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Two Good Things
Amidst the daily achievements of individual faculty and students as teachers, scholars, and learners, the University often has reason to celebrate developments that are collective accomplishments. This academic year began with two of these: the endorsement of our Master Plan by the California State University Board of Trustees and the enrollment of the largest and most diverse freshman class in the University’s history.
For the past five years, the University has been engaged in the process of updating its facilities Master Plan, an undertaking last accomplished in 1990. Drawing upon numerous University-wide conversations and studies, the 2005 Master Plan provides principles and guidelines for the physical development of the 119-acre main campus and the 800-acre University farm over the next 20 years.
Closely tied to the University Strategic Plan, the Master Plan is an ambitious statement of goals and values. The most important goal is building a community of learning and promise worthy of the trust that our students and the people of California have in us. Other goals include managing enrollment growth, protecting our residential character, strengthening the relationship between the University and the city of Chico, ensuring harmony between the natural and built environments of the campus, and enhancing the educational experience of students through the buildings, spaces, and extended locations of the campus.
The Master Plan also communicates key values of the University of environmental sensitivity, openness and accessibility, civic responsibility and good neighborliness, safety, a keen sense of place, and an expression of confidence and pride.
A good master plan, though, is more than a declaration. It is also preparation. It challenges us to consider how our identity and mission—and the physical spaces upon which they are enacted—have positioned the University to meet the needs of an increasingly more complex workforce and pluralistic society. The master plan, while focusing on facilities and grounds, is really about people and their hopes.
Each fall, the campus welcomes new people and their hopes—our new students. This fall’s cohort is remarkable for its size, its quality, and its diversity.
Although the statewide pool of high school graduates who are CSU-eligible is not growing nearly as fast as our mandated enrollment growth, we will enroll more than 2,300 freshmen this fall. This is over a hundred more than last year, our previous high. With all sectors of public higher education in California pressed to increase their enrollments, the competition for the best students is more intense than ever. Yet, despite the competition and the challenges we have faced to assure prospective students that Chico State is a safe and wise choice, our new class of students has an extraordinarily strong academic profile.
This class is richer in another gratifying way, too. We have enrolled the most ethnically diverse freshman class in our history, enabling the University to contribute to the CSU goal of reflecting the population of California in its student body. Let me share just a few numbers. Since 1998, the applicant pool of students of color (African-American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, and Native American) has increased from constituting 23.6 percent of the pool to 40.1 percent. This is a 70 percent increase. In 1998, such enrollments constituted 19.3 percent of applicants admitted and 18.4 percent of applicants enrolled. For fall 2005, 33.9 percent of students admitted were of color and 23.6 percent of our entering class is. These are increases of 75 percent and 28 percent, respectively.
This is more than a numbers game. It gets to the heart of a uniquely American democratic agenda, at once continuous and unfinished, to prepare students to live and work in an increasingly diverse society in which cultural knowledge and understanding, both domestic and international, are more important than ever before. That, and the possibility of actually elevating and strengthening society itself, are powerful reasons why colleges and universities seek to enroll the best and brightest from a broad social spectrum. We seek this kind of diversity, too, because we want the rich educational environment that it creates to challenge and delight us. In other words, we pursue diversity not just to follow a mandate, but to fulfill a responsibility; not just to embrace an idea, but to form a community.
Like the Master Plan, we are making progress in these regards because we are acting as “one University” to achieve it. The Admissions Office, as energetic and dedicated as it is, cannot accomplish these gains on its own. Attracting students to Chico State involves the hard work of people in outreach and recruitment, advising and orientation, financial aid and housing. The effort depends upon alumni and current students to encourage those who are considering us to choose us, and faculty and staff to welcome and support them. The day has long passed, if it ever existed, that we can meet our enrollment targets simply because we are open. Now, more than ever before, making our targets and ensuring that we enroll a new class with the most desirable academic and personal qualities require a connected and comprehensive effort.
Yes, two good things to report on, but one message: We are a University intentional in our work and aligned to accomplish it. Distinction and high morale flow from this kind of intentionality and the satisfaction of shared expectations and engagements.
—Paul J. Zingg