California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) President Thomas A. Parham gave his first official address as the university’s 11th president on Sept. 20 at the 2018 Fall Convocation.
Parham began his speech by expressing how honored he was to be part of the Toro family and introducing himself to faculty, staff, and students. He touched on his “working poor” upbringing in Los Angeles with a single mother and three siblings, as well as other social circumstances that might have predicted the trajectory of his life.
“Indeed, trajectory predictions are never a certainty, and yet no mathematical formula or probability statistic could calculate potential, or predict with any measure of accuracy of the heart I was blessed with,” he shared. “I suspect that the same is true for many of our students. Indeed, my title is ‘president,’ but hopefully you will also see the substance behind the man who now occupies this seat of authority.”
What a tremendous breadth and depth of resources that characterize this institution’s substance. Indeed, there is much to be proud of and celebrate in this place we call the Toro Nation. – CSUDH President Thomas A. Parham
Parham also reflected on the role and principles of what he calls the servant leader, quoting the late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, who stated that “It is a privilege to serve people, a privilege that must be earned, and once earned, there is an obligation to do something good with it.”
“My sincere hope is that my commitment to be a servant leader will invite each of you, irrespective of your role on this campus, to join me in serving this magnificent institution and each other as we engage the issues higher education confronts us with,” he said.
Parham said he has been taking a “snapshot” of the Toro community since his appointment in July 2018, experiencing its history and its people by meeting with a variety of groups on and off campus.
“That image reveals a portrait ripe with opportunities — and an equal number of challenges,” said Parham. “On the opportunity side, I see six schools, some 16,000 students, 700-plus faculty, and an equal number of staff and administrators; each committed to facilitating the personal and intellectual growth and development of our precious students.”
During his early weeks, he also discovered and experienced many of CSUDH’s points of distinction and pride. He called attention to several accomplishments during his convocation remarks, such as the campus’ recent 10-year reaccreditation, the construction of the Science and Innovation building, the quality of service provided by faculty and staff, and the significant increase in donations, gifts, and grants.
“What a tremendous breadth and depth of resources that characterize this institution’s substance. Indeed, there is much to be proud of and celebrate in this place we call the Toro Nation,” he said.
Parham then invited everyone to “imagine with me”– to form “visions of possibility and potential” and discover what CSUDH could be. He also used the exercise to share much of his vision for the university, asking the audience to imagine such possibilities as:
- surpassing the 50 percent graduation rate, and even reaching 60 or 70 percent in four- and six-year intervals;
- hiring faculty to enhance academic departments, with attention to tenure density;
- using the knowledge, information, and notable research generated by the university to better demonstrate the fundamental differences CSUDH makes in people’s lives;
- becoming a campus community that transcends talking about the monetary cost of resources and instead asks,
“What we are prepared to invest in our future and the future of generations yet to come, who might benefit from the gifts we might leave them?”
“You see, your new president is audacious enough to imagine a voice that is not locked away in the abyss of uncrystallized mental musings that reduces it down to useless chatter,” Parham said. “Imagine a voice that is prepared to take flight amid the air of intellectual stimulation, authentic support for one another, and a constant refrain of encouragement, and not one that is tethered to an anchor of negativity that delights in choosing up sides as if we are a part of different forces of a battlefield.”
Parham closed by expressing his excitement about addressing the challenges that lie ahead for the university.
“With all of your help, support, commitment, and prayers, we can help this campus realize a greater measure of its promise and possibility,” he said. “I invite you to join me, as together we will dream about what’s possible, and not just settle for what is traditional.”