presidential seal



SAN DIEGO STATE UNIVERSITY Strategic Communications and Public Affairs

Tuesday, May 4, 2021 SDSU University Senate Meeting Presidential Remarks

Thank you, Wil.

As everyone here is well aware, today marks the last full University Senate meeting of the year.

And what a year it has been.

There is much I could talk about. There is still much to plan, to respond to, to finalize.

That’s characteristic of this full year. We’ve had to be reactive, and so many hours have been lost to COVID planning.

With that said, it’s easy to forget what we’ve accomplished this year. And there has been SO MUCH accomplished this year.

That’s what I’d like to use this time for, to remind each of us what we’ve done to impact our campus, our region, and our world this year. SDSU has made some phenomenal progress.

SDSU Strategic Plan

Recall that at the beginning of our virtual world, we showed incredible resilience and successfully launched our five-year strategic plan “We Rise We Defy: Transcending Borders, Transforming Lives.”

This plan is already guiding our investments and priorities, with a unique and intentional focal point on SDSU Imperial Valley, which is expanding its programs and adding its first STEM program this fall. And of course on SDSU Mission Valley, which is actively under construction and has been providing thousands of new jobs to our region.

This academic year, SDSU Global Campus added more than a half dozen new bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, including those in economics, child development, civil engineering, and American Indian studies.

We introduced a new graduate program in teacher leadership, and launched a new online bachelor’s degree in communication. We introduced new microsite partnerships — an extraordinary innovation that is now in demand across the state — with local community colleges and many new programs starting this fall.

Student Recruitment, Retention, Diversity and Success

While many colleges and universities across the nation are seeing application and enrollment declines during the COVID-19 pandemic — including all but three of our sister CSU campuses — we saw record application growth.

This semester, we surpassed 103,000 individual applications for fall 2021, including undergraduate and graduate student applications.

And we are matching this demand with increased access. This is essential.

In fall 2020, we recorded our university’s largest fall enrollment in 12 years, with nearly 35,600 students attending the San Diego and Imperial Valley campuses.

We enrolled a record 4,500 transfer students in fall 2020. This growth in transfer students was made possible by new community college partnerships all across our regional market, and was the first significant increase in transfer enrollment in more than 10 years.

As we expand access, we are also increasing student diversity.
Between fall 2016 and fall 2020, the percentage of students from underrepresented groups — Native American, African American and Latinx — in the first-year class increased to 35% from 30.8%. For transfer students, that figure increased to 44.7% from 41.6%.

For this upcoming fall, we have admitted our most diverse new student cohort in a generation.

Just as essential, this year we also made substantial strides in all categories related to student success: a significant rise in graduation and retention rates, and a reduction in equity gaps with our six-year rate increasing from 74% in 2018 to more than 78% in 2020, with several individual colleges now above 85% of students graduating in less than six years.

Our current four-year graduation rate is on target for meeting or exceeding our 2025 goal of 60%. Equity gaps are below 4% in most categories, and the CSU GI2025 dashboard forecasts that we are on track to fully eliminate many equity gaps by 2025.

One major reason for these recent increases was our focus on increasing enrollment in the summer term these past years; 10,500 unique students now enroll in the summer. It is my goal to further increase this to nearly 15,000, coupled with the necessary increases in State University Grants and summer financial aid for all our students. More than $5 million in SUG grants are available to our students for just this summer alone.


SDSU fundraising has increased year-over-year from $82 million in 2018... to $116 million in 2019...and $127 million raised in 2020.

An incredible 21,019 of our current students receive aid from one or more of our SDSU scholarships...and these annual philanthropic records translate to direct and critical increasing support for our students.

And during just the first nine months of this current fiscal year — during the height of the pandemic — we raised nearly $99 million, not including several principal level gifts in the development pipeline.

Of particular importance: Philanthropic support of new endowed faculty positions reached an all time high in 2020 at $14.1 million to support new faculty.

We have increased the scholarship distribution rate to our students, from 66% when I arrived three years ago to 98% of aid awarded to our students, now.

SDSU Mission Valley

Construction on SDSU Mission Valley and Aztec Stadium continues to move forward on schedule. This is, in and of itself, an achievement I am incredibly proud of, and sets the stage for an early start to our campus Innovation District opportunities.

Aztec Stadium is scheduled to open for the 2022 Fall season, which will also mark the university’s 125th Anniversary.
SDSU Mission Valley will directly facilitate our R-01 and scholarly aspirations, as well as provide more revenue for that scholarship.

It will support our graduate students and new faculty by offering subsidized housing.

And it will expand our university’s overall economic impact in the region by an additional $3 billion annually, with an estimated 3,500 to 5,550 new workers to be employed. This is a critical investment for our post-pandemic growth as a university and region.

SDSU Imperial Valley

This fall, SDSU Imperial Valley students will have the option to enroll in three new degree programs, including our first STEM program in mathematics.

SDSU Imperial Valley is also hiring new tenure-track faculty members and new full-time staff members to the Student Affairs team.

These expanded offerings, and the student support services we are also enhancing, are dramatic additions, and will bring student life and co-curricular support to our Imperial Valley campus. This follows three years of increased attention across SDSU Imperial Valley, and lays the foundation for an Innovation District and expanded enrollment in the valley.

Faculty, Staff Retention, Diversity

The number of underrepresented faculty hires at SDSU increased substantially over the past three years.

In fall 2016, only 13% of incoming faculty hires were underrepresented in their field, increasing to 21% in fall of 2018, 42% in fall of 2019, and 56% of all new hires in fall of 2020.

This year, more than 65% of our newly hired faculty are underrepresented in their respective disciplines.
Overall, underrepresented faculty now represent 14.6% of all tenured/probationary instructional faculty, up from 12% before 2018.

We have also continued to make major strides with our Aztec Identity Education Committee and have invested in our library holdings and special collections to be more inclusive of the histories, cultures, and languages of Indigenous peoples, both here and across Mexico.

We are building a library and classroom facility in Oaxaca, in fact, in partnership with the Welte Institute, to serve as an essential resource for the preservation of cartography and materials from across hundreds of years of peoples, and to further mark SDSU as a committed leader in this work.

We expanded our Indigenous language offerings, sponsored dozens of events this year to bring contemporary issues confronting indigenous communities into conversation with the struggles of our Black, Asian, and Latinx communities from this past year.

Our faculty across colleges partnered to expand existing and new course offerings that integrate the accomplishments as well as struggles of the Indigenous communities in Mesoamerica.

Our Aztec Committees worked alongside Associated Students to create a more integrated understanding of the Nahua language and culture across the campus and in creating future orientations for our students.

All of this built upon our many accomplishments of the previous year in announcing the SDSU Land Acknowledgement, creating and hiring the position of tribal liaison, creating and launching the Native Resource Center, the inclusion of Native programs for additional admissions weight, and so much else.

Pandemic Response

Our SDSU Flex model also allowed us to maintain our year-long in-person research laboratories, which were critical to the training of our more than 4,000 graduate students and our externally funded research.

More than 50 of our faculty retooled their laboratories and centers to respond to COVID-19 and public
health related needs.

University researchers and scholars generated more than $8.6 million in funding for COVID-19-realted projects in the past year. These include examining the relationship between loss of smell and taste and COVID-19, developing innovative practices for testing for the virus in wastewater, and expanding our understanding of the rates of transmission, among many other initiatives.

SDSU’s “Communities Fighting COVID!” initiative was launched through a $5 million National Institutes of Health grant to improve testing in underserved communities, including the Latinx community. This is a critical project for some of our most vulnerable communities.

And we have involved our students in our response along the way. One example: The School of Nursing launched an effort to train more than 300 nursing students to help administer the COVID-19 vaccine all across San Diego County.


That is a fraction of what our campus has achieved over the past months. I cannot imagine what we might have been able to accomplish without the disruption of the pandemic and the resulting financial crisis.

I want to thank our faculty, our staff, and all our students, for your time, your ideas, and your leadership.

Without each of you, none of these accomplishments would have been possible this year.

Thank you, sincerely, and I look forward to what we can accomplish together, as guided by our strategic plan, next year.