President Addresses Community with CSUSM Back in Person
By Brian Hiro
When Cal State San Marcos President Ellen Neufeldt walked over to the University Student Union for her Report to the Community last week, the contrast from her previous address nearly eight months ago was striking.
The campus was abuzz with activity, or at least as abuzz as it can be while the world remains in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 100 people were able to attend the event in the USU Ballroom in person while hundreds more watched virtually.
As Neufeldt reported during her speech, over two-thirds of the 16,000 students enrolled at CSUSM this semester are taking at least one in-person class. On the first day of fall classes in late August, Kellogg Library welcomed about 4,000 visitors, reflecting a pent-up demand for resources and study space.
Campus housing and dining services have returned to being fully operational, and on-campus events are coming back cautiously, including a convocation for students and their families in August. And student-athletes are back on the fields and courts of play after competition in the California Collegiate Athletic Association was canceled for the 2020-21 school year.
All of that is possible, Neufeldt said, because of the campus community’s strict adherence to public health policies amid the pandemic. CSUSM’s on-campus COVID positive rate remains less than half a percent.
“My gratitude goes out to every member of our campus who has been so careful and diligent about following health and safety protocols and standards,” Neufeldt said.
The speech Thursday morning marked Neufeldt’s third Report to the Community, an annual event at CSUSM since 2005, but it was the first one to occur in the fall. Neufeldt decided to move the event from its traditional place in February to coincide with the start of a new academic year.
And with this new academic year comes a fresh vision for CSUSM as it continues on the next 30 years of its existence. Neufeldt shared some of the themes and discussions that have emerged from the work to craft a new institutional strategic plan, which is expected to be finalized later this semester.
“Our new mission, quite simply stated, is student success fueled by innovation, education and community partnerships,” she said. “And our vision is to be a national leader of social mobility, a first-choice university for first-generation and future generations of students who will drive intellectual engagement, innovation and sustainability for a diverse, global society.”
Neufeldt defined social mobility as the progression from where a student starts to the opportunities they have when they graduate – the idea that they can change not only the trajectory of their own life but the lives of their families and the entire community. She pointed to the Social Mobility Index by CollegeNET in which CSUSM ranks 28th out of almost 1,500 colleges nationwide.
She also reiterated her personal story, that her father was a first-generation college student who left the family farm in Canada to earn a bachelor’s degree and a doctorate, attaining a level of success that in turn fueled the success of Neufeldt herself.
“I wouldn’t be standing here today as a university president without the opportunities that afforded social mobility for my father,” she said.
Going hand in hand with social mobility, Neufeldt explained, is inclusive excellence. CSUSM has established groups charged with supporting the recruitment, retention and graduation of Black; American Indian; and Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi American students. It is connecting with Black churches and tribal communities to explore how it can be a better partner. Its Latin@/x Center is organizing a summit for this spring focused on enhancing the university’s capacity to serve Latinx students and the external community.
“To be successful with our mission and vision,” Neufeldt said, “we must have a laser focus on addressing historical and ongoing systemic inequalities among the communities we serve.”
In other highlights from the Report to the Community speech:
The California State University Chancellor’s Office has allotted more than $2 million for CSUSM to begin planning for its next major academic structure – an integrated sciences and engineering building that it envisions as a state-of-the-art research facility with instructional, office and collaboration spaces.
CSUSM recently became the first campus in the CSU system to close the underrepresented minority equity gap, meaning that it eliminated traditional disparities that see underrepresented students graduate at lower rates than majority students.
CSUSM will partner with MiraCosta College and the San Diego Regional Economic Development Council on a workforce development symposium this spring that will explore the further promotion of inclusive economic growth.
The Innovation Hub will hold its grand opening in the spring after receiving $250,000 for outfitting from The Conrad Prebys Foundation.
Faculty and staff brought in over $15 million in external grant funding for research and programs over the past year, one of the largest yearly amounts in university history.
Report to the Community is hosted each year by University Council, a citizen advisory board consisting of community leaders interested in the development and welfare of the university.
North City served as the presidential sponsor of Report to the Community. The premier sponsors were Kaiser Permanente and SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union. The signature sponsors were Hunter Industries and Wells Fargo.
Neufeldt's complete speech is available here.
Brian Hiro, Communications Specialist
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