CSUDH President Thomas A. Parham welcomed the Toro Nation back to campus for the fall semester with a stirring, wide-ranging speech at the 2021 Fall Convocation on Sept. 8. The event was held at the University Theatre, and was livestreamed on YouTube for those unable to attend in person.
Provost Michael Spagna opened the proceedings with some light-hearted remarks about reassimilating onto campus after 18 months in COVID-19 seclusion, joking that he never wanted to use the words “unprecedented” or “pivot” again.
Spagna introduced CSUDH Senate Executive Team member Terri Ares, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing. Ares noted that this year marks 30 years since she stepped onto the Dominguez Hills campus as a transfer student. “Once a Toro, Always a Toro,” she remarked, before touching on and recommending the many support services, clubs, and organizations available to students.
ASI President Jonathan Mancio Molina then took the podium, reflecting on the “challenges and opportunities” that come with returning to campus. He underlined that “it takes a village to move forward,” and challenged listeners to reflect on “what will be your role in this DH village?”
President Parham followed with his remarks, welcoming the Toro community back to campus. “Nothing about this past 18 months has been easy or straightforward,” he began. “Yet through every twist and turn, through every change in protocols or bump in the virtual road, the Toro Nation has not just persevered but thrived.”
Parham spoke on the meaning of the song he chose to introduce this year’s convocation, “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson. “The song invites each of us to engage in intentional levels of personal accountability… If we want to improve the conditions of our communities and our world, we need to look internally.”
“I ask each of you to take that look in the mirror. Ask yourself, ‘What am I doing to drive student success?’ If every one of us steps up and takes personal responsibility for the success of the university as a whole, we can make that change and transform our communities, our nation, and our world.”
The president spoke on the “transformational change” taking place across the CSUDH campus, including the three new buildings whose “resonance will reverberate for many years to come”—the Science & Innovation Building, Residence Hall, and Innovation & Instruction Building. He also touched on the new esports lab being constructed in the library, pointing out that at CSUDH, esports is more than just playing games—the educational components are built into the program’s structure.
Parham went on to highlight the growth in philanthropic contributions to CSUDH. He noted that under the leadership of new Vice President of University Advancement Scott Barrett, philanthropic investment in CSUDH nearly doubled—from $4.6 million to $8.3 million. That this was accomplished “in the midst of a pandemic” made it even more impressive, said Parham.
The president also called attention to the $60 million received from the state of California this year, thanks to the tireless efforts of State Senator (and CSUDH alumnus) Steven Bradford and the California Legislative Black Caucus. The money is earmarked for vital campus improvements, including a new student dining hall, upgraded power grid, and health, wellness, and recreation center for Toro students.
“I believe this upward trajectory is more than sustainable,” said Parham. “I expect CSUDH philanthropic giving to continue its rise, as we engage more dynamically with the individuals, communities, and institutions that surround us.”
He pointed to the recent Town and Gown agreement with the City of Carson as an example of the university working in tandem with the community to uplift both institutions. “Bold transformations call for bold concepts, and I am proud to say that I am seeing more bold concepts being offered up today than at any point in our university’s history,” he said.
Parham reiterated the theme “Go Far Together” that he introduced at August’s New Student Convocation. “The educational pathway that our Toro students travel will not be walked alone,” he promised. “Here in the Toro Nation, we learn together, we journey together, and we thrive together.”
The president concluded his remarks by asking those in attendance to “each and every day, take a look at that person in the mirror” and ask if they are doing all you can to create a better Toro Nation. “I am sensing a new momentum on campus characterized by the success we have enjoyed and promises yet to be fulfilled,” he added.
Parham walked off stage to the sounds of Luther Vandross’ “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now,” a sentiment that the president said speaks to the bright future of CSUDH and the Toro Nation as a whole.
After the speeches, attendees enjoyed a catered lunch on the North Lawn, in the shadow of the new Innovation and Instruction Building. Many expressed their excitement at being together again for the beginning of the semester.
“It’s fantastic to see everybody together in person like this, finally, after all that time on Zoom,” said Vice Provost Ken O’Donnell. “The campus sure feels ready for it. It’s got brand new buildings a lot of us haven’t seen yet. It’s an exciting time to be here!”
Gayle Ball-Parker, director of the Presidential Scholars Program, added, “It’s great to be back. I love it! I miss people, I miss everybody. I thought Dr. Parham’s speech was amazing. He hit on so many key points. For him to be so uplifting and positive, in the midst of what we’ve been through, to me that speaks of great leadership.”
“It’s always a pleasure to be back on campus,” said Khaleah Bradshaw, CSUDH associate director of external and community relations. “I think Dr. Parham had some awesome highlights as far as the future of the campus and where we’re going, and that’s always encouraging. I’ve been here for 10 years, so I always like to know where the campus is going, and what’s next for us. I’m super excited for another school year!”