Remarks by Dr. Jolene Koester - December 1, 2022

Meeting of the CSU Foundation Board of Governors, December 1, 2022
Interim Chancellor Jolene Koester
Chancellor’s Remarks (as prepared)

Thank you, Kristin…and good afternoon, everyone! It's a great pleasure to be with you today.

It's a pleasure because it gives me the opportunity to thank you and express my deep appreciation for all your support during the first seven months of my tenure as interim chancellor, and for everything you do for the CSU and the students we are so privileged to serve:

    • Through generous and visionary philanthropic support;
    • By helping to build and strengthen partnerships with business and community leaders throughout the state;
    • And by being some of the CSU's greatest champions and most powerful advocates.

Your work very tangibly enhances the quality of the Cal State learning and discovery experience, and it amplifies the life-changing power of a CSU degree.

Another reason I am so pleased to be with you today is that it gives me the opportunity to update you on important CSU news and initiatives. Given the significance of your role, it's important that you are kept well-informed, knowing that you are regularly asked about the CSU in your work and day-to-day conversations. I'll start with an update on various CSU leadership transitions, both at the university and system levels.

On November 16th, we announced that Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson will be the next president of San José State…and I am thrilled with the appointment.

Dr. Matson has been president of Texas A&M University-San Antonio since 2015, where she has served with great distinction.

    • Leading the institution through a period of extraordinary growth and its transformation to a comprehensive master's university;
    • Spearheading innovative strategic initiatives, most notably in the areas of experiential learning and community engagement, leadership, water resource technology, and cyber engineering and security technology;
    • And demonstrating an unwavering commitment to inclusive excellence, diversity and equity in all its dimensions.

Her appointment marks a return to the CSU for her. She previously served as vice president for administration and chief financial officer for Fresno State from 2004 to 2015. 

She will begin her tenure on January 16, and I am confident that her demonstrated commitment to student success, to innovation in academic programming, and to collaborative and principled leadership make her the ideal president to take SJSU to new heights of success.

And I thank Dr. Stephen Perez for his steady and highly skilled leadership throughout his tenure as interim president.

As we welcome a new president, we will be saddened to say goodbye to another. Just this week, Cal Maritime President Tom Cropper announced his retirement, effective at the end of the academic year. Through his strong and forward-thinking leadership, President Cropper has helped Cal Maritime redefine what it means to be a maritime institution. And with new academic programming, increased community support and, importantly, a new training vessel, Cal Maritime is poised for a bright future. We will move quickly to initiate the search for President Cropper's successor in the coming days and weeks.

In the meantime, I would like to update you on several ongoing searches.

One month ago, we held an open forum at Cal State LA and heard from a broad cross-section of campus and community members, whose valuable input will positively impact the search for President Covino's successor. We anticipate concluding the search this winter, and announcing Cal State LA's new president at the March 2023 Board of Trustees meeting.

As many of you may know, two other exemplary leaders – Presidents Gayle Hutchinson and Robert Nelsen – announced their retirements since we last met. Open forums will take place at Chico State and Sacramento State in early February to gather input on the essential qualities for these universities' next leaders. We expect to announce the new presidents of Chico State and Sacramento State during the May board meeting.       

The search for Sonoma State's next regularly appointed president is anticipated to commence in late spring and conclude in fall 2023. Until that time, Sonoma State is in very capable hands, led skillfully and collaboratively by Interim President Mike Lee.

Of course, there is another search of great interest to you – the one for the CSU's next regularly appointed chancellor. Specific details about the search process will be provided at the January board meeting, but I can share that we have enlisted the services of nationally acclaimed search firm SP&A and that the search is expected to begin in early spring. It will consist of multiple open forums, to ensure stakeholders from across the state have every opportunity to provide their input regarding the selection of the CSU's next leader, and it is our expectation that we will be able to announce the appointment of our next chancellor in July.

I want to close my remarks today with a few reflections on the CSU's enrollment. I know that Dr. Grommo has discussed this matter with you in detail, so I will simply amplify several important points.

Our current enrollment circumstances present a challenge that requires our collective and immediate attention, as well as our nimble and creative adaptation. With every Cal State campus forecasted to see a year-over-year decrease in enrollment or to be below their enrollment target in 2022-23, this is no longer a campus-by-campus issue. This is now a system issue.

A sustained decline in enrollment throughout the CSU system presents fundamental and significant threats to our mission, the viability of our universities and the future of the communities we serve. And a sustained decline in enrollment will also result in losses of tuition and campus fees, as well as negative financial impacts to campus auxiliaries, such as campus housing. Indeed, significant financial repercussions are already being felt at the CSU universities that have experienced substantial enrollment declines over the past several years.

It is unquestionably a time for urgent and immediate action. But it is not a time to panic.

April has outlined just some of the ways that our presidents and their leadership teams and Chancellor's Office staff have stepped up to take quick and decisive steps. And they are already yielding promising results.

Not only is our enrollment of first-time, full-time students back up to pre-pandemic numbers, but we are also seeing an increase in applications. In fact, last night marked the conclusion of our priority application filing period for fall 2023…and the data is encouraging:

    • We received almost 140,000 more total applications from prospective students than last year;
    • First-time, full-time student applications are up 22 percent;
    • And among transfer students – the population where we have seen the most significant decline in enrollment – we are also up…by 17 percent;
    • It's important to note, however, that since both last year and this year, most of our universities have extended the application deadline to December 15th, these numbers are likely to shift somewhat.

While I am heartened by the positive signs our work has produced, it must be repeated: a sustained enrollment decline represents a fundamental and significant threat to our very mission. So we need all constituents – on the system and campus levels and in this room – to be a part of this work. We must work in partnership across the entire student lifecycle – from outreach and advocacy and enrollment marketing to enhancing yield, improving retention rates and increasing average unit loads.

We will get there. But we must get there together.

At our November Board of Trustees meeting, I shared a reflection that I believe underscores the importance of this work. About a month ago, Governor Newsom's office issued a press release citing a Bloomberg study indicating that California is poised to overtake Germany to become the world's fourth largest economy. It's an utterly remarkable finding.

To those of us in the CSU, it becomes even more remarkable on further reflection. Again and again, we have heard from industry leaders that one of the primary drivers of our state's economy is its educated and diverse workforce. I've heard it described on more than one occasion as “California business' greatest competitive advantage."

And just as California's educated and diverse workforce drives the state's economy, the CSU drives that workforce. One out of 10 California employees holds a degree from one of our 23 universities.

California's leading companies and organizations – those powering our economy – rely on Cal State graduates. I'll share just a few examples. More than 7,000 of Apple's global employees are CSU grads. 6,000 work at Northrup Grumman. More than 4,000 Cal State alumni are employed by Disney and Google. And more than 2,500 work at each of Oracle, Intel and Cisco.

You might say that, in some respects, California's resilient economy is “Made in the CSU."

This is what inclusive excellence – at scale – looks like. And this is what California's continued economic vitality demands.

These are the extraordinary and far-reaching implications of our collective work to address our enrollment challenges. And this is why I will continue to ask all CSU employees, friends and partners to join us in that work. We will meet this challenge, as this remarkable institution has met every challenge it has faced. And we will do so together.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you this afternoon – and thank you for all that you do for the CSU and our students. I look forward to spending some more time with you this evening.