Excerpt from President Koester’s Aug. 25 convocation speech to campus community

Daily Sundial

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My message is simple: the elements of this university’s future are present today. To assure that we realize this future, I will not ask for numerous additional initiatives but instead will request that you affirm and support the efforts already underway.

I begin by articulating this university’s core mission, now and for tomorrow, which is to sustain an institution committed to student learning and achievement. I am going to address this topic at length.

Next, I envision current and future financial realities.

Third, I focus on the physical nature of the campus. I conclude by envisioning the future of the university’s reputation and capacity for private support. . . . .

Let’s start from the belief that the students we admit will graduate, and let’s work to make that a reality. Let’s start by setting high expectations for our students, and then let’s help them and hold them accountable for reaching these goals.

The research is very clear about what distinguishes those universities with above-average graduation rates: a shared belief in the collective responsibility for student success is what really makes the difference, and this finding is true for universities both large and small. In short, individuals – not just good institutional processes – make the difference for students.

Let’s start with the realization that all of us have a role to play in helping students to achieve their educational objectives, regardless of our designated work-role on the campus. . . .

We also have underway two critical initiatives to improve students’ progress to graduation. The first addresses what students consistently define as a major concern here at Cal State Northridge: advising. We must be sure that various offices on campus provide consistent and accurate information about policies and requirements, and that our students know where to go to get the right information.

The second initiative relates to how the various offices, departments, and services of the university communicate with students concerning the many steps that are part of the student experience.

A student receives communications from academic units, from Admissions and Records, from Financial Aid, from Housing, the Health Center, and many others. These communications must be clear, integrated, consistent, and free of technical language.

Communications to students must be timed and sequenced in a way that makes sense to them. Students tell us that sometimes they have difficulty even recognizing that these communications come from Cal State Northridge!

The feedback to us is clear; our messages to them must be more understandable, consistent, and with an obvious Cal State Northridge identity.

Because both of these issues – advising and communicating with our students – have been so persistently identified as major areas of concern and confusion for students and their parents, we have been studying them.

First, we know that all of you involved in the efforts related to both of these areas are working hard and are doing good work. Instead, the problem is in how the university functions cohesively.

Said another way, the university needs to speak and act as a more integrated, coordinated, and effective organization. . . .

We have allowed our size and complexity to reduce our efficiency and undermine our effectiveness with students. Certainly the size and the breadth of our programs necessitate some level of decentralization, but during the next year we will be working to coordinate and sequence that decentralization.