A Retrospective and the Road Ahead

Manuel A. Esteban
Note: What follows are edited highlights from the full convocation speech delivered on August 19, 1998, which can be found at www.csuchico.edu/prs.

A Look Back

I have just completed five years of tenure as president, and I would like to provide a retrospective look at these past years and to offer a glimpse at what might lie ahead.

• Perhaps our greatest accomplishment has been the turn-around in enrollment and thus in budget. Our problem may soon be overenrollment, as we have about 800 new students more than we are budgeted for.

• The WASC team was very impressed with our self-study and complimentary of our Strategic Plan. Academic programs continue to be equally successful each time they undergo accreditation.

• The relationship between the university and the community is at an all-time high. The members of the revitalized University Advisory Board have proven to be great ambassadors.

• We have been successful in development efforts. In 1996-97, we hit a record $9.2 million, up from the yearly average of around $7 million per year. We expect to surpass the $10 million mark in 1997-98.

• The number of alumni donors has increased by 56 percent in the last five years.

• We celebrated our baseball team's NCAA Division II national championship last year, the only non-scholarship team to win this championship.

• The completions of the Warner Street project, the parking garage, and the Health Center, have added much to the beautification of the west end of our campus, as has the construction of Nettleton Stadium.

• To offer more freshmen a residential experience, we have purchased 240 new bed spaces for our housing program. (This 16 percent increase is still short of the estimated 840 that we need.)

External Changes

At the same time we were dealing with our own problems, we witnessed transformations taking place at the national level and within the state of California that affected all of higher education and will shape our future at CSU, Chico.

• We must continue to deal with technological development, using technology wisely and only to the degree that it provides a better educational experience.

• We must continue to provide low-cost access for all qualified students.

• We need additional and more objective means to measure student outcomes.

• Despite good economic news for the state of California, the reality is that we will never again be funded at historic levels. The work we have done to expand grant and contract activity is but the beginning of a long process of seeking funds from new sources.

The Present Situation

Our Strategic Plan has positioned us to respond well to all of these trends, despite limited funds. Under current systemwide budgeting, we no longer receive funds for specific items.We have to fund everything from the same pool of funds. Since more than 85 percent of our budget is spent on personnel, we must make very careful decisions when it comes to replacing those who retire or resign.

We also have new demands on resources as part of the CSU. The Office of the Chancellor has determined, for example, that the entire CSU system will have the same software for payroll, accounting, student records, and human resources. It is estimated that this will cost as much as $7 million over a five-year period.

Achievements and Excellence

This past spring our new chancellor, Charles B. Reed, visited our campus and was very impressed by what he learned about Chico State. Here are a few highlights of what we prepared for Chancellor Reed.

• CSU, Chico regularly ranks #1 or #2 in the CSU for the speed at which first-year students graduate. CSU, Chico has the highest retention rate (81 percent) in the system for freshmen and regularly leads the system in retention for transfer students.

• Our engineering students repeatedly have the highest or the second highest passing rate in the CSU on the national Board of Registration for Professional Engineers exam. This year, with an 83 percent pass rate, they were 28 percentage points higher than the state average.

• One hundred percent of our nursing students recently passed a national licensing exam, obtaining a number 1 ranking for our program.

• CSU, Chico students are rated "highest in the West" by corporate and government recruiters. We have the most successful career placement center in the system.

• We have the best student health services center in the system.

• Through CSUHSAT, CSU, Chico's preeminence in distance education has increased even more. We have the greatest number of courses and programs on CSUHSAT of any campus.

• Our Strategic Plan coincides closely with the vision for the CSU as identified in the Cornerstones document.

• Our Target 2000 strategic plan is one of the most comprehensive and visionary plans for technology in the system.

• The programs of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) demonstrate our commitment to student learning and our support for the teacher-scholar principle.

• The President's Leadership Program is unique to the CSU,.

• The President's Scholars Program, which provides several $5000 scholarships to top entering students, is unique to the system.

• General Studies Thematic is the only such program in the CSU.

• The College of Business alliance with SAP America has our faculty training faculty from around the U.S. and Canada. Our SAP team won a competitive first prize of $100,000 from SAP America.

• Our service learning programs provide exceptional extracurricular opportunities for our students: Community Action Volunteers in education; the Community Legal Information Center; and Students in Free Enterprise involve hundreds of students each semester in hands-on learning.

• Our grant and contract ($25 million for the academic year) activity places CSU, Chico among the top five in the system on a per capita basis.

• Our School of Education and the university as a whole have connected impressively with K-12 education: we have many innovative and functional partnerships with schools and offer multiple routes for teacher preparation programs.

The Future

Within the strictures of the law, we must reach out to all constituencies and renew our efforts to create a campus atmosphere that welcomes students, faculty, and staff from all backgrounds. As California becomes increasingly culturally, racially, and ethnically diverse, so must our campus. If it does not, our enrollment will decline. More importantly, we will have missed an opportunity to be socially responsible in reaching out to all Californians giving them the chance to be part of the American dream.

We have several on-going projects to enhance the appearance of this campus:

• A BMU addition will double the size of the student union and add a modern and beautiful bookstore.

• Renovation on the Julia Morgan House will begin soon. We also want to raise funds to finish the Colusa Hall renovation, expand Modoc Hall, and begin construction on the PE II building.

• Housing has approved a $1.8 million three-year program to wire all residence halls to the Internet.

• Efforts are underway to obtain properties to relieve space crunch and add green space for student recreation.

In our effort to recruit more high-achieving students and become one of the West's premier comprehensive universities, we will place renewed emphasis on co-curricular efforts, including a minor in leadership studies, and better integrate such activities with the academic mission of the university.

We offer a private school-like education and need to compete like private schools do for select students and donors. We are developing a marketing plan to build the university's reputation among target markets.

We have embarked on an ambitious three-year campaign to raise scholarship funds. I am pleased to report that $2.2 million in cash has already been raised this year.

The very definition of higher education is being transformed. The traditional university will be losing ground to non-traditional universities that deliver any place, anywhere education with advanced technology. We have to be very deliberate in how we approach our future. Our survival and success will depend on our ability to attract students to a different and better total educational experience.

Ultimately, our future depends on our ability to strive for academic excellence, to have higher expectations of ourselves and of our students, to continue to build on the residential nature of this campus, to sustain our commitment to the success of our students, to be conscious of what makes this campus unique, and to seek ways to remain true to our long tradition without ignoring the changes that swirl around us.

Our 100,000 plus alumni are proud to say they are Chico State graduates. Let's continue to make them proud. Let's make it our collective goal to make CSU, Chico the university of first choice. }

Manuel A. Esteban

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