Fall 2015 Convocation Speech

"Differentiating Sonoma State University"
President Ruben Armiñana

Fall 2015 Speakers
August 24, 2015

Ruben Armiñana

Andrew Rogerson
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Richard Senghas
Chair of the Faculty

Elaine Newman
Chapter President, California Faculty Association

Brandon Mercer
Associated Students President

Katie Musick
Staff Representative to the Academic Senate

Ruben Arminana Welcome to the academic year 2015-16. I especially want to welcome close to 9400 new and returning students and the faculty and staff who recently joined us as well as those who are returning. I particularly welcome the 19 new tenure track faculty selected after rigorous searches, surpassing the 15 new faculty per year goal of my previously announced plan for academic success. Provost Rogerson will introduce them shortly. This year’s enrollment is the largest in the history of the University and our demand continues to be strong in numbers and quality.

I am also pleased to start this Convocation with good fiscal news since it is the first time in more than a decade that the Trustee’s budget proposal was fully funded, increasing the CSU budget by $269 million. This allows for:

  • $23 million in mandatory costs
  • a 2% compensation pool amounting to $65.5 million
  • 3% funded enrollment growth (10,400 FTES) for $103.2 million
  • $38 million for student success and completion initiatives
  • $14 million for information technology renewal
  • $25 million for debt payment for deferred maintenance of our academic facilities and infrastructure.

Our share of the new funded enrollment growth is 250 FTES (full time equivalent students). Also, we will be searching for 18 new tenure-track faculty hires this year, again surpassing the 15 per year target. Increasing tenure-track faculty is a top priority as it provides the needed instruction and academic advising required for effective retention and graduation of students.

If the next two annual budgets are similar to or better than this year’s budget then the lost billion dollars to the CSU since 2008 will have been recovered. Still, California needs to address the increasing demand for higher education by its more diverse population. This state needs to close the demand gap of one million more graduates by 2025 as well as the achievement gap of its diverse populations. SSU is well positioned to meet the 6 year graduation goal of 57% for 2015. As a matter of fact by the end of this academic year we should have surpassed it by one percent and hopefully it will continue to grow as we head towards our new target of 64% by 2025. We are, unfortunately, short of meeting our goal of closing the achievement gap to 1%. It is predicted that it will be at 7.5% by the end of the year. In comparison to the CSU in general, we are doing much better, but we need to redouble our efforts to close this gap.

I am pleased to report that this year SSU will be determining the feasibility of applying for status as a Hispanic serving institution having at least 25% of our students self-report as Hispanic. This has been a personal and institutional goal which I am committed to achieving.

The campus continues to be very popular with potential students as a destination campus. In order to accommodate our increasing number of students we need more academic space resulting in Zinfandel Hall being remodeled as classrooms and laboratories. Throughout campus, many of our classrooms have been renovated to incorporate greater technology to assist in the teaching and learning process.

As always, there were many accomplishments within all divisions of the University. Here I’d like to share just a small representative sampling of the achievements in the academic schools:

School of Arts & Humanities
The Center for Ethics, Law and Society has brought many inspiring speakers who have shared their perspectives on societal ethical issues. In a few weeks they bring Peter Singer, often described as the world’s most influential living philosopher, to talk about “Global Poverty and What we Should be Doing about it.”

School of Business & Economics
Fundraising is going well for the Wine Spectator Learning Center which includes several classrooms. We hope to start re-construction of the current Commons building this spring with an anticipated opening in 2017.

School of Education
The School of Education is the first CSU campus to offer the popular Maker Educator certificate. Over the summer Dean Carlos Ayala was invited by the White House to participate in the national Maker Fair in D.C.

School of Extended Education
The Osher Lifelong Learning Program celebrates its 15th year and launches the Ed Stolman Memorial Lecture Series, paying tribute to the founder of OLLI at SSU, with inaugural keynote speaker Michael Krasny who will reflect on leading an honorable life.

School of Science & Technology
The SSU student team won the 2015 CSU innovation Corps (iCorps) student competition. The cross-disciplinary team of engineering, kinesiology and finance students won the challenge for their device to quantify tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease.

School of Social Sciences
Students in Dr. Michelle Goman’s Geomorphology course surveyed creeks and placed erosion pins in creek banks as part of a study to monitor long-term changes in creek condition and erosion at Fairfield Osborn Preserve.

University Library
The University Library partnered with disciplinary faculty on investigations of digital literacy and emerging teaching technologies. They also hosted a Wikipedia “edit-a-Thon” on utopian communities in Sonoma County.

Progress is being made in improving academic advising by establishing an advising office in each of the schools alongside the full implementation of the e-advising system and smart-planner, which allows students to easily determine the requirements they must satisfy for graduation. It provides course planning to map their individual path to graduation and allows them to perform a degree audit. These developments are key to continue improving graduation rates and time to degree.

The High Impact Practices such as first year and sophomore year experiences, learning communities, service learning, community involvement, undergraduate research and peer mentoring are having very positive results and they should be strengthened. Every SSU student should graduate having accomplished a signature formative experience that incorporates academic knowledge with a results-oriented activity. We have created the Sonoma State Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Experiences to coordinate this initiative which would be a differentiating mark of the SSU degree.

Another differentiating aspect of our degree could be the inclusion of a co-curricular transcript which would recognize and document the great number of learning activities outside the classroom in which our students are engaged. Essential to this effort is a greater coordination and intentionality between the curricular and the co-curricular offerings. I believe that these two initiatives would make SSU an even more distinctive and desirable liberal arts and sciences institution.

Last, I would like to announce that I am retiring as president of Sonoma State University at the end of this academic year, June 30, 2016. By that date I will have served 24 years as president, the longest presidential term in the history of this university. I am also the senior president in the CSU. As of Fall 2016 I will transition to Trustee Professor for the following year. A national search for a new president will begin later this semester and conclude early in the spring.

It has been a privilege for Marne and I to have stewarded Sonoma State University for these many years. I believe with the assistance and leadership of many of you here and some who have previously retired, SSU has been transformed and is a jewel not only in the California State University but in higher education. The physical transformation is evident, but more important and significant has been the strengthening of the academic quality and its recognition in the community. We impact the lives of our students and graduates and nothing gives me more pride that when I am approached locally and nationally, even abroad, by an alum who happily and proudly tells me that he or she went to SSU and how great that experience was. My eternal wish is that this expression continues for our present and future students.

I wish all of you a rewarding academic year.