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Office of the President
University of the Pacific
3601 Pacific Avenue
Stockton, CA 95211
209.946.2222

Welcome Back Town Hall, August 2014

 Welcome to the beginning of our 2014-15 academic year!  The beginning for Stockton, that is: the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry kicked off their year in July, of course, and classes at the McGeorge School of Law began last week.  In any event, it is so much fun to witness the energy from our new and continuing students here on the Stockton campus.  

I thought I'd share with you a little bit about some of our new students.  Kathryn Harlan-Gran is an incoming Humanities Scholar from Modesto, and her impeccable SAT and high school GPA credentials lead to a hard decision between Stanford or Pacific.  She chose Pacific, because she wanted the sort of faculty interactions and personalized educational opportunities she could get here at University of the Pacific.  In fact, she's designing her own major: English, photography, theater and flute.  Kathryn believes that an education should lead to transformative action, and she's lived that already.  She's coming to Pacific having worked on behalf of anti-bullying campaigns, the Gay-Straight Alliance, and the Future Farmers of America.  She is the three-time regional champion for Poetry Out Loud, a three-time Science Olympiad medalist, and just this year she competed in the speech and debate national championships.  What an incredible woman!  Perhaps we could have Kathryn stand up and we could all say hello, because I hear she's here.  Welcome Kathryn!  We didn't intend to embarrass you so much, but it was a great opportunity to welcome you!

Kathryn isn't the only incredible student beginning at Pacific this semester. An amazing young woman up at McGeorge School of Law, Alisha Lewis, has joined us as one of our evening students pursuing her J.D. degree.  Our evening program is designed for working adults.  They take a part-time course load toward the J.D.   Same classes, same quality, but they have four years to complete the degree instead of three.  Alisha was a teen mom, worked her way through college, and later worked as a deputy legislative director for a state senator.  She now works as a legislative representative for the League of California Cities.  Alisha recognizes how critical a J.D. degree will be for achieving her career goals.  

We have outstanding returning students as well.  Take Byron Meth, a senior on our golf team.  Last spring, he won the West Coast Conference Golf Championship.  That's pretty good!  In the summer, he went on to compete in the amateur Public Links Championship and won.  Now, for those of you who don't play golf, and I'll admit I'm one of them, this is a huge deal.  In fact, the winner of this Public Links Championship each year is invited to play in the U.S. Masters.  If you don't run into him on campus, you might see Byron Meth in the August 25th issue of Sports Illustrated, out this week.  He is being featured in the Faces in the Crowd section.   

These are just a few of the amazing students we are privileged to educate here at University of the Pacific.   We embrace all of our Pacificans and feel honored to have them part of our community.   Today, I want to talk with you about the tremendous positive momentum we have built up here at University of the Pacific. Let's start by going back a few years.   I sat down over in Grace Covell one evening with more than one hundred very concerned students.  They were worried about the cost of a Pacific education.  They were very stressed over the loans they had, and the uncertain opportunities ahead after graduation.  If you were around then you might remember that Occupy Oakland was approaching our students and asking for an invitation to come here on campus and protest.   Our students said no, thank you, to occupy Oakland. Part of the reason they did that is because they believed that we heard them, and that we were going to take action.  And we have.   Our community, our faculty and our staff, our donors and our Regents, have stepped forward to respond to our students' concerns and the higher expectations.  We're keeping our tuition increases low; for the past two years they have been below four percent.  We want to keep them as low as possible in the future.  Our donors stepped forward and contributed $51 million in new gifts last year, not including the Powell gift.  We reallocated 6.5% of our budget to create an investment fund so that we can invest in necessary improvements for our future, without the need for large increases in tuition.  We reviewed 80 administrative programs and 95 academic programs so that we could improve everything that we do.  We let go of some activities such as MOVE and an athletic team, so that we would be able to invest in other critical areas, such as technology and career services.  Seven academic programs are slated for elimination, and 24 for reorganization. This will help the development of new academic programs that are more relevant for our current and future students.  

You have all demonstrated that University of the Pacific is willing and able to step forward and make this University the best it can be for our students.  So let me tell you about other accomplishments we have from last year, and how they're shaping the work that we'll be doing this year and next.  Last year, we made great progress in advancing philanthropy.  First of all, we received the remarkable gift from Jeannette and Bob Powell.  For those of you who are new, this was a very big deal.  Bob and Jeannette were two people who were not able to attend college, but they deeply believed in the value of a college education, and they deeply believed in how University of the Pacific educates students and transforms lives.  In recognition of our tremendous capacity to help students reach their dreams, they left us their estate of $125 million.  Over $90 million of that gift is for scholarships, and $25 million is for academic program support.  All of the gift is endowed, and this year it has generated nearly $4 million additional dollars available for student scholarships, on top of what we have been able to provide in the past.  The power of this gift is that Bob and Jeannette wanted most of this gift to be available for a matching program, to encourage other donors to give to endowments for scholarship and academic program support.  What an exciting gift, and I promise you it is the envy of our counterparts.  

It isn't only the Powells who believe in us.  This year we set a record for fundraising at University of the Pacific (except for that one year the Powell gift was announced and counted).  These gifts this year included numerous new endowments for scholarships and academic program support that qualifies for a Powell Match.  Last year, the Dugoni School raised $9 million toward their $40 million campaign to enhance their facilities.  That took them past the half-way mark, and is creating such excitement and momentum for the dental school, their alumni and friends.  And we're reaching more and more alumni and community and friends, and getting them connected with the University.  

Our first year in West Coast Conference play brought thousands of fans to cheer on our Tigers.  And I think that unless you've just joined us, you were probably part of a team that put together our incredible Homecoming celebration - the first one in 18 years.  And yes, I see Kelli Page in the back thinking "Oh my gosh, it's coming again!"  But what an exciting opportunity to have our parents and our alumni converge on the campus and reconnect with students and faculty. It was a tremendous success.  

We are building incredible momentum as we head into our next comprehensive campaign.  Our Board of Regents is dedicating the January board meeting to studying our campaign plans carefully and we hope approving the launch of our next campaign.  

While we've made tremendous progress in our philanthropy, we still have work to do for student success.  For a University that deeply cares about the students and their education, we must raise our graduation rates.  The students most likely to give up on their education include students from out of state (and especially international students), students who come to Pacific with a lackluster high school academic preparation (especially those who need remedial work), and students who struggle academically the first year. Sometimes these are one-in-the-same, but not necessarily.  And interestingly enough, it includes a cohort of students who have not declared their major.  We can't let these students slip away without providing them as much support as possible to complete their studies at University of the Pacific.  We have good plans identified, and we have the outstanding work by the Academic and Career Planning Task Force, which provided a thorough report in October.  We then brought in an outside consulting firm, Scannell & Kurz.  They reinforced what was in that report, but also added their own insights.   We are ready to take actions in better support of our students.  

Our goal is to create a creative and seamless support system for our students, so that they are guided and mentored to make the most of their education and plan for the future.  We will implement an early-alert system so that faculty and staff can identify at-risk students early, and then they can get the help that they need, appropriate to their situation, whether it's advanced academic tutoring or support for personal problems they might face.  We will create a cohesive advising structure for our undergraduates, so that it integrates faculty academic advising with professional academic advising and student mentors.  We will create a best-in-class career development strategy to help our students identify their career goals early and make the most of their college educational opportunities while they're here.  We will also promote close ties between students, employers and alumni mentors.  And we'll establish a student success committee.  This committee will communicate to the University regularly, on how well our students are doing, asses the effectiveness of our various student success programs, and provide a source of expertise on student success strategies and issues nationally that can inform what we are doing here.  The bottom line though on all of this is that none of these strategies can be successful without a shared commitment and collaboration across every aspect of the University - from our faculty, our associate deans and our deans, and our staff in the schools and the College, working with the staff in Student Life, working with the folks in Business and Finance, Enrollment Management, and alumni.  If we all work together, we can make a tremendous difference to make sure that all students are given every opportunity to succeed at University of the Pacific.  

Now, just as we want our students to be successful, we also want our employees to be successful.  Last year was a challenging year for our employees.  We asked a lot of you, and the reality in higher education these days is that change is the new normal, and so we know that we are going to be turning again to our dedicated faculty and staff to be willing to change and respond to the changing needs of our students.  While these changes are necessary, they are also hard.  The members of my Cabinet and I had a number of candid conversations with various employee representatives last spring and summer and learned quite a bit.  Most importantly, we learned that our employees, faculty and staff are deeply dedicated to our students and the success of our institution, and want to be able to make significant contributions.  But faculty are concerned about their workload, especially at this time of increasing expectations in teaching, scholarship, advising and service.  Our staff have shared that sometimes they feel undervalued and question if they have sufficient career opportunities at University of the Pacific.  Both faculty and staff want more development opportunities, as well as work/life balance.  We take these concerns very seriously.  There is no simple or easy answer, but what we want to do is better understand you, our employees, and develop a success plan.  The first step is to understand, with more precision, what the challenges are. The Provost is going to be implementing a climate and needs survey to the faculty, one that's nationally benchmarked.  Ken Mullen from Business and Finance is going to implement a benchmarked national survey for our staff employees, and we're also going to do a climate survey with our students, out of Student Life.  This data is going to inform us in very valuable ways.  It's going to suggest strategies that we can take that will help everyone have the opportunities they are seeking at Pacific, and also to improve your Pacific experience day to day.  We want to engage the Academic Council, Staff Advisory Council, and other representatives of employee groups so you can provide the input, see the results, and help us find the best approach to ensure a positive working experience.  We want to make sure University of the Pacific is a great place to work.  

This year is also a year to continue the momentum that has been built up in improving and implementing new and relevant academic programs, while at the same time building Pacific's reputation for excellence. This effort will begin with the Academic Division in developing an Academic Plan, one that's consistent with Pacific 2020, and one that builds on the insights that we gained last year through the APA process.  The Academic Division is already planning a suite of interdisciplinary programs in business, policy and health in Sacramento.  And there are a number of new programs being developed for San Francisco.  The Academic Plan will provide a holistic vision of where we're going academically, and will drive the work of the rest of the University.

But enhancing academic quality alone isn't enough.  We don't want to be that best-kept secret anymore.  And so our prospective students need to be aware of our excellent programs and our inspiring faculty.  As we offer new programs on our two urban campuses, we need to market these programs to new types of students.  Often, these will be working adults who might not know about University of the Pacific or our programs.  Hence, this year, we will expand our marketing activities to build a reputation for these new academic programs, as well as with our University overall.  

If you've been counting, there is a lot of work that we will be doing.  Here's the last one, but it's a big one:  A major effort of this year is going to touch many of you across our three campuses, as our University boldly steps forward to be a three-city University.  Last year we opened beautiful new facilities at 155 5th Street in San Francisco, new home of the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry.  Hats-off to all of you in San Francisco who may be watching this streaming. You did a fabulous job of moving into the new facility, opening up the clinics to serve the patients, and being ready for new and returning students in July.  They have world-class clinical learning experiences for our dental students and extraordinary clinical experiences for the patients.  In addition to the dental school facilities, we also opened new space in the building for other University programs. There are some pioneers ready to go and offer new programs next fall.  These include the Audiology Doctorate. They will begin the Audiology Clinic component this October and welcome a new class of doctoral students next fall.  And our Music Therapy program, which has been offered here in the Conservatory in Stockton, is going to offer a post-baccalaureate certification vocation program in San Francisco.  

So think about this:  how do new students learn about these programs, how do they apply, how do they find an advisor, register for classes, get financial aid, pay their tuition?  I think I've only mentioned a few of the questions that are out there.  We've brought on a fabulous project manager to help people pull together across the University to look at everything from marketing, to getting a new banner code for the major.  And our staff and faculty are just incredible in the way that they are stepping forward and finding solutions to make sure that we're ready next fall.  But, we recognized it can't just be a collection of short term solutions, and so we brought 50 people together in the new campus a couple of weeks ago and had a three-city administrative retreat, where people talked about where our vision is 10 years from now, as a three-city University.  What do we have to have in place to make sure that there is a seamless experience for our students, and faculty and staff, regardless of which campus they happen to be on that day?  Now, as you can imagine, that was a robust discussion, and there are a lot of ideas that came out.  These included technology that supports distributed learning, technology that supports seamless student services, expanding our brand and our marketing abilities, and much more.  

This work is just beginning and it's exciting!  I just have to thank all of you who are part of this.  You may be part of it in the short term; you'll most likely be part of it in the long term., as we truly become a University that spans three cities, and I know some of you would like us to go well beyond those three cities.  We'll take it step at a time.  We have tremendous momentum and we have tremendous work to be done: work to better support our student success, to enhance our employees' success, to launch our campaign, to enhance and expand our academic offerings, and to become a three-city University.  This is exciting work; this is transformative work, and each of you will have an opportunity to contribute toward that work.  I can't thank you enough for stepping forward and making University of the Pacific an extraordinary place for our students, for our employees, and for our future. 

Thank you.