Removing barriers that could impede student success was the core of President Jane Close Conoley’s 2017 Convocation speech. After she welcomed faculty, staff and the newest crop of Presidential Scholars, Conoley laid out her plan Friday for the upcoming academic year that begins Monday, stressing the need for cooperation from all corners of Cal State Long Beach.
“I am very optimistic about the future of our university. We face today some looming challenges, but we have faced looming challenges every year for the past 67 years or so I imagine,” Conoley said. She pointed out namely meeting the university’s fundraising goals of $30 million, shrinking state financial support, and adhering to the recently announced Graduation Initiative 2025.
In March, the California State University chancellor’s office announced an ambitious plan to increase graduation rates for all CSU students, while eliminating opportunity and achievement gaps -- barriers that could detour a student’s goal of graduating in a timely manner.
That plan deals with academic preparation, enrollment management, financial aid and student well-being.
“I want us to reach and surpass our annual goals for graduation. I want every student who wants to graduate in four years with a great education to be able do to so,” Conoley said, citing the school’s recent graduation rate increase from 13 percent to roughly 22 percent.
“So, let’s not divert our students with threats of low quality or myths of students being pushed out,” Conoley said. “… It’s for every student to have the best possible experience with no barriers put in front of them.”
Conoley said her optimism stems from CSULB’s history of commitment to its students.
“We can continue to build our commitment to student success, embrace challenges with innovative and entrepreneurial strategies and maintain and improve our position as one of the nation’s great comprehensive universities,” she said.
“We have shown the persistence and dedication to get things done.”
Conoley began her annual speech by addressing the recent violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia that were fueled by hate groups. She said CSULB needs to guard against any erosion of the First Amendment, but still protect the community, people and property.
“We must challenge each other to listen, to debate with civility and to reaffirm American values,” Conoley said.
“I remind you of Abraham Lincoln’s words: ‘With malice toward none, with charity for all. With firmness and the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in. To bind up the nation’s wounds, to do all which we may achieve a just and lasting peace among ourselves. And with all nations.’ “
Conoley said white nationalist groups, “are not looking to bind up our nation’s wounds, or achieve a lasting peace among the diverse groups that make this a great nation.”
The president closed by saying she would work on keeping CSULB on its path to excellence, growth and “no barriers” mentality.
“I will come back to you often, investigating on how we can continue on our journey,” she said. “Every item I’ve mentioned, I believe, lies along the path or is shaping that path to intellectual rigor, inclusive excellence and public good.
“Together everything is possible.”
Provost Brian Jersky also addressed the campus community and guests. There were also remarks from Academic Senate Chair Norbert Schürer and ASI President Joseph Nino and Avery, the Detection Dog, was introduced.