and modernized, the grounds beautified, trees planted, and pathways expanded and made safer. One of my hopes for this year is that we will each choose to spend more time on campus – hang out, go to the library, be seen, be heard. And while you’re here, thank a gardener or facilities person, a custodian, or that techie who just helped you resolve the latest glitch.

And speaking of which, I find signs of renewal in our campus’s commitment to improving our technology infrastructure and service. As a result, students and faculty are working with the most advanced technologies to map ocean weather systems, diagnose diseases, and engineer better airplane cockpits. Technology is changing our ability to serve students with new and exciting modes of instruction. My hope is that as we adopt and adapt to the latest technologies, that we will always remember the importance of relationships in teaching the relationship between faculty and students, and the relationships that students have among their peers as they are all engaged in the learning process.

If you were on campus this summer, you likely would have encountered some of the 8500 new students who were participating in SOAR, the summer orientation, advising, and registration program. These are students who are renewing their commitment to improving themselves and their life opportunities by attending this great university. And waiting to serve them both at SOAR and throughout the year is the most professional, well prepared, and creative advising and support staff using the most advanced E-advising tools available. My hope is that as we employ technology to better advise our students and help them reach their educational and life goals we remember that it is the personal interactions with their advisors that will make a difference in their lives. Hey, technology is cool, but it’s the relationships that matter.

We have a faculty who are renewing their commitments to their scholarship, to expanding knowledge within their disciplines, and to exploring new pedagogies in order to help students develop the disciplinary habits of mind that will allow them to think like historians, mathematicians, scientists, engineers, nurses, entrepreneurs and artists.

Events like today are important symbolic rituals where the university community comes together to celebrate and renew its commitment to the educational enterprise. We are doing great things at this university; we have so much of which to be proud! We have so much to declare. My hope is that throughout the year ahead we will do so often, as programs, as departments, as colleges, and as a whole. Let’s celebrate and tell the world what we are up to. Hey, the world out there wants to be a part of this; 84,000 applicants can’t be wrong!

The role of the Academic Senate is to provide a civil and collegial space for considered debate that allows students, faculty, administration, and staff to build consensus about how to fulfill our mission as a public institution. My hope is that we will all renew our commitment to this ideal of collegiality, to recognizing that we can work so much more effectively when we work together.

III. Conclusion

Let’s get to work!