Tag Archives: SDSU Aztecs

Qualcomm Stadium Site Provides Opportunity to Advance SDSU

San Diego State is a dynamic and evolving university with numerous recent accomplishments – each one building on our history of excellence and achievement.  To give two examples, the creation of the Susan and Stephen Weber Honors College and the opening of the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union occurred at singular moments in time, but they were the results of decades of efforts by our university community.  Similarly, SDSU’s emergence as a nationally renowned research university, while highlighted by a flurry of recent discoveries, reflects the collaborative efforts of faculty, staff, students and administrators over more than five decades.

Today, we have an opportunity that could alter the trajectory of our history for the next several decades.  In a recent blog, I mentioned three touchstones for San Diego State’s continued success in the future – the highest-quality programs, service to students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds and financial strength.  While our current campus footprint of 225 acres is sufficient to support our aspirations in the short term, we will, most assuredly, need more space for the long-term advancement of our university’s programs over the next 50 years.

The San Diego Chargers’ recent decision to leave Mission Valley and pursue a downtown stadium creates this critical opportunity.  This decision opens up a host of possibilities for the future of the Qualcomm Stadium site – just eight minutes away by trolley from our College Avenue campus.

San Diego River, west of Qualcomm Stadium

While some might argue that the Qualcomm site should be redeveloped along Mission Valley’s familiar high-density, automobile-dependent pattern, San Diego State supports a low- to medium-density vision focusing on sustainable recreational and educational uses.

We see a future in Mission Valley with community parks and recreational opportunities, low- to medium-density housing, a small number of research/technology transfer facilities and, possibly, a stadium – one on a significantly smaller scale than Qualcomm Stadium – that could be shared by San Diego State, a Major League Soccer franchise and other community partners.  We are eager to join members of our community in discussing this vision.

The excitement and challenge of realizing such a vision will, of course, be in the details.  One especially exciting aspect, mentioned earlier, is that the Metropolitan Transit System’s Trolley provides a rapid, easily accessibleTwo MTS trolleys at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. Photo courtesy Metropolitan Transit System connection between our campus and the Qualcomm site.  This existing transportation infrastructure is critical to realizing a sustainable, green vision for the redeveloped site and for our entire university.  As just one example, faculty, staff and students residing on a redeveloped site could use the trolley system, instead of their cars, to get to campus.  This would reduce traffic in Mission Valley and in the College Area, as well as reduce our entire community’s carbon footprint and parking challenges on our campus.

These possibilities will, of course, raise many detailed questions.  Who would own the redeveloped site?  Who would be the development partners?  How would the redevelopment be financed?  The blunt answer to these questions at this moment is that we don’t know.

Researcher works in a lab at San Diego State University.It is, however, time for the communal discussion that will help us find these answers. The end point of a great adventure is rarely known, but the possibilities associated with any grand pursuit must first be envisioned.  Let’s dream as a community, knowing that the opportunity to advance the future of our university is before us.

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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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Integrating Diversity to Build One Community

I recently attended the summer meeting of the Commission on Access, Diversity and Excellence – a consortium of leading public research universities that focuses on ensuring that students from all backgrounds are achieving academic excellence.  This year’s meeting focused on increasing the diversity of the professoriate; increasing the number of students from historically underrepresented groups enrolling in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs; and reducing achievement gaps on standardized tests, among other topics.

Importantly, each topic also raised a more fundamental and overarching issue: As we work to advance all students, how do we define and foster a sense of unity and shared purpose amongst all members of our community?  How do we integrate our diversity?

As one example of this broader focus, while enrollment in STEM programs has clear impacts on the career prospects of students from historically underrepresented groups, this enrollment also has large implications for the economic health and welfare of our entire society.  Students from historically underrepresented groups constitute a large and growing proportion of our nation’s college students. The success of this group of students will determine our overall strength in STEM fields – a factor that will have a significant impact on our nation’s economy.

As a university president, the issue of our unity and common purpose dominates much of my thinking, and my colleagues at CADE shared many reflections on this issue.  At the broadest level, the example of enrollment in STEM fields demonstrates that America’s economic and political future demands that we see the interconnections among ourselves.

Closer to home, seeing ourselves as one Aztec family – members of one community – is essential to the university’s long-term development and success. Shared traditions, such as Students on stairs1Templo del Sol and New Student and Family Convocation, and participation in our cultural, artistic and athletic events are ways that we develop a mutual commitment to our community.  These common experiences buttress the shared values – commitment to truth; focus on the personal, professional and intellectual development of our students, faculty and staff; and service to our communities – that reflect the best traditions of American higher education.

Collectively, our commitment to all of our students, our shared experiences and our shared values represent the answer to the question of how we integrate our diversity and move forward as one community.

Archived Blog:  Commission on Access, Diversity and Excellence, July 19, 2011

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Conference Realignment

SDSU Aztecs Football fight songRecently, we decided to keep our athletic teams in the Mountain West Conference.  This decision has garnered significant attention, regionally and nationally, and I thought I would share some reflections on the process.  First, we are grateful for the input we received from our community.  Second, I wish to acknowledge Director of Athletics Jim Sterk and Vice President for Business and Financial Affairs Sally Roush and their teams for their collaborative efforts during this challenging period. Third, in response to a number of inquiries on how we go about making such decisions, I wanted to give members of our community some general insight into how we make decisions.

When considering any significant change at the university, our first step is to identify our choices and the positive and negative aspects.  In a case like conference realignment, we wanted to understand how each choice affects our student-athletes’ welfare, our teams’ competitiveness, our academic programs, our fans’ interests and the financial viability of our athletics programs, among many other factors.

The individual factors are themselves often quite complex.  For example, the analysis of the financial aspects of membership in a conference is much more than looking at two numbers (e.g., TV revenue for the two conferences).  It involves identifying all of the factors that influence revenues and costs, such as Bowl championship series revenue, Bowl revenues and expenses, TV revenue, NCAA basketball tournament shares, Conference basketball tournament revenues, and expense differences.

Herein lies the answer to one of the most common questions we received: “Why did it take a month to make the decision?”  In short, additional time is a small investment that ensures we are thorough in examining all of the relevant factors.

A big part of our review is to understand the stability of the positive and negative aspects of each choice.  This is especially important in the case of conference realignment; we didn’t want to base our choice on factors that would be different next month.  For example, a conference’s overall competitiveness across many sports is likely to be stable.  On the other hand, a conference’s competitiveness in an individual sport can change much more rapidly. Our efforts to understand stability provide us with a much more thorough understanding of our choices.

Once we have a thorough understanding of our choices, we pursue mitigation efforts.  Through mitigation efforts, we try to shape our choices – to reduce the negative aspects of any given choice.  For example, if a particular conference schedule were viewed as too easy or too hard for our teams, we could alter our nonconference schedule.  Mitigation allows us to create the best possible options from which to choose, rather than simply accepting options as presented.

Many mitigation efforts take place in negotiations with partners.  While negotiation is commonly viewed as a process in which we have to “be tough” or “play hardball” with our partners, it also is a process in which partners search for mutually beneficial approaches (e.g., approaches that help one partner without hurting the other significantly).  This was the rule for our conference realignment discussions, and we are grateful for the cooperative spirit of all partners.

When all this work is done – all factors identified, positive and negative aspects of choices analyzed, stability considered, and negative aspects of choices mitigated as much as possible – we are ready to make a decision.  If we have done our work well, and I believe we did so in this case, the work clarifies the choices and makes the decision an easier one.

Often, most of the significant known factors point to one choice over another.  When some factors favor one choice and others favor the alternative, we can place these factors in a broader context – such as overall university goals for the athletics program – to determine which factors should predominate.

None of this work guarantees that all outcomes will be positive for the indefinite future.  We live in a dynamic world.  What our work does guarantee is that we will have made the best choice we can, given our values and the information available today.  Based on this foundation, we will be prepared for an informed, proactive discussion should circumstances change and consideration of a new course required.

MBasketball2013-Screen_#1  Ashley WBB

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On the Road with Aztec Football

I just returned from two days in Ann Arbor, Michigan with our football team.  While there are significant issues and challenges with college football, our time in Michigan illustrates just how much is right with college football today.

While much of the pre-game media attention was focused on whether or not we could beat a “big time” program, I saw a very different perspective in Ann Arbor. Our hosts were gracious and welcoming. They even played our fight song – a tradition we should adopt for visiting teams.  I met alumni who had traveled from all over the country to support our football team and have a deep appreciation for the education they received at San Diego State. I spoke with parents of our players who, rather than emphasizing a future in the NFL, are focused on their children’s academic and professional development.  I heard former NFL player and Aztec alumnus Kyle Turley play a pretty mean guitar at our pre-game event.

Most importantly, I saw a game in which, despite extraordinary adversity, our players fought on every play and comported themselves with sportsmanship and dignity. Likewise our 1,000 fans cheered relentlessly in a stadium filled with 109,000 Michigan fans. (I can’t say I would mind if I never heard their fight song, “The Victors” again.)

Afterwards, behind the stadium and away from the cheers of the crowd, a ritual occurred that takes place at countless stadiums across the country every Saturday. Families waited for their sons to exit the locker room and board the team bus.  In that brief space and time, hugs were exchanged, consolation was given and effort was recognized – a moment of comfort on a very challenging day.

Some days it is not your day and, for a host of reasons, Saturday was not our team’s day. Nonetheless, a full and complete effort was given by all of our players, coaches and staff and that, to me, is big-time college football.

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