Spring Convocation: President García Highlights Community, Points of Pride and Meeting Budget Challenge
Dr. Mildred García, president of California State University, Dominguez Hills, welcomed faculty and staff back to campus during Spring Convocation on Jan. 24. Recapping the fall semester and giving an outlook for the future, she also spoke about a stronger focus on building community, celebrating the university and its points of pride, enrollment management and financial stability.
After nearly six months on the job, the institution’s first female president thanked the campus community for welcoming her, providing feedback about the institution, and for their hard work and commitment to Dominguez Hills.
“I have learned from all of you that no matter what comes,” she said, “we pull together and confront our challenges and overcome them, ensuring that we remain focused on our mission, which is educating our students and preparing them to be informed, empowered citizens in a global and diverse world.”
García described her experience of meeting with the college deans, department chairs and directors, and the Academic Senate. She gave special recognition to the service of the late professor of music Rod Butler, who was serving as chair of the Academic Senate and chair of his department at the time of his death last November.
“He taught me very powerful lessons,” the president said of Butler, who graduated from Dominguez Hills in 1973. “One that will become part of our legacy, and in which I will continue to focus, is this: We must behave like a private university. We know what Rod meant – by providing excellent academic and student support programs, superb customer service, understanding that we are enrollment-driven, seizing the opportunity to let students know why they should attend our university and being on the cutting edge of knowing our students, our environment, and marketing our greatness to the world, Dominguez Hills will reach its potential.”
The president highlighted her appearances in the local community and “unprecedented” efforts to build relationships with the local media in order to spread the word about CSU Dominguez Hills. She cited the results of this outreach, including interviews in La Opinión, on National Public Radio and her appearance as grand marshal at the Kingdom Day Parade in Los Angeles, which was televised last week by KNBC.
“When you spoke about opportunities for Dominguez Hills,” she says recounting the results of a stakeholders’ survey that was given shortly after her arrival on campus, “it was wonderful to see that you agreed with my statement at the fall convocation – we need to define our uniqueness clearly and we much brand who we are to increase publicity and competitiveness.”
García underscored Dominguez Hills’ status as having the highest percentage of African American students and the second highest of Latino students within the CSU system.
“We must scan our environment and be on top of special academic program that meet the needs of our state,” she stated. “We need to reach out and connect to community leaders in business, government, industry and local alumni in order to partner and have them help us strengthen our university. As one Senate executive committee member said to me, we are diverse, but we need to demonstrate what we do with that diversity.”
García underscored the university’s need to make its points of pride known, announcing the next opportunity to do so during the February visit of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accreditation team.
“We will celebrate who we are and highlight where work needs to be done,” she said.
President García encouraged the campus community to attend the three main events of the Feb. 13-15 visit:
• The Celebration of Creative and Scholarly Activity Reception
Wednesday, Feb. 13, 5-7 p.m., Loker Student Union
• Annual Campus Poster Session Showcase
Thursday, Feb. 14, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Loker Student Union
• Exit Interview with the WASC Team
Friday, Feb. 15, 12:30-2 p.m., Loker Student Union
Finally, President García addressed the bottom line of enrollment and finances. She announced that the search for a vice president of planning and enrollment management, who will oversee admissions and recruitment, scholarship, financial aid and the registrar. She also highlighted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2008-09 budget proposal, which includes a 10 percent cut of $312.9 million. The proposed budget fails to fund access for 10,000 students, $36 million in mandatory costs, including employee health benefits, and compensation agreements for CSU faculty and staff.
In addition, the $73.2 million in general fund revenue needed to buy out a student fee increase is not included in this year’s budget. Based on the governor’s budget, funding of $386.1 million is needed to fund 2.5 percent enrollment growth that would support an additional 10,000 students, employee compensation, mandatory costs, and avoid a student fee increase.
“The CSU is an investment, not an expenditure,” she said. “Every one of us has to go to the business community, the editorial boards. We have to demonstrate to them that the CSU provides the work force for our state and that we are educating generations to come. We need to take the words of Chancellor (Charles B.) Reed and state that our citizens have to decide, ‘What kind of California do we really want?’ As he says, we’re moving with this budget to having first-class prisons and second-class universities.”
García closed her address by underscoring the ability of CSU Dominguez Hills to overcome its challenges and come out “stronger and more committed to its mission.”
“Many of us come from underserved communities,” she said, “whether due to gender, race, ethnicity, class or sexual orientation. We know that we have been successful in spite of others’ perceptions because we have held ourselves to higher standards. Is it fair? No, but we know it is reality.
“We will hold ourselves accountable to be all we can be here to accomplish our goals,” she continued. “I vow to you that I will, and Chancellor Reed will hold me accountable. I in turn, will hold the administration accountable. Together with all of you, we will meet our challenges head on. Our students, our community and our university deserve no less.”
- Joanie Harmon