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Cal State Long Beach ushers in fall semester with goals of equity, diversity in mind – Press Telegram

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Cal State Long Beach leaders welcomed the university community back to campus on Friday morning, Aug. 20, after more than a year of coronavirus-induced virtual learning — touting successes during the previous academic year and unveiling what 2021-22 holds, including greater focus on equity, during the annual convocation at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center.

President Jane Close Conoley and recently appointed Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Karyn Scissum Gunn helmed the convocation, walking students, faculty and other community members through last year’s highlights and future goals.

Those accomplishments included graduating the largest class in the campus’s history with more than 12,000 degrees awarded; raising its four-year graduation rate from 14% in 2009 to 37% in 2020; and increasing underrepresented minority enrollment by more than 40% last year.

CSULB was also awarded a 10-year accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission, which will help Long Beach receive federal funding for new programs — particularly its Beach 2030 initiative.

Many of these accomplishments can be attributed to former Provost Brian Jersky, who recently retired from the position he had held since 2016, his successor, Scissum Gunn, said.

“As provost,” Scissum Gunn said, “Dr. Jersky publicly and emphatically declared that equity and diversity would take center stage here at the Beach.

“Today,” she added, “we stand largely in this man’s legacy.”

Cal State Long Beach President Jane Close Conoley addresses students, faculty and staff at the 2021 convocation to usher in the start of a new school year on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

Dr. John Hamilton, Co-chair of the CSULB President’s Commission on Equity and Change, speaks at Cal State Long Beach’s convocation on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

Jesus Gonzalez, president of the Associated Students, Inc., speaks at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

The Chair of CSULB’s Academic Senate, Neil Hultgren, addresses the convocation audience at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

Dr. Anna Ortiz, Co-chair of the CSULB President’s Commission on Equity and Change, speaks at Cal State Long Beach’s convocation on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

Banners are displayed on stage at Cal State Long Beach’s convocation to usher in the start of the new school year on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

A breakfast for CSULB students, faculty and staff preceded the 2021 convocation to usher in the start of a new school year in Long Beach on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

And that legacy of greater diversity and equity in higher education is something Scissum Gunn and Conoley both said they aim to expand upon through the Beach 2030 initiative, a 10-year plan meant to “enrich students’ lives through educational experiences with superior teaching, research, creative activity, and action for the public good,” according to the campus.

“As we create our future, we must remember the values that guide us,” Conoley said. “Diversity is our strength.”

One critical milestone in the Beach 2030 initiative, Conoley announced, was having Dhushy Sathianathan, vice provost of Academic Planning, assuming the role of monitoring and coordinating for the Office of Strategic Planning. Conoley also laid out the initiative’s action areas, which include engaging all students, expanding access to programs, promoting intellectual achievement, building a diverse community and cultivating resilience amid climate uncertainty.

The campus also recently celebrated the completion of its newest, clean-energy-conscious housing, the Parkside North Residence Hall — the first new dormitory on campus in three decades. The four-story co-ed building includes 472 beds split between 183 double rooms and 42 single rooms.

“We did all that during a pandemic,” Conoley said. “Imagine what we can do next year.”

Students began moving into dorms last week, where proof of vaccination against the coronavirus was required for residency. CSULB’s student housing is nearly 90% filled — with around 2,875 students staying in dorms this semester. Common areas in student housing, like all other indoor spaces on campus, will require students to wear a face mask, per Los Angeles County public health rules. Students must also participate in educational programs about health and safety.

The Anna W. Ngai Alumni Center and the under-expansion Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum, meanwhile, will also celebrate their grand openings in the spring.

Conoley, for her part, expressed enthusiasm for the coming year.

“Seeing our students’ faces, meeting our colleagues, will energize us,” Conoley said. “Experiencing the excitement of watching our scholar athletes compete and making new community connections will renew us.

“I, for one, am completely confident in our continued success for 42,000 reasons,” she added.

The president was talking about CSULB’s students — with about 42,000 enrolled.

Cal Sate Long Beach classes begin on Monday, Aug. 23.

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