While opening her fifth year as president of California State University, Dominguez Hills on Aug. 22 at the Fall Convocation, Dr. Mildred García commended faculty and staff on overcoming challenges to the state budget with success in enrollment, retention, and graduation of students. In addition, she recalled the 18-month celebration of the university’s 50th Anniversary and presented new directives and opportunities that support building community, enrollment management, and fiscal stability.
“It is so rewarding to look back and see how much we accomplished last year and to recognize the success of our students, faculty, and staff,” García told the assembled campus community following a video of the year’s highlights and events. “You have my thanks on behalf of our students and everyone we have touched for the important role you play to make it all happen. In spite of all that has occurred in our state and nation, we have been able to weather yet another storm and have a multitude of successes on our campus. Thus, our points of pride continue to be extremely strong as we move forward into this new academic year.”
García shared data gleaned from marketing research that revealed a positive image and reputation off-campus and the need for more positive internal marketing. She cited new programs such as the newly established Staff Awards of Excellence, whose inaugural ceremony will take place in September at the annual Staff Service Awards. She also encouraged faculty and staff to submit or update entries to the University Library’s Campuswide Directory of Awards, Scholarly Work, Creative Activities, and Civic Engagement and to participate in University Advancement’s “I Have Dreams” banner campaign, whose proceeds after expenses go toward the university’s general scholarship fund. In addition, she announced key events of the fall semester, including Univision’s signature education event, “Feria Es El Momento, Edúcate,” which will be hosted at CSU Dominguez Hills for the third year in a row on Oct. 22. Last year, the Spanish-language event brought 27,000 visitors to campus.
“We are seen as an institution that values academic excellence, and that everyone that works here – faculty, staff, and administrators – are committed to the students we serve,” said García. “They see that everyone that works at Dominguez Hills is an educator, regardless of where [they] work.”
García covered the areas of admitting, retaining, and graduating students as top priorities within enrollment management and highlighted several notable increases in the university’s data, including a one percent increase in the retention of first-time, full-time freshmen. She gave special recognition to success in remedial math programs, noting that in fall 2010, 83 percent of students needing developmental math completed that requirement, as opposed to 59 percent in fall 2007, thanking Verizon, the Gilbert Foundation, and Citibank for their support of $300,000 over the last three years to the Summer Bridge Program.
Additional successes include an increase of 600 more students who graduated with their bachelor’s degree and 92 more students who achieved a master’s degree in the last academic year. García also announced that current enrollment as of Aug. 19 is 12,861, which accounts for 9,492 FTEs.
García said that the preparedness of first-time freshmen has also increased, with an average GPA of 3.06; the average GPA for transfer students is 2.8. The number of special admits has also decreased, with this fall’s number of 133, a sharp contrast to the 600 provisional admissions in 2008. The university’s remediation has been reduced by 18 percent this fall over the last two academic years, with only 748 first-time freshmen needing developmental work. In addition, community college partnerships with institutions throughout the South Bay, Long Beach, and the Los Angeles region have yielded 100 more transfers over the 1,000 goal for this fall.
“As I enter my fifth year as president, I do remember how individuals would tell me it was impossible for us to meet our enrollment targets,” said García. “And yet, we have been reaching and exceeding our targets since academic year 2008-09. We have proven our naysayers completely wrong ….We are educating a diverse student body for success and leadership in our communities, thus moving up to our definition of becoming that model urban university.”
Finally, García addressed the issue of fiscal stability for CSU Dominguez Hills by commending the campus community for its commitment to finding alternative funding in the face of state shortfalls.
“The public is not supporting higher education, the solution of our nation,” García noted. “If this continues, not only will be not be able to reach President Obama’s goal of doubling [college] graduates by 2020, we will not be educating the students of our communities. Yet, because we do work collaboratively and civilly, we meet and exceed enrollment targets. We retain students. We’ve raised funds through grants and contracts. We’ve truly been weathering what seems to be an everlasting storm. Today, we are still standing and providing the academic excellence our students need.”
García recalled the $2.8 million structural deficit that existed upon her arrival at CSU Dominguez Hills in 2007. She commended the efforts of administration in cutting $9,832,165 from the operating budget and the work of faculty and staff in bringing in grants and contracts, totaling $15,136,748 in the last year, with an increase of about three percent over last year. She also noted that the current state-based budget is 16.4 percent below the budget for the 2008-09 academic year – nearly the size of the 2001 budget, while serving more students.
“Everyone here has contributed and thankfully, we are lowering the structural deficit,” said García. “However, we are not out of the woods this year yet. If state revenue forecasts are not met, the CSU could face another $100,000,000 mid-year reduction, resulting in an additional $2.6 million [cut] for Dominguez Hills.”
García presented the university’s immediate goals as outlined in the Strategic Plan, including access to diverse instruction modalities to increase student access, flexibility, graduation, and learning for success; a rich environment of student learning and success through collaborative co-curricular programs; development and enhancement of an infrastructure to support campuswide fundraising and grant efforts; establishing a culture of customer service; and hiring and retaining a diverse faculty in disciplines that support the priorities of the strategic plan.
García announced two opportunities that will facilitate the need for faculty in key areas with the news that CSU Dominguez Hills is in a position to recruit ten new faculty members as well as the announcement of a major gift from the Annenberg Foundation of a $1 million endowed professorship for a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) faculty member. Recruitment for these positions will begin in the coming academic year.
“The research is clear that for our country to continue to be sustainable and prominent, we need more students in STEM,” said García. “And with the changing demographics, it must include more underrepresented students.”
García recapped the achievements of the last three years as well as the first half of the 2011-12 academic year and said that, “In the middle of this continuous economic crisis, we are seeing so much light.”
“We have a strong faculty and staff, our enrollment is solid, we are working diligently on student learning, retention and graduation,” she said. “We have received funding for our first endowed professorship, we will be recruiting new faculty, we have become true partners in the South Bay community, and we are excited and hopeful for the future or our university.”
For highlights of the 2010-11 academic year, click here.