End of year message

May 17, 2017

An end of the year message...

Dear Campus Community,

As our campus prepares for commencement, one of the most wonderful and auspicious events each year, it is almost unbelievable to realize that an entire academic year has already flown by! It seems like just yesterday that I was walking into MSR for the first time, ready to lead as Stanislaus State’s 11th President. I am eternally grateful for the warm welcome I received from the campus and the region, and I am overwhelmed at how quickly I became a part of the Warrior family, and how quickly my husband and I fell in love with this campus—with our talented and dedicated faculty, our devoted staff, our hardworking administrators, our incredible students, and our genuine community.

While the year has passed in the blink of an eye, our campus has accomplished so much. Over the past academic year, we welcomed four new cabinet members: Dr. Michele Lahti, Vice President for University Advancement; Ms. Julie Johnson, Associate Vice President for Human Resources, Equal Opportunity and Compliance; Dr. Kimberly Greer, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Dr. Gitanjali Kaul, Vice President for Strategic Planning, Enrollment Management and Innovation. Before the semester’s end, we will also finalize the selection of our new Vice President for Business and Finance. My personal office has undergone some changes as well. Neisha Rhodes, Director for Presidential Initiatives and Naraith Lopez our new Office Assistant, have joined Amanda Theis, Special Assistant to the President to round out our amazing team here on the third floor.

In the Fall semester, we launched a series of important initiatives, some of which have come to an end and many that are continuing on through the summer and semesters to come. The Presidential Transition Team hosted nearly 20 campus and community forums to gather your feedback, perspective and advice as we assess where the campus is at now and where we want to go. The University Strategic Planning Council (USPC) is taking those ideas and putting together a Strategic Plan 2025 that will continue next Fall for final review and approval. The GREAT (Graduation Rate Excellence and Assessment Team) team has been working hard this semester as well. With their efforts, we are implementing many of the Advising Task Force recommendations and are looking to hire more advisors and improve advising software for students. The GREAT team is also helping to re-establish the Career Development Center and also expand tutoring services.

This semester, we formalized the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion (PCDI). With their support, we hosted the Day of Remembrance Commemoration of EO 1099, to remember and learn lessons from the heartbreaking Japanese Internment of 1942. We also installed our beautiful Peace Pole (designed and built by our Art faculty and students) in the quad and a hosted a lecture from Dr. Arun Gandhi (grandson of Mahatma Gandhi) on the importance of peace and nonviolent action. In addition, we are initiating a variety of new faculty and staff affinity groups. Importantly, in tribute to the fact that our campus enrolls roughly 70 percent of students who are the first in their family to obtain a baccalaureate degree, we launched the new Presidential First Generation Scholars program that will give some of our top-performing first-generation college students the opportunity to attend Stanislaus State with a scholarship that covers the cost for tuition and fees, a computer and books for four years for freshman or two years for transfer students. Our inaugural gala generated the revenue to fund five Presidential Scholars in the very near future.

It has been a pleasure and a joy to work very closely with the Academic Senate on all of these initiatives and in creating and signing a foundational Statement of Shared Governance with the Senate leadership. Similarly, we have worked closely with Associated Students Inc. (ASI) to consult and collaborate with students on a variety of issues.  I am very proud of and commend ASI for their visionary leadership in the successful launch of their “Warriors Explore Downtown” initiative and their collaboration with the City of Turlock to secure free bus pass transportation for all of our students. Yet another crucial accomplishment was the creation and opening of our new Food Pantry located in the Student Union to begin to address the difficulties experienced by some of our students facing food insecurity. Several key groups on campus took the initiative to address food insecurity including ASI, USU, MSW Student Association, Hunger Network and the California Faculty Association Stanislaus State Chapter (CFA). They met and worked together to make our Food Pantry possible. Partially funded by the ASI and by a generous CFA donation of $25,000 to an endowment (and $10,000 for student emergency funds) our StanCares program now is able to offer some assistance to Stan State students in need.

It has been so reaffirming to see how much our campus cares about and willingly works to attend to the needs of others. In turn, I wanted to continue to honor and expand our sense of campus community, caring and fun. Early on, when I listened to and heard from many of you about the desire to revitalize or re-establish some past campus traditions, I approved of a number of community-building events. For example, we have committed to continuing to partner with the city to host the 4th of July fireworks on campus; we have enhanced our wonderful Staff Council campus holiday reception; and brought back the Faculty and Staff family annual picnic generously organized by our campus labor unions. Perhaps most notably, is the restoration of the Freshman Convocation, an academic ceremony at the start of the new school year that welcomes our incoming freshman to the Stanislaus State faculty, campus and community and hopefully instills in them a sense of belonging, determination and the desire to succeed in obtaining their degree and prepare for their future professional lives.

We have also established “Pizza with the President” talks a few times per semester where the ASI President and I get together to answer questions and converse with students in a casual and informal setting. For the faculty and staff, stay tuned for continuing upcoming invitations for “Coffee and Conversation” opportunities with me and my cabinet. We had our first session on Monday and it was a great success. More opportunities for staff will be coming in the summer and additional sessions for faculty, staff and students will be included in the fall.

In regards to our campus infrastructure, we are making good strides already, and we can look forward to more progress next year. First, you may be reading this message from a brand-new computer made possible by the campus-wide computer refresh program for full-time employees. If you are still sitting at an old work station, do not worry; yours is coming very soon! We are also in the process of building two new Active Learning Classrooms (ALCs) that will allow faculty and students to embrace new technology in the classroom environment, and we have plans to renovate about 20 classrooms this summer! Looking ahead to envisioning and renovating buildings, we have approval for and will be breaking ground soon for our new, improved 21st century library and new student union. Furthermore, we are beginning work with Deans, departments, others on campus and our stakeholders in Stockton to envision and implement careful planned growth to improve and expand opportunities at our Stockton Center.

Lastly, it is noteworthy to mention that based on projections thus far, it is likely that we may welcome one of our largest student enrollment numbers in Stanislaus State history – hopefully reaching a headcount just at 10,000! This is a very important milestone for us. The goal though, is not to become another large CSU. We intend to safeguard our small campus family feel. We will be working closely with our campus constituencies to take calculated and intentional steps using careful enrollment management techniques to craft the delicate balance between a growing headcount and our desire to keep our cherished, campus community feel.

Next week, commencement will be upon us. As I look out my window, it is always a delight to see students in their caps and gowns posing for pre-gradation photos with proud friends and family looking on. Soon, these excited students (nearly 3,000 of them) will be walking across the stage at the amphitheater to collect their diplomas. Amidst all of the celebrations, I would be remiss if I did not mention an important word of caution to everyone out and about on campus and in the surrounding community in the coming weeks. Turlock has noted an unsettling increase in the number of traffic collisions involving pedestrians that have resulted in several tragic deaths. Our campus has been directly impacted by a number of these incidents. So please take extra caution as you drive on or near campus, especially during our commencement ceremonies. Be safe and I hope to see many of you as we celebrate commencement with our remarkable and accomplished students and their families!

Before I close, I must also share the bittersweet news that Amanda Theis will be leaving the President’s Office at the end of the month. Amanda has been a huge part of my life over the past year. She was one of the first people I connected with after I was announced as President and we have been inseparable ever since. She has confidently excelled at every task given to her and has effectively managed to keep me, my office and the university moving forward. I say bittersweet because while we are sad to lose her, she will not be going far. She has accepted a position just down the hall in the Provost’s Office as the Academic Operations Specialist. She will be taking on this new role while continuing to pursue her Master of Public Administration degree here at Stanislaus State. When you see her around campus, be sure to congratulate her on her new endeavor! We will be securing an interim administrator to fill in for her as we search for a permanent replacement over the next few months.

I want to wish all of you a wonderful summer! For the faculty and students leaving us for a few months, enjoy the time away. For the staff and others remaining on campus for the summer, I hope you have the opportunity to embrace a slightly slower pace, catch up on projects, and plan for the year ahead. I know it will be another exciting and successful year and it will be here before we know it! As you can see this message is very long because we have accomplished a great deal in the past ten months! Thank you to each one of you for working to make this past year so prosperous, memorable, and remarkable!

With immense gratitude,

Ellen Junn, Ph.D.