The following is a letter from President Albert Karnig regarding his retirement. The letter was originally published in the Coyote Communiqué newsletter on July 19, 2012, and sent to the CSUSB campus and friends of the university.
For many years, we searched for the best way to update you about Cal State San Bernardino developments. After trials with printed newsletters, daily news e-mail and other communications, finally, in October 2010, we discovered the value of the Coyote Communiqué newsletter. We’ve sought to stay true to our promise to deliver information about the university every second week, except during the summer, when we send the Communiqué monthly.
Today’s edition will be my last as president before I retire. So I think it’s only appropriate that I make this a personal note to each of you to express my deepest gratitude for the enormous generosity and support that you’ve given not only to Cal State San Bernardino, but also to my wife Marilyn and me over the past 15 years.
As I pack up (or dispose of) office materials that I’ve amassed over 15 years, I’ve reflected on the university’s budgetary roller coaster ride over that period, and what our students, faculty and staff have achieved despite the continuing financial challenges. Those accomplishments surely include records in enrollment, diversity of faculty and students, grant and contract funding, fundraising and international developments. And the campus constructed or expanded more than 1.5 million square feet of facilities, including the new Murillo Family Astronomy Observatory and four buildings at our Palm Desert Campus, the latter with $40 million raised entirely with contributions from private foundations, municipalities and individuals.
I’m also pleased that CSUSB gained quite meaningful recognition nationally and internationally from respected publications and organizations such as the Princeton Review, U.S. News and World Report, Forbes and European CEO Magazine. During this time, we also added our first doctoral and engineering programs, as well as our first Master of Fine Arts programs.
In addition, nearly two dozen centers and institutes were created – ranging from Aging, Entrepreneurship, Health Disparities, and Literacy to Transportation and Water – positioning the campus as a powerful resource on regional and national issues. In
fact, CSUSB’s presence and importance in the community grew dramatically by virtue of several hundred successful partnerships, earning CSUSB accolades from the Carnegie Foundation and Washington’s Center for Higher Education Civic Engagement, as well as placement on the President’s Higher Education Honor Roll for the past six years.
Since the launch of the President’s Academic Excellence Scholarship program in 2002, more than 300 of the top 1 percent of San Bernardino County high school students have accepted the scholarship. There are, in fact, more than 150 of these scholars currently enrolled at CSUSB, which is more of these top 1 percent students than at any other university.
However, the set of achievements that makes me most proud is CSUSB’s vital and highly successful role in educating students. The Inland Empire has had the lowest percentage of college graduates of any U.S. metropolitan area of more than one million people. Many of our students come from families that previously believed higher education was out of reach, including students from traditionally underserved communities. For example, CSUSB now has the second-highest percentage of African American students among California public universities, as well as the second-highest of Hispanic students. More than 80 percent of our students require financial aid, and more than 70 percent of our graduating students came from families in which neither parent had a college degree, which is four to five times the rate at many other institutions.
Given those circumstances, it’s quite remarkable that nearly 90 percent of our first-time freshmen returned for their second year – a retention rate that is among the three best in the 23-campus CSU and the highest in our university’s history. That success is directly attributable to the support offered by our staff and the instructional skills of our faculty, who don’t just teach, but who teach so that students actually learn. The evidence can be seen in the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA), a test used by hundreds of colleges and universities across the nation to measure the value added by an undergraduate education. The CLA uses a sequence of tests in critical thinking, written communication and other dimensions to measure freshman and then senior student skills.
According to the 2010-2011 CLA data, student improvement from freshman to senior years ranked Cal State San Bernardino at the 96th percentile – that is, in the top 4 percent nationally – for the degree of learning students acquired while in college.
The focus can’t end even there, however. Not only does the university guarantee interested freshmen the opportunity to graduate in four years, our new Student Success, Graduation and Career Placement initiative is intended to greatly expand support for CSUSB students, with the goal of ever further increasing the likelihood that students will continue their education, graduate in a timely manner, and receive focused placement services and alumni assistance to help them launch their professional careers.
As I prepare to pass the torch to President-Elect Tomás Morales, I hope you’ll continue to advocate for Cal State San Bernardino in the generous ways you have during my presidency. With enormous budget cuts already overwhelming higher education—and more threatened if Proposition 30, the Governor’s tax referendum, fails in November—your support has never been more critical. I trust you’ll greet Dr. Morales and his wife Evy with enthusiasm, and that you’ll offer the thoughtful insights, guidance and encouragement that you’ve offered to Marilyn and to me over the years.
Marilyn and I look forward to remaining involved in the communities that CSUSB serves, and continuing as part of the great CSUSB family with all of you. Thank you for providing such a powerfully supportive environment for our university. With your support, I truly believe that Cal State San Bernardino’s best days still do lie ahead.