Campus: Stanislaus -- June 14, 2006

California State University, Stanislaus President Hamid Shirvani Calls for Changes in Education System During Inauguration Ceremony

California State University, Stanislaus President, Dr. Hamid Shirvani, advocated for a new era in education reform in the United States during his inauguration address on June 2. Speaking to an audience of about 450 during the festive program filled with tradition, music and promise, Shirvani received encouraging words of support during the ceremony on the CSU Stanislaus campus.

In his inaugural speech, President Shirvani emphasized that today's students must be called upon to work harder and must receive a higher level of content in college courses that they are expected to master. He noted that California, despite being one of the wealthiest states in the nation, spends below average per pupil on its education system and student achievement on national assessment tests ranked in the bottom six states in 2005.

"We need to inaugurate a new era in education - one that is committed to fostering a new and greater vision of public education that isn't afraid to tackle tough pragmatic problems in order to make this vision a reality," President Shirvani said. "We need to begin to set higher, not lower, expectations. And we need to begin today, not only for our own sakes, but for the sake of generations yet to come."

Only 25% of California's high school graduates are prepared to attend a university, well below the still dismal 31% at the national level, the President noted. Shirvani pointed to what he describes as "watered down" educational offerings, poor preparation of many students and the public expectation that a college education should be available to all as contributing problems.

The state is doomed to fall further behind unless its citizens are willing to radically rethink its educational system from top to bottom, Shirvani said.

At the college level, Shirvani said undergraduate education must be reinvented to provide a solid educational foundation while recognizing that students of all backgrounds, with the proper preparation, are capable of doing college-level work as it was traditionally conceived. A native of Iran, Shirvani cited himself as "living proof" that first generation college students and English-learners can be taught a liberal arts or "great books" curriculum.

"People like me - particularly those from a non-Western culture - need to know the 'texts' that are the basis of the majority of international laws today," Shirvani said.

At CSU Stanislaus, Shirvani pointed out, a number of programs are in place to tackle some of the critical problems. He cited as an example that the University consistently places in the top half of all CSU campuses in freshmen graduation and overall retention rates. In addition, he pointed to other examples of progress:

  • The University is ranked among the nation's top 100 colleges for bachelor's degrees awarded to Hispanic students.
  • Faculty have shown commitment by helping pre-college students and teachers to improve their math skills.
  • A $3.3 million federal grant is helping teachers in Modesto to learn effective ways to help students overcome language, cultural and economic barriers to academic success.
  • In Stockton, the University is partnering with Aspire Public Schools to open a charter school this fall to help prepare students from low-income families for college.

That Shirvani is on the right path in his first year as President at CSU Stanislaus was reaffirmed by others who spoke during the inauguration ceremony.

CSU Chancellor Charles Reed, who conducted the investiture of President Shirvani, endorsed his passion for serving the diversity of students enrolled at CSU Stanislaus and throughout the California State University.

"Under his leadership, I am sure that this University will meet its future challenges and surpass our expectations," Reed said.

CSU Board of Trustees Chair Roberta Achtenberg was joined on the platform by Trustees Carol Chandler, George Gowgani and Andrew LaFlamme, a CSU Stanislaus student serving on the Board.

"Dr. Shrivani knows that leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality," Achtenberg said. "Today - as Chair of the Board of Trustees - I am honored to see someone I admire as a leader and academician be inaugurated as President of California State University, Stanislaus."

Dr. Al Petrosky, Speaker of the CSU Stanislaus Academic Senate, noted that "President Shirvani has already earned the support of the faculty. He is an engaged leader who has the best interests of the faculty at heart."

"We have found President Shirvani to be a caring and involved leader who enjoys a positive and productive relationship with staff," said Filomena Wojciechowki, a staff representative.

Chelsea Minor, Associated Students, Inc. President, said Shirvani's involvement in the student recreation complex that was overwhelmingly approved by students in May was an exciting opportunity in the University's growth.

"On behalf of the student body, I extend thanks to President Shirvani for his leadership and look forward to a fruitful future," Minor said.

Todd Barton, President of the CSU Stanislaus Alumni Association, said that with more than 36,000 graduates over its 46 years, the University has alumni who are leaders in their professions and communities.

"We appreciate President Shirvani's approach to reach out to the community, and his pragmatic style of moving the University to the next level," Barton said.

State Senator Jeff Denham expressed the same confidence about the future of the University with Shirvani leading the way.

"I am confident that with Dr. Shirvani at the helm of CSU Stanislaus, we will see our local university reach new heights," Denham said.

Jerre Stead, Executive Chairman of IHS, Inc. and former Chairman and CEO of Ingram Micro who delivered the keynote address, said his friend Hamid Shirvani is a true academic leader who can skillfully guide CSU Stanislaus through the types of changes that will make a difference and transform higher education for the good of all.

Contact: Don Hansen, 209-667-3997

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