Editor’s note: This message was sent to all Colorado State University faculty on Aug. 4.
I am very honored and excited to join your CSU Rams’ campus community as a partner and member of your leadership team. Wherever you are reading this, I hope you and your loved ones are healthy and safe.
Let me start by acknowledging the deeply challenging times we are in. While the path ahead of us is unknown, I am committed to be on this path with each of you and I am dedicated to determining how to strengthen and cultivate our CSU community – together. I appreciate the strengths and attributes of this institution, the outstanding faculty, staff and students that together contribute to elevating CSU’s reputation as a premier university. While I have much to learn, what I see and feel immediately is the great deal of pride for CSU among its faculty, staff, students, alumni and donors, accompanied by a commitment that we can do even better for all who learn and work here.
President McConnell said it best – “this diverse community of brilliant minds and great hearts make us unstoppable in the face of challenges like this pandemic.” I am dedicated to working hard with you and our university leadership to move us forward amid this global health crisis, and I will do so with a sincere commitment to build toward the best future. I know you feel the same based on my conversations with former Provost Rick Miranda. He has shared with me the work you accomplished under intense stress last March to migrate your courses online within a few days; and of your innovation and dedication as you had to learn new technologies and new ways of teaching almost overnight.
Certainly, my last five months at Cal Poly were unlike any in my career. Over many years in various leadership roles, I participated in the budget restructuring due to the Great Recession, assisted in strategic planning and reorganization of the university, colleges and departments across campus, and was involved in other initiatives for institutional change.
In my role as Interim Provost, I led Cal Poly’s adjustment to virtual instruction and online operations last spring, helped prepare the campus for a new fall term, expanded health protocols, and participated in much of the other COVID preparedness planning. While you and I may have been 1,200 miles apart, the pandemic brought us in close psychological proximity through our shared experiences as teachers, scholars, staff and leaders in higher education.
We also share the experience of working for a public university where mission critical is the education of students to become future leaders and researchers who can help address the world’s most pressing health, environmental, economic, and social challenges that impact the quality of life in communities around the globe. CSU has a robust research enterprise tackling many of these issues including COVID-19 where researchers across our colleges and the Infectious Disease Research Center are engaged in finding solutions to the current pandemic. And we have brilliant scholarship and teaching in our social sciences that focuses on the well-being of the human community and raising the human spirit. These all are driven by CSU’s land-grant values of access, academic and research excellence, outreach and engagement and these will remain at the core of our work together.
I have been extremely fortunate to have devoted most of my academic career to student success initiatives, the teacher-scholar model, the advancement of academic programs and blending research with the undergraduate teaching experience. I understand the importance of these initiatives in supporting faculty and in the ability of faculty to support their students. CSU’s commitment to serving a diverse student population, providing access and affordability with integration of high levels of research with undergraduate and graduate teaching and learning also will be key priorities and critical points of engagement for me with you.
Another area I feel connected to is CSU’s diversity and inclusive excellence efforts. A commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is deeply rooted in who I am and has been a top priority for me over my career. At Cal Poly I supported the establishment of the Office of University Diversity & Inclusion and led the reaccreditation process where we collaborated across the entire campus to center our work around DEI, connecting our student success initiatives – creating the capacity for greater impact. As provost at CSU, I look forward to supporting President McConnell’s Race, Bias and Equity Initiative (RBEI), and all the other efforts each of you are undertaking to positively affect campus culture and climate. I am eager to join the co-chairs of RBEI: Vice President for Diversity Mary Ontiveros and Vice President for Student Affairs Blanche Hughes. I have heard stories of the incredible impact they, their staff, and many others across campus, have had in promoting an inclusive environment at CSU, and shifting the campus culture around hate, bias and racism. It will be an honor to work to promote individual, organizational and systemic change.
I am truly excited to collaborate with all of you. I know we have a lot to work on immediately around COVID-19 and opening, so please look for the “Preparing for Fall” email tips and information as we near the start of the new semester. Please know I will work hard over the course of the year to take the time to get across campus and learn more about your departments and your important work. Along the way I will share more on my priorities as I collaborate with President McConnell and work with Rick Miranda to ensure a seamless transition of our leadership. I am grateful for all the support Rick has given me, and will lean on him for his institutional knowledge.
We need to embrace and make progress on the President’s Strategic Transformation efforts more than ever in the midst of the pandemic, where we need to be open to new ideas and ways of doing things, with a continued focus on fulling our land-grant mission and providing access for all.
Thank you for welcoming me into the CSU community, the Ram Family, and I look forward to what we can do together.
In your service,
Provost and Executive Vice President