Auxiliary Organizations Association Conference, January 12, 2014 | Chancellor's Speech | CSU

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Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White
Chancellor, California State University
Auxiliary Organizations Association Conference
Sacramento, CA
January 12, 2014

Good evening, and thank you, Mo (Qayoumi) and also many thanks to Jerri (Carmo, president of the AOA) and Taren (Mulhause, chair of the conference planning committee).

Last time I stood before you I was so new I was counting my time in days and hours.

This year I come to you after an amazing first year, after having had a chance to visit all 23 campuses and learn about C.O. functions.

Can we just pause for a minute and reflect on the remarkable work that each of your organizations does every day? But organizations don’t do the work. People do. People in this room and our colleagues back on the campuses or at the Chancellor’s Office. Thank you – all of you – sincerely – for your hard work every day.

One thing that struck me while visiting the campuses is how seamlessly our auxiliaries are woven into everything we do.

Of course from the business side we all know that it is a complex relationship. And there are legal, financial, practical, and political reasons for the administrative boundaries.

But from the perspective of a student or a visitor to our campus, all they see is the sum total of the enriched or enhanced university experience that auxiliaries, writ large, provide.

Whether it’s walking through the student union or the campus store…

Using a facility that was made possible through auxiliary funds…

Or learning from research that was supported by an auxiliary…

I am proud to be a part of America’s greatest comprehensive university system that has so many complex parts all working together for the benefit of our students and the learning and creative environment.

We provide arguably the best degree when it comes to cost, value, and impact in the country…a degree that cuts across the rich fabric of society with intellect and willingness to work.

Hyperbole? Not at all.

It is work that is recognized by others, such as the email I received today, and I quote, “On behalf of President Obama, I thank you for joining us Thursday at the White House event, dedicated to launching a plan of action for increasing college opportunity for low-income and disadvantaged students…including remarks by the President, First Lady, and Secretary Duncan.”

You are vital partners in what we do and an integral part of the university … a point I’ll come back to in a few minutes.

I want to start the year by asking you to think deeply about some topics: First is partnerships.

The issues that we have in front of us are too big and too important to confront alone.

I ask each of you to redouble efforts to increase functional partnerships across campuses so that the whole exceeds the sum of the parts.

You have achieved some success in shared services and synergy on your campuses, as well as formed alliances to reduce the costs of purchases. I ask you to continue your work in those areas, as well as to increase strategic public-private partnerships that help expand the public reach of the CSU (and its commitment to access, affordability, quality.)

The second request is to keep a laser-like focus on students. Their learning environment. Their living environment. A campus life experience that embraces a heterogenous student body, whether it’s by age, culture, race/ethnicity, part-time or full-time, daytime or evening, on-campus or virtual.

How can we embrace, support, and challenge our students so that they each and all have an outstanding experience?

We need to make sure that the older student who takes classes part-time in the evenings has just as fulfilling an experience as the 18-year-old student who spends time hanging out in the student union.

The third opportunity is to spur innovative transformation. Let me explain:

As I mentioned, you do important work, individually and collectively. I am consistently inspired and impressed by what I have seen on our campuses and at the Chancellor’s Office.

However, the recession and the ensuing budget cuts have had profound impacts on our campuses. Many programs and departments are still struggling to regain lost ground. Our human, technological, and physical infrastructure is frayed.

But, we are going to have to be careful. The goal is not to restore what used to be … what used to matter … but rather to invest in ways to prepare for the emerging, dynamic future.

We do a great job at serving many, many students – but if we’re going to do our part to meet California’s needs, we’re going to have to continue ramping up our efforts to contribute to our share of the one million new college graduates that California needs by 2025.

Speaking of students, I sat on Colorado Boulevard with students on January 1 and watched the Rose Bowl Parade. Our Cal Polys won the Innovation Award for their float. I know our auxiliaries have that same kind of innovative spirit.

Then came a bunch of athletes on pogo sticks, and it made me think of our economy, falling and rebounding.

With the next rebound we are in a position to rebuild. No… Re-design. We’re not rebuilding in the sense of replacing the windows with the same kind of windows that were broken in the economic storm.

We’re going to need to re-design, not rebuild, imagining new constructs that meet the changing needs and expectations of our students and our state.

Design indicates a functional goal.

As a biologist, I know form follows function. If you go to BMW, you find design engineers… working for safety, fuel efficiency, comfort, etc.

But if you go to a building supply store you’ll find 2x4’s and nails – not enough without an architectural design-inspired function in mind.

Moving forward - we need to think just as much about function, ideals, and purpose, as we do about the “nuts and bolts” of providing services.

So in other words, we have to challenge ourselves with questions about why we are providing the services we do, and how we can best meet the needs ahead of us.

The last thought I leave you with is a question – Why are you called ‘auxiliaries”? According to my dictionary, “auxiliary” means something that serves in a helping capacity, serves as a backup system, or is secondary to a primary function.

You’re not secondary! We need you!

I think you should change your name from “AOA” to “BOOM” – “Building Optimal Organizational Mission” – because that’s what we do and that’s what you do. BOOM!

And so my biggest request to you is to go beyond the “auxiliary” definition and consider yourselves what you are – a powerful, necessary, and integral force within each campus.

There you have it. You’ve done good work. But our world is changing and will continue to change. I need to change. You need to change.

I want to thank you all for your time today. And I ask you to think deeply about:

  • Enriching public and private partnerships to preserve the ‘public’ nature of our enterprise;
  • Thinking of how we re-design and innovate to meet changing needs and expectations;
  • Becoming more integrated into the lives of all students so they benefit from your “BOOM”!

I look forward to continuing our journey together.

It’s not back to the future. It is the future. It is our future and it will be our legacy.

Thank you very much.