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CSUMB ready for challenges ahead

Sept. 24, 2009

California State University, Monterey Bay President Dianne Harrison on Sept. 24 presented her 2009 State of the University address, hailing the school's efforts to overcome the state budget cuts, and urging her audience to stay committed to students.

"I am here to tell you: California State University, Monterey Bay remains strong and we are on a steady and positive course in spite of our issues with the state," she said.

The budget crisis has forced the campus to re-examine its priorities and look for ways to better partner with other CSU campuses for greater efficiency, Dr. Harrison said. It is testing "our ability to be more creative, and more strategic, than ever in our efforts to raise money through grants, contracts and private philanthropy."

No less important, she said, is the "opportunity – actually the obligation – we have before us: to educate Californians and politicians on what is at stake if state funding for higher education is not fully restored – as soon as possible."

Dr. Harrison suggested that it was possible to be both realistic and optimistic at the same time.

She pointed out that while the university needs to pause in its enrollment growth – the number of freshmen admitted next fall will be lower than this year – "we have a thousand freshmen and transfer students who are thrilled to be here this year."

Among the university's successes over the last year, she pointed to the improvement in student retention rates, and attributed it to the experience CSUMB is providing its students - outstanding faculty, a unique academic model and Student Affairs programs that resonate with them.

The greatest challenge facing the university is to increase the number of students who graduate in four or five years.

Dr. Harrison also reminded the audience that the next major classroom building has been delayed, but $40.6 million to construct the 58,000-square-foot project remains in the CSU capital-funding pipeline. In the not-too-distant future, it will house the School of Business and the School of Information Technology and Communications Design.

Another bit of good news: The CSU Board of Trustees unanimously approved the campus Master Plan and Environmental Impact Report in May. And the recent landmark agreement with the city of Marina and the Fort Ord Reuse Authority has cleared the way for continued development of the campus through 2025.

"It means that once we get the funding, we're ready to move ahead with Academic II. And it means we can move forward with the Institute for Innovation and Economic Development," in partnership with the Monterey County Business Council.

Dr. Harrison concluded by asking the campus community to "continue to work every day to make CSU Monterey Bay not just a solid citizen of the CSU but one of the most remarkable centers of higher education in the entire country.

"We can do that if we try. And our state will be a better place for it."