New Year message from President Callahan
Happy new year! I hope all Pacificans – students, faculty, staff, alumni, supporters, friends and family – are enjoying a joyous and well-deserved holiday season.
Last year was truly a historic one for California’s first and oldest university.
We had near records in student success and retention. We broke ground on a major expansion of the Sacramento Campus. We welcomed new faculty, new staff and new leaders, including Regent Chair Mary-Elizabeth Eberhardt, Provost Gretchen Edwalds-Gilbert, Chief General Counsel Lauren Schoenthaler, Dean Lee Skinner and Athletics Director Adam Tschuor. We launched our first set of fully online degree programs and approved our first truly interdisciplinary major. We housed more than 1,950 students on the Stockton Campus, the highest level in years.
We also welcomed more than 1,600 high school students to the Pacific Summer High School Institute, increasing our undergraduate recruitment potential while adding nearly 2 percent to our overall revenue. We achieved one of our best fundraising years ever at more than $33 million and our second-best year in sponsored research and program grants at more than $36 million.
Perhaps most importantly, at a time when many colleges and universities across the nation continue to suffer from declining enrollments, we welcomed the largest student population in our 172-year history. These successes and more are reflected in the latest national rankings. Pacific is now ranked No. 11 in the West among private universities by the Wall Street Journal. Forbes, WSJ and Washington Monthly each ranks us ahead of all but two of the West Coast Conference schools, and Money Magazine ranks only Stanford and Cal Tech ahead of Pacific. We also were the only school among our peers to go up in the U.S. News & World Report rankings.
A tremendous year, to be sure, thanks to the efforts of our inspiring faculty, dedicated staff and our supportive Regents, alumni and friends. The “flywheel” is picking up momentum.
But the best is yet to come in 2024 as we continue our progress towards becoming the nation’s premier student-centric comprehensive university. Here is a preview of what we will be working on over the next 365 days.
With our continued monomaniacal focus on student success, we are currently tracking to achieve our highest first-year retention rates ever. And thanks to the hard work of our faculty, academic leaders, Student Success and Retention Council and the Persistence Team, we are improving retention rates in later years as well. Meanwhile, the new “Back to Graduate” program led by Provost Edwalds-Gilbert and Registrar Karen Johnson – focused on students who have left Pacific within 20 units of graduating – has led to 17 former students earning their degrees and 31 others who have returned to complete their degree requirements.
We are on track to set a new all-time enrollment record for a second consecutive year. Great successes in our graduate and professional programs helped get us to this fall’s record of 6,755 students. This year Vice President Chris Ferguson and his Enrollment Strategy team are redoubling efforts on undergraduate recruitment. The early results are outstanding: Year to date applications for first-year undergraduates are up 60 percent from last year and transfer applications have more than tripled.
Central to our enrollment strategy is investing in campus housing. This year, led by Vice President Maria Blandizzi, we will begin renovations on Manor Hall, the abandoned residence hall across Pacific Avenue that will be transformed into housing for student-veterans. This summer we will invest in upgrades to the Greek houses and the Townhouse Apartments, having recently completed renovations to the Quads and Grace Covell Hall. And this year we will start the design and financing stages for a new Southwest Hall (while the century-old Southwest Hall cannot be saved safely and efficiently, the new Southwest will represent the best of Pacific – an exterior design evoking the traditional Collegiate Gothic architecture of our historic campus combined with an interior that is a state-of-the-art living learning community).
Another key strategic initiative for future enrollment is the transformation of the former Tri Delta sorority house into boutique campus lodging, with a focus on parents, families and prospective students visiting campus. Fundraising for the project and design will be completed this year, with an anticipated opening in Fall 2025. The Pacific Inn project – as well as the state’s $23 million revitalization of the Miracle Mile, which is so important to our surrounding community – are led by First Lady Jean Callahan.
One of the most exciting days of 2024 is just around the corner. On Jan. 10, Academic Council Chair John Mayberry and other faculty leaders are convening our inaugural Curriculum Innovation Day, where faculty from all schools and disciplines will gather to exchange ideas about potential new interdisciplinary degree programs. The idea came from the brilliant newly launched bachelor’s degree program in data science, an intersection of computer engineering, mathematics, economics and more from departments across College of the Pacific and the School of Engineering and Computer Science. The outstanding work done by a group of interdisciplinary faculty architects – led by Professors Mayberry, Chadi El Kar, Jim Hetrick and Sharmila King – has provided us with a roadmap for the future of our university through the creation of dynamic new market-driven and interdisciplinary degree programs, unfettered by traditional bureaucratic constructs.
Another huge step forward in 2024 will be our securing of Hispanic Serving Institution status from the U.S. Department of Education. We have reached the requisite threshold of a 25 percent Latino undergraduate population and will submit our formal application next month. The designation will make Pacific the highest ranked private HSI university in California. The new designation, combined with our status as an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution, will give us unprecedented abilities to support our underserved students. Meanwhile, Vice President Mary Lomax-Ghirarduzzi is working on another critical Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiative – transforming her highly successful DEI training modules into an online course that can be used nationally.
2024 also will see great advances across our nine schools and colleges. The College of the Pacific will add new biology faculty and a new biology lab to meet the demands of our growing pre-health programs, which are fast becoming Pacific’s national academic signature. Faculty and deans from the College also will continue to find smart and creative solutions to increase student success in key gateway courses in biology, chemistry, economics and math, where the DFW rates remain too high.
The School of Health Sciences will open a new building on the Sacramento Campus later this month, leading to the expansion of our popular physician assistant and nursing master’s programs. The expansion will allow the addition of 90 new PA students and another 100 nursing students within two years. Additionally, Health Sciences is designing a new MS in nutrition science.
The Dugoni School of Dentistry will open its own new building later this year, right across the street from the new Health Sciences building in Sacramento. The building will be home to the Pacific Health Care Collaborative, a new interdisciplinary health clinic that will serve underserved patients in the region, as well as the expansion of the International Dental Studies degree program. Dugoni also is in the planning stages for a new surgery clinic on the San Francisco Campus.
Similar advances will be seen at our other schools and colleges throughout the year with the opening of the Fletcher Jones Foundation Makerspace at the School of Engineering and Computer Science and new degrees in the design stages at the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy, Eberhardt School of Business and Conservatory of Music. Meanwhile, Benerd College and the McGeorge School of Law will be celebrating their 100th year, with galas and programming to commemorate the centennials.
The schools also are ratcheting up their sponsored grant and research activities with more new grant applications than ever before, building on our second-best external grant performance this past year. Fundraising led by Vice President Scott Biedermann also is tracking for another superb, $30 million-plus year. Pacific Gives Day on April 23 is set to break last year’s record of more than 3,500 donors.
We also are anticipating major advances in sustainability as we progress on our trajectory to reach STARS Gold status from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education by 2026. This year’s sustainability initiatives include securing a fleet of e-bikes for free student use on the Stockton Campus, an expansion of EV Zipcars on the Sacramento Campus, a project to repurpose groundwater to irrigate the 175-acre Stockton Campus and a sweeping external audit of all three campuses to recommend long-term investments in LED, solar power and other energy-efficient technologies. Our sustainability initiatives not only help preserve our environment and boost student recruitment, but also provide long-term financial savings.
The sustainability savings are part of an overarching efficiency focus led by Chief Finance Officer James Walsh. We made great strides in modernizing many of our processes last year, but there is much more to do. Operational efficiency does not sound very exciting, but it provides real savings in both dollars and time that can be better used for efforts that increase the success of our students. Vice President Rob Henderson and his Pacific Technology team will continue to play a key role in our operational modernizations.
In addition to operational savings, we continue to advance on the creation of new alternative revenue sources beyond tuition, fundraising and grants. Rolling out this month is our new centralized system to reserve campus space for both internal and external audiences. This will save a remarkable amount of time and energy while providing equal access to all university departments and divisions and, importantly, provide a new revenue stream for venue rentals to external audiences. The initiative, which starts tomorrow for the Stockton Campus, will expand later this year to Sacramento and San Francisco. Other revenue-raising initiatives for 2024 include expanding Tiger Prep (introductory college courses offered to high schools and piloted last semester by Dean Liz Orwin) and seeking a development partner for a possible campus-based senior living center (a preliminary survey of potential residents showed high interest). Additionally, the pickleball and padel complex, a partnership with a San Diego-based company, is expected to open later this month adjacent to the Eve Zimmerman Tennis Center. These revenue-driving programs are led by Ashley Williams, Director of Presidential Strategic Initiatives.
The most successful alternative revenue generator has been the Pacific Summer High School Institute, led by Professor Balint Sztaray and Vice President Blandizzi. This past year saw 1,628 students hosted on campus for the two-week residential experience. This summer we expect 1,800 high school students, which is the maximum possible due to current limitations on residential living. The new Southwest Hall will allow for the future expansion of the Summer Institute.
Fundraising and design for the Student-Athlete and Sports Medicine Center also will take place in 2024. The center illustrates our central focus on student success by providing for the health, safety, nutritional and academic support of our 300-plus student-athletes and creating an ideal experiential learning environment for our students in the athletic-training program, the only accredited master’s program in Northern California.
These are just some of our plans for 2024. What they all have in common is the laser focus on our core purpose – the success of our students based on the relationships between students and our amazing faculty, staff and academic leaders. Below you will see a visualization of our student success model, where we are all here to serve our students.
Thank you for all you do to make Pacific great, and all you continue to do in our progress towards making Pacific the nation’s finest student-centric comprehensive university.
I am looking forward to a great 2024 with all of you!