Tag Archives: Campaign for SDSU

Welcome to the New Academic Year

SDSU President Hirshman introduces his Welcome Back video for 2016-17.

Last year was an amazing year of achievement for our San Diego State community, and I am excited about our extraordinary opportunity for greater distinction in 2016-17. As we begin the new year, I hope you will take the time to learn more in my video message here.

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Global View Strengthens SDSU

In prior blogs, I described some of the experiences of international students at our university and more about our international partners, and here I would like to talk more about why international programs are essential to our students and to SDSU’s future. Xiamen University Day at SDSU 2014

If there were any doubts, today’s global health crises, political upheavals and interconnected economy make it clear that a quality education is one with a global focus and international opportunities.

At San Diego State, our goals and aspirations for international programs are articulated in our strategic plan, “Building on Excellence.”  They build upon foundations created by President Emeritus Stephen Weber and Provost Emeritus Nancy Marlin, who recognized the strategic advantage of our location at the gateway to Latin America and the Pacific Rim, as well as the fundamental role that international efforts play in the success of our educational and research programs.

The international initiatives in “Building on Excellence” have three facets.  First, reflecting our belief that we must prepare students for professional and civic responsibilities in a global future, we have set an ambitious goal that 30 percent of our graduating students have international experiences – 2,100 students studied abroad last year.  We already rank in the top 25 in the nation, and reaching our SDSU student in Veniceambitious goal will place us in the top 10.  More important, our students grow intellectually and personally from these experiences.

Second, we are focusing our research on international challenges.  A broad range of areas, including climate change, economic prosperity, national security and public health, must be addressed from a global perspective.  Our researchers work with colleagues around the world to solve society’s pressing problems.

Third, we are recruiting additional international students, who now constitute 6 percent of our undergraduate population.  These students bring perspectives and knowledge that broaden the education of all our students and help build the bridges of friendship that tie nations together.

These international efforts are already gathering philanthropic support.  Alumni Keith Behner and Cathy Stiefel recently created a $2.5 million endowment to support our international programs with Brazil, a nation with the world’s seventh-largest economy.  This funding will support student exchanges, joint faculty research and strengthened relations between our two nations — advancing all three of our international initiatives. SDSU student in Brazil Alumni Jack McGrory and Terry Atkinson – both members of The Campanile Foundation Board – are among those supporting study-abroad scholarships for students who need financial support. Chinyeh Hostler and her late husband, Ambassador Charles W. Hostler, have made significant contributions to our international programs and to the Charles W. Hostler Institute on World Affairs.

In our 117- year history, SDSU has continually evolved with the times.  Today, carrying out our educational, research and service missions requires us to take an international perspective.  This perspective, in turn, will convey benefits closer to home for our region, state and nation and further our goal to become a top-50 public research university.

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Filed under Building on Excellence, Confucius Institute, International Programs, Strategic Plan

New Model: Public-Private Partnership

At a recent reception, an elderly gentleman approached me.  With some urgency, he grabbed my arm and told me a story similar to one I have heard thousands of times since arriving at SDSU three years ago.  Each of these stories is unique and powerful, and they generally begin with a proud memory of San Diego State.  In this case, the retired faculty member told me how proud he had been to teach at a university where attendance was free (or close to free) and open to students from many different backgrounds. Students climb a canyon path to Hepner Hall at SDSU in 1934. He told me about a time when his department, in a spirit of grassroots activism, came together to build a community garden.  I could see him and his smiling colleagues tilling the soil on a sun-drenched afternoon.

The story then shifted, becoming darker.  The man recounted how, over the years, a series of state budget reductions led to fewer faculty members in his department, a bigger workload and fewer program opportunities for students.  At this point, many of those recounting similar stories share suggestions regarding how the university should move forward given reduced support from the state.  These suggestions are very helpful – and many have already been implemented. In this case, however, the former professor simply asked plaintively, “What are we going to do?”

The answer is simple:  We are adapting and evolving.  We will control our own destiny so we can continue our traditions of excellence, diversity and grassroots engagement.  We will create new generations of proud memories.Hepner Hall at SDSU in 1957 included parking in front.

We are creating a new model, and this process of adaptation and evolution has moved dramatically forward in the last three years.  The need began with decades of reduced state support – the early 1990s, the 2007-13 period and the recent changes in capital funding – but it cannot end with our simple acceptance of the negative effects of lower state support.

Rather, we must move from being a university that depends solely on substantially reduced state support to being a university that is a public-private partnership.  There is simply no other option:  Our state appropriation is now less than 20 percent of the total budget of the university and its auxiliaries.  If we relied only on state support, we would close.

So, what does it mean for San Diego State University to be a public-private partnership?  This concept is well-understood for individual projects, such as a mixed residential and retail development in which a public university might provide land and a private entity constructs the development with the two parties sharing in the responsibilities and revenues.

Moving the entire university to a public-private partnership model goes far beyond this project-based approach.  It means that the core financial model of the university is based on funds from both public and private sources.  A university that is a public-private partnership affirms its relationship with the state and its public mission.  It works collaboratively with elected officials to increase funding support for the university, as well as funding for need-based scholarships like Cal Grants.  The university also recognizes and embraces the critical role of the federal government, both in funding research and in supporting student access through the Pell Grant program.

This type of university, however, differs from most traditional state-supported universities in California.  Funds from private sources are combined with public funds to create a financial model that can support our academic and communal aspirations.  These private sources include philanthropic support from alumni, community supporters and corporate partners.  They also include tuition and fees paid by individual students and their families, from California and beyond. Revenues from auxiliary organizations, such as Aztec Shops, that provide services to students and community members also support the university’s academic mission, as do revenues from continuing education programs that operate without state support.

Our public-private partnership model has made dramatic progress, succeeding in two important ways.  First, our private revenue initiatives have grown significantly.  For example, our fundraising Campaign for SDSU raised a record $90 million in the 2013-14 fiscal year. Other revenue initiatives have also been successful, and combining these funds with public support has allowed us to make major investments in the academic and co-curricular programs identified in our strategic plan “Building on Excellence.”Students study at the SDSU Commuter Center, opened in 2013-14.

We have hired faculty and staff and launched initiatives to support student success, such as the Commuter Center, the Pride Center, the Writing Center and the Honors College.

Second, and equally important, the public-private partnership model has allowed us to build on our campus traditions.  While a commonly voiced fear is that reductions in state support and a movement to a public-private partnership model reduce our commitment to the socio-economic diversity of our students, this has not occurred.  Financial aid allocations have increased by 67 percent in the five years from 2009-10 to 2013-14, and the proportion of enrolled students who face significant financial challenges (as measured by Pell Grant eligibility) was higher in 2013-14 than in 2009-10.  Similarly, one might fear that the impact of reduced state support would reduce access to a degree.  In fact, our six-year graduation rate in 2013 was more than 10 percent higher than our six-year graduation rate in 2007.

None of this is to say that the transition is complete or that a public-private model raises no quandaries.  There are complex issues of policy and planning that must be resolved.  Foremost among them are the complicated relationships that arise between the exercise of authority by the state, the CSU system and the university and the implicit and explicit accountability requirements of our private partners.  Similarly, our reliance on multiple revenue streams substantially complicates all of our financial planning and risk mitigation efforts. There are many issues to be resolved, but we are on our way.  We are already investing revenue from our new public-private financial model to support the excellence of our programs and the success of our students, faculty, staff and community.

No, things will never be the same.  But if we do it right, we will, like prior generations, create proud memories that our community shares for decades to come.

Today's students in front of Hepner Hall at SDSU.

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Filed under Building on Excellence, Community, Strategic Plan, Uncategorized

The Aztec Spirit

SDSU President Elliot Hirshman, left, philanthropist Conrad Prebys and AS President Josh MorseFebruary 5th was an extraordinary day at SDSU. We began the day by announcing Conrad Prebys’ $20 million gift to support student scholarships and naming our new Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union.  I ended the day at the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center with a group of the university’s dedicated supporters, watching the fifth-ranked Aztecs men’s basketball team come from behind to beat Boise State in the closing seconds.  As we rolled out of the parking lot, I asked my wife if we should stop to buy lottery tickets.  It had been a great day, and I was feeling very lucky.

Our fundraising and athletic successes are just two reasons why it is a great time to be an Aztec.  Due to the dedicated efforts of our faculty, staff, students, alumni and community supporters, we are enjoying enormous success – a record number of applications, academic success and increased graduation rates for students from all backgrounds, important research discoveries, the power and strength of a diverse student body, international programs that have resulted in a record number of Fulbright fellows, national recognition in college rankings, and new initiatives in the arts, where our programs have a tradition of excellence.  In the past two years alone, Aztecs have won an Oscar, a Grammy and 12 regional Emmys.  These accomplishments, and many more, are built on and bring to fruition 116 years of dedicated service by the members of our community.

The university, of course, is not perfect, and we do face significant challenges. Since 2007, we have faced a transition in higher education with reduced state funding for our operations and our facilities.  This has resulted in lower faculty and staff levels and affected our facilities. Our strategic plan, “Building on Excellence,” recognizes that we must address these issues to ensure the university’s long-term success. We have taken significant steps through the strategic plan toward achieving these objectives, and there is more work to be done in the coming year.

Aztec players celebrate win at Boise State.

Brian Losness/USA TODAY

In meeting these challenges, our traditions and history serve us well.  We have faced many difficulties and, each time, we have moved our campus forward.  In 1930-31, amidst the enormous uncertainties of the Great Depression, we moved our campus to Montezuma Mesa and laid the cornerstone of Hepner Hall.  In 2011, our students, facing the deepest recession in U.S. history, followed in this tradition and began construction on the new Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union.  Each of us knows of many, many more examples in which the vision, dedication and investment of the members of our community helped us overcome challenges and create something special.

This Aztec Spirit – this commitment to advancing our campus – is why we will meet our current challenges and achieve even greater success.  This, above all, is why it is – and always will be – a great time to be an Aztec.

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Benefits of SDSU’s Strategic Plan

This semester, we began implementing our strategic plan, “Building on  Excellence.”  Given the importance of broad involvement in the plan’s  implementation, I have spent much of the semester discussing the plan with  groups of students, faculty, staff, alumni and community supporters.  One of  the most common questions I receive is “Why have a plan?” or, alternately,  “What is the purpose of the strategic plan?”

One answer is a general rationale for strategic planning at a large university,  and the second is more specific to contemporary challenges that are restructuring higher education.

Universities are large and complex.  There are academic departments, student groups, mechanisms for shared governance, administrative departments, co-curricular programs, auxiliary organizations, alumni organizations, and community supporters, among other groups.  A strategic plan enables us to bring all of these resources together, both to capitalize on the opportunities available and to meet the challenges we face.  It allows us to identify priorities and to work collectively to accomplish them.  In short, it allows us to focus our resources – both human and financial – for results.

In “Building on Excellence,” we identified our central priorities as enhancing student success, research and creative endeavors, and community and communication.  For each priority, the plan has identified a set of initiatives to advance the area, as well as relevant measures of progress.  Working groups have been formed to help implement the specific initiatives.  Moreover, the plan set out revenue initiatives with specific metrics to ensure that we will have the financial resources necessary to invest in our initiatives.  The plan’s implementation is off to a good start, and our initial set of investments are described on the strategic planning website.

The rationale for our plan, however, goes well beyond simply enhancing focus and achieving priorities in today’s environment.  Public higher education, as an entity, is being restructured.  This restructuring is occurring because states have dramatically reduced their investments in higher education and many families face significant financial challenges due to the extended recession and uneven economic recovery.  These resource limitations are dramatically enhancing competition between universities and, in some cases, will threaten the very form and existence of individual colleges and universities.  Our goal in this highly competitive environment is not just to survive, but to thrive.  By providing a roadmap to maintain and enhance the quality of our programs, our new strategic plan ensures that San Diego State will continue to advance in this challenging time.

While our challenges are significant, the communal discussions we have undertaken this fall have sharpened our focus and enhanced our capacity for collective action.  This collective action will allow us to advance our initiatives, to accomplish our priorities and, ultimately, to serve our students, faculty, staff, alumni and the broader community.  I look forward to reporting on this year’s accomplishments related to the strategic plan, as well as plans for the succeeding year, at the conclusion of the spring semester.

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Campaign for SDSU Tops $320 Million

The university’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign, The Campaign for SDSU, has just passed the $320 million mark on its way to reaching its $500 million goal. The $500 million is a bold goal, but this campaign, ultimately, is not about dollars. It is about the academic excellence, life-changing research, community engagement and innovative spirit that define a leading public university.

To choose one example from among many, this campaign is about programs like the newly established Price Community Scholars. Supported by the Price Family Charitable Fund, the Community Scholars program is a scholarship with a twist. It provides scholarships to high-achieving local area students to attend San Diego State, but it also asks the recipients to give back to our community.

During their time at San Diego State, each Price Community Scholar must mentor three local middle-school students from the City Heights neighborhood. By helping City Heights’ students through the challenging middle school and high school years, the Price Community Scholars will help create the next generation of high-achieving students from our community. Isamaria Cortes, an inaugural scholar who chose San Diego State over U.C. Berkeley and UCLA, captures the essence of the program. “Having someone look up to you makes you want to be a better person, so being a Price Scholar will give us a purpose while we are students at SDSU.”

Moving forward with purpose is the essence of The Campaign for SDSU. We are at a pivotal moment in SDSU’s history. Our generous alumni and community supporters have embraced the vision of San Diego State University as a leading public university, and philanthropy has never been more important. As we move into the final phase of The Campaign for SDSU, it’s vital that we educate others about the campaign and the exciting developments at SDSU. Please visit campaign.sdsu.edu to learn more.

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Filed under Community, Leadership Starts Here, News, Student Affairs

The Campaign for SDSU

Over the last week, we had a number of events to kick off the public phase of our comprehensive fundraising campaign. Our campaign goal is to raise $500 million and I am proud to say that we are more than halfway there.

I write to share a few reflections on the campaign.  The campaign comes at a pivotal moment in the university’s history. We have enjoyed great success. As a new president, it has been my privilege to come to know this special university – to see how we are educating future leaders, how our research and creative endeavors are addressing society’s challenges, and how we are engaging with our community. We are poised to move to the next level and private philanthropy is absolutely essential for this next step.

Funds are necessary to support our extraordinary students. This support is for students from diverse backgrounds; for students who face economic hardship; for students with special academic, artistic and athletic gifts; for students who are veterans; and for students like our Guardian Scholars who were raised in the foster care system. In summary, it is for students who will, as a group, shape the future of our society.

Funds are also necessary to support our exceptional faculty and staff members. This support is for faculty and staff members who are educating the next generation of leaders; who are conducting cutting-edge research; who are addressing pressing social problems; who are advancing the arts and humanities; and who are partnering with the community and supporting economic development. In summary, for faculty and staff members who are carrying out the core mission of the university

This is an exciting time and we have much work to do to support our community. I am confident we will succeed.

More information about the Campaign for SDSU can be found at: www.sdsu.edu/campaign

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