The Transformative University

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Today, I find myself celebrating my 100th day as president of San Francisco State. The time has sped by — a sure sign, as they say, I am having fun. Soon after I arrived, Money Magazine named us among the 30 most transformative universities in the U.S. Too many university rankings focus on outcomes that affirm or perpetuate social and economic inequalities. But I proudly embrace our reputation and success as a transformative university.

Meeting our students, faculty, staff and administrators at events, scheduled tours and on my regular informal walks around campus is a joy. I am seeing up close what transformative education looks like. It’s our Marcus Scholars, who conduct research with faculty members that stretches from ways to reduce pollution to new understandings of sexuality and gender in 17th century Japan to the U.S today. It is our California Pre-Doctoral Program students engaged in research that will launch their careers and help diversify academia. They will ensure that the “relevant education” our 1968 alumni worked so hard to give birth to continues, by meeting the needs of diverse 21st century students. This year, 19% of the Pre-Doctoral Fellows come from SF State alone!

Transformative education can be found in our clubs and student organizations, in our residence life student staff, in our student-athletes, and in our devoted Associated Student representatives. I have seen our dedicated staff working late into the night or on weekends to ensure that students’ basic needs are met, to foster student engagement, and to develop California’s next generation of leaders. At the foundation of our educational experience are our outstanding faculty. Almost daily I receive word of another faculty member who has been recognized for their teaching or professional work. Last week, it was an honor to see Professor Adam Burke receive the 2019 Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award for his pioneering work in health and wellness education — just one of many accolades our faculty regularly receive.

Our value as a transformative university extends well beyond the classroom and the campus. As an engine of educational equity, we are a model of access and increasingly of degree attainment. This past fall, in addition to the more than 8,000 students we would typically admit, we provided access to over 240 students who would otherwise be unable to attend a CSU this year — more than any other CSU. We also made gains in our graduation rates and reduced our equity gaps, awarding more degrees to more students from low income and historically underrepresented students. We provided nearly 7,000 Californians with degrees in the 2018-19 academic year — degrees that will empower and transform not just our graduates but their families for generations to come. And I know that we can and will do even better in future years.

As Chancellor White and Governor Newsom noted at last week’s Graduation Initiative 2025 Symposium, there has never been a better time to be at the California State University as we continue to make great strides in access and degree attainment. There likewise has never been a better time to be at San Francisco State University as we renew our commitments to transforming our students and the region.