Provost David Dowell Convocation Address 2014

Interim Provost David Dowell recognized faculty, staff, students and alumni and shared initiatives for the year in his Convocation address

Interim Provost David Dowell recognized faculty, staff, students and alumni and shared initiatives for the year in his Convocation address

The State of the University

On September 28, 1949 a new institution called Los Angeles-Orange County State College offered 25 classes taught by with 13 faculty to just over 150 students. Today, just for a moment, let’s remember the past.

Campus Distinctions

While the language might have been a little different, the mission in 1949 was the same: graduating students with highly valued degrees. However since then, a great deal has been accomplished and we have much of which to be proud.

We can be proud that CSULB is increasingly being recognized for excellence and value. As you saw in that video, Time Magazine reported that we are 14th in the nation based on the Obama administration’s criteria of graduation rates, service to low income students and affordability.

  • U. S. News, Princeton Review and Kiplinger’s continue to rank us highly.
  • Victory Media calls us a top “Military Friendly School.”
  • Security Magazine tells us something parents will want to know: we are one of the most secure campuses in the nation.
  • Diverse Issues in Higher Education ranks us highly on degrees to minority students.
  • We graduate our students with nearly the least loan debt of any four-year institution in the U.S.
  • ranks us in the top one-fifth in earnings of graduates compared to over 1,000 U.S. institutions of all types and we are in the top 13% of public institutions.

There is a lot in the media questioning higher education these days but there is something the media seems to miss: Universities are not all the same: at CSULB our combination of quality, affordability and student success adds up to value; we advertise a highly valued degree and we deliver.


We are proud of our diverse, talented and determined students.

Some chose us over more prestigious UCs and privates. For some, we are their only affordable, local opportunity. If you were here last year, you learned that all three of my daughters chose CSULB for college. Their experiences give me additional perspectives on our campus. I can tell you that each of them – like all of our students I think – arrived on campus trusting us to provide them with a valuable education, to open pathways to a successful future that includes a career, graduate school options, and appreciation of arts, sciences, and societies. I am committed to ensuring that the University provides students with the highly valued degrees that are, in fact, pathways to successful futures for each of our students.

We are a place of remarkable diversity and we are proud of it. We are designated as both a Hispanic and Asian and Pacific Islander Serving institution. We host an annual Native American Pow Wow. We host graduation celebrations for all of these groups as well as for African Americans, Filipinos and a Lavender celebration. We have 2,700 international students. Our diversity adds tremendous richness and helps make Long Beach special. Our students have developed and implemented over 360 student organizations including more than 35 cultural organizations.

Our students are diverse in origins, cultures and in academic preparation. About half of our students are low-income by federal definition.

Our students have brought us many distinctions this past year in arts, sciences, forensics, business, health fields, education and more. We are proud of their accomplishments.

We can be especially proud that last year we awarded over 9,000 bachelor, master, and doctoral degrees. Interesting factoid: we had more graduates than 85% of four-year colleges in the U.S. have enrollments. Data we have just compiled show that our freshman graduation rate has reached yet another new record high along with our rate for transfer students. Please join me in a round of applause in appreciation of the accomplishments of our students.

Success Awards

This past year Academic Affairs recognized several departments for high student success performance. Recognition was accompanied by $10,000 awards. Awards were provided in two categories, “Highest Achievement in Student Success” and “Improvement in Student Success.” A few departments were recognized in both categories. Awards went to the following departments:

Anthropology Communication Studies Film & Electronic Arts Human Development Linguistics Marketing Psychology Recreation and Leisure Studies Social Work Sociology Theater Arts Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies Speech-Language Pathology Electrical Engineering Family & Consumer Sciences Geography Liberal Studies Nursing, and Religious Studies

In addition to funding, these departments will receive a plaque for their offices. We expect to offer another round of awards this coming year. Please join me in a round of applause to recognize the faculty and staff in these departments for their exemplary efforts on behalf of students.


We can be justly proud of our most important result: graduates with highly valued degrees, more than 293,000 alumni. These alumni are our pride and joy. Many continue to support CSULB, for which we are truly grateful. Please join me in a round of applause in appreciation for our alumni and their continued support.

Our Faculty

Ours is a remarkable and dedicated faculty, committed to excellence and to graduating students with highly valued degrees.

Each tenure track hire is a very significant investment. Data distributed recently by the statewide Academic Senate to the Board of Trustees shows that of all the CSU campuses, Long Beach, although not the largest in enrollment, has the most tenure track faculty – by a sizable margin of 48 – and the most total faculty – by an even larger margin of 120. These are remarkable leads. We apparently have done a better job of keeping our resources in faculty.

Last year I announced a significant increase in the number of tenure track faculty to be hired this fall and today it is my great pleasure to introduce our outstanding new faculty. We hired 59 new faculty members, although two will start in spring and one next fall. This is an exceptional group who will be highly effective with our diverse students. These scholars and creative artists will have a positive and lasting impact on campus. Will the new faculty please stand and be recognized? We are delighted that you are here.

I am pleased to report that we are on track for a similarly large cohort next fall. These new tenure line faculty members join our existing very strong faculty, dedicated to the success of our students. Please join me in a round of applause in appreciation of our entire tenured and tenure track faculty.

I also want to recognize the accomplishments of our lecturers. About half of our curriculum, from the point of view of students, is delivered by capable and often long-serving lecturers. The quality of our student outcomes depends heavily on their efforts. For the coming year, I have asked our Faculty Center for Professional Development, under the able leadership of Terre Allen, to expand support for our lecturer faculty who contribute so much. Please join me in a round of applause in appreciation of our lecturer faculty.

Speaking of Faculty Development, I also want to acknowledge some remarkable results from our course redesign projects. Several faculty teams collaborated intensively to improve outcomes for some of our most challenging gateway courses. Now, results are in and several of these collaborations were very successful. Two in particular in Chemistry and Biology made remarkable improvements in student learning and course completion. These faculty teams teach us that transforming instruction to reach more students in challenging gateway courses is difficult but within our reach. I am grateful to all of the faculty teams who put forth strenuous efforts on behalf of our students. Please join me in a round of applause in recognition of these teams who worked hard to improve learning for our students.

I also want to note the highly valued contributions of our emeriti faculty. Some remain very involved in the university through the emeritus association. We truly stand on the shoulders of giants. Please join me in a round of applause for emeriti faculty.

Research, Scholarly, and Creative Activities

Basic research pushes back the frontiers of knowledge; applied research helps solve human problems; creative endeavors inspire and probe our humanity. Involving students in working with faculty on research, scholarly, and creative activities is one of our most powerful pedagogies.

Our faculty has earned many RSCA distinctions. As you came into the Carpenter Center this morning you saw in our slide show faculty members recognized last spring at our awards ceremony for outstanding achievement in scholarly and creative achievement, community service and leadership. Their accomplishments are truly impressive.

Despite the bleak budget of recent years, CSULB, unlike many sister campuses, has maintained a sizable investment in RSCA; last year we invested about $1m in campus resources in support of faculty RSCA. I am pleased to announce that this coming year, we have earmarked about $2m for RSCA support. Awards for faculty assigned time have already been announced. We supported summer research assistants this past summer. We are supporting research assistants this academic year as well. We again are providing incentives for faculty to prepare proposals for external funding including multidisciplinary grants.

It would take all day to provide a listing of additional faculty honors and awards earned in the past year and in the interest of protecting time for our new president’s remarks, I am not going to attempt even a sampling. However, please join me in a round of applause for faculty accomplishments.

Achievements in External Funding

We can be proud of faculty achievements in external funding. This past year we increased the number of proposals submitted to 285, a 20% increase, and we nearly doubled the dollar value of proposals submitted to $125m. I am especially impressed that quite a few of these proposals were large institutional collaborative grants that, if awarded, will be excellent for our students. Please join me in a round of applause for accomplishments in external grants and contracts.

Finally regarding faculty, I have mentioned to you our leading position in tenure track faculty and total faculty, our continued increased hiring of tenure track faculty, our increase in support for RSCA, and our intention to expand support for lecturers. I think of these initiatives collectively as our Faculty Success Program parallel to and in support of our Student Success efforts. I want to express my appreciation to all of our outstanding faculty.


Everything we accomplish has been supported by our staff in some way. Advisors are critical to student success. Office staff support the work of departments. Fiscal staff manage our expenditures. Custodians, who often go unnoticed because they work at night, tidy up our environments. Grounds staff do such a good job of keeping this a beautiful park-like environment. I ask that all staff in attendance please stand and that the audience join me in a round of applause for their contributions.


For this fall, the Chancellor’s Office asked us to grow. At the same time, we chose to increase the numbers of international students on campus. As a result, this fall we will experience a marked increase in the number of students on campus. We are likely to experience some sense of crowding.

The Chancellor’s Office may again ask us to grow for the next fall – or direct us to grow without choice. A key issue before us is how to handle the possible growth. We need to explore options for handling growth without reducing either quality instruction or quality of life. We need to explore the role of digital technologies in helping us. This is a key challenge.


Last year we successfully implemented a new admission plan linking academic preparation with majors. Like everything we do, this change was aimed at boosting student success and is being emulated by other CSUs. This change seems to be working quite well for the campus and for students. We hope and expect for continued rises in retention and graduation and quicker time to degree. Our admissions tools increase our control over the future.

In recent years, as a result of a number of national studies, universities now have much more information about student outcomes such as degree completion, graduate school participation, employment, underemployment, unemployment, and early and mid-career earnings. A few states such as Virginia have built data systems to display these outcomes by institution and major to any Web user. Recently, Senator Bob Huff introduced a bill into the Legislature that would create a similar information resource for California and we can be sure that legislators will be looking at this. Over the summer, the Campaign for College Opportunity came out with a report critical of long time to degree in both community colleges and CSUs, noting the excess costs to students that longer time to degree creates. California spends about $26b per year on public higher education. Understandably, lawmakers are quite interested in these outcomes.

More importantly, our students have a reasonable expectation that we are constantly focused on the value of the degrees we provide. In a competitive job market, a valuable degree is a key asset. It is our responsibility as educators to learn to use information about value to improve our curricula and guide our decision making. And, we have a great story to tell. We will continue to focus on the value of our degrees.

Digital Instruction

This year our new augmented Student Excellence Fee began in full. My office allocated nearly $6m new dollars for technology that touches students. These resources will make a big difference. Already our high tech instructional environments are extremely popular. This fall two more will open in Education. Next Spring with the completion of the Liberal Arts remodel, 23 new classrooms will come online – in both senses. This summer our faculty created and offered many more online courses. Some have found blended instruction – with both face-to-face and online components — to be effective. Our approach to digital instruction is guided, like everything we do, by the principle of what works best for students. We are carefully using the new digital tools to enhance the quality of instruction.


Take a moment to think about all the global issues in front of us every single day: Ukraine, Palestine, Iran, Syria, Ebola, immigrant children and much more. Every college graduate needs a global perspective to be well educated. This past summer CSULB students studied abroad in more than 16 countries including Mexico, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Italy, Japan, Scotland, Germany, England, Cambodia, Korea, China, Taiwan, France, New Zealand, Italy, and South Africa. Students are always broadened and often profoundly affected by these experiences. Our continuing efforts to infuse a global perspective into our curriculum have well-positioned us to prepare our students for an increasingly global future.


Last year I announced that the President and I would partner to launch a Leadership Fellows Program. Dr. Karen Nakai, Executive Assistant to the President and Senate Chair Dan O’Connor led this project last year with a group of now-and-future–leaders. This program has been a resounding success. Every fellow has told me that the experience has been a life changing, eye-opening, growth experience. Karen Nakai and Dan O’Connor are to be congratulated for this remarkable success. Being complete workaholics, they are currently soliciting a new cohort of faculty and staff this fall.


I am delighted to let you know that our budget outlook is fairly positive. The Governor followed through on his multi-year plan to modestly increase funding for the CSU. Our augmented Student Excellence Fee brings much-needed support for student learning technology. I am delighted to report that we will be providing increased funding to colleges and departments this year.


Last year collective bargaining brought a very modest pay rise for faculty and staff. Collective bargaining is once again underway and we are hopeful that negotiations will bring a larger rise in pay for faculty and staff this year. I am also hopeful that some portion of a pay rise will be available to address the distortions in salary of which we are acutely aware. The current contract has been extended to September 30th but it is my understanding that both sides are optimistic of an agreement fairly soon.

Looking forward

At this time, we can be very optimistic. As we move into the coming year, we have welcome budget improvement. We have resources to invest more in faculty, in students, in staff and infrastructure. We can be proud that we continue to be a diverse, student-centered, globally-engaged public university offering high-value education. We can take pride in the fact that what we do matters. We really are changing lives for a changing world. I told the new faculty earlier this week that Long Beach is a very special campus and I truly believe that. It is special because of thousands of people who have worked to make it the best it can be. It is special because we prize our diversity. We cultivate an atmosphere of respect and civility. It is special because we support our students who trust us to offer them a high value education.

I am honored to serve as Provost because CSULB is a great and special public university. Thank you for all that you do to contribute to the special nature of The Beach.