Campus gathers to discuss University Strategic Plan at inaugural Titans Reach Higher Town Hall

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At the first Titan Town Hall, President Mildred García presented the accomplishments fueled by the university Strategic Plan implemented in 2013. (Yunuen Bonaparte/Daily Titan)

Cal State Fullerton President Mildred García hosted hundreds of campus community members Monday for a discussion and update on the implementation of the five-year University Strategic Plan.

García used the platform of the inaugural Titans Reach Higher Town Hall as an opportunity to tout a number of accomplishments completed since the plan was unveiled in 2013, including the opening of the Titan Dreamer’s center and the hiring of more than 150 tenure-track faculty.

The university still has a long way to go toward achieving the goals listed in its strategic plan though, García said.

“We cannot and should not achieve all four of our goals at once, but rather adhere to the planned long-term vision over the five years where we laid out the building blocks for a brighter future,” García said. “Those building blocks will help us at the end of our strategic plan to continue to measure our success.”

The plan includes goals to improve advising, student retention, student talent development and assessment. The plan also aims to create a “Titan Experience,” a goal that amounts to a branding effort to increase student pride and engagement.

Greg Saks, vice president of university advancement, brought up a comprehensive study conducted by his department that looked into what CSUF’s stakeholders thought of the university.

Saks said that overall, stakeholders had positive feelings about CSUF as an institution and saw it as a leader among CSUs. However, the study didn’t yield the kind of glowing descriptions the university was hoping for from its stakeholders.

The phrase “convenient location” was one of those descriptions, Saks said.

“While I prefer that to an inconvenient location, it doesn’t pop as much as some of the other ideas that came up,” Saks said. “For example, ‘quality education’ and ‘prepared graduates for jobs and careers.’”

Saks said the university’s challenge now is building upon positive perceptions and making sure stakeholders stay happy.

“Really what we need to do is take all of these items that our stakeholders spoke positively about and be able to explain to all the audiences and speak to all the audiences on why these items are important, why we are unique in those ways,” he said.

Saks said that one of the ways CSUF is seeking to make sure that happens is through the creation of an “aspiration market position statement,” a communication tool that will allow CSUF to talk to its stakeholders using the information gathered from the university advancement study.

Following Sak’s presentation, the meeting shifted back toward the discussion of the strategic plan and how it could best be implemented.

The town hall set aside a 45-minute period of discussion when faculty, staff and students had moderated round-table group discussions on the various goals of the strategic plan and how they might be able to facilitate them in their own departments or groups.

When discussion was done, audience members asked questions and shared their opinions on the strategic plan and its goals. Some said they saw positive benefits to the strategic plan while others said they weren’t sure how, specifically, the university intended to positively impact students and achieve its goals for becoming a better university.

“I believe Cal State Fullerton can be a global leader in a million different ways and I’m ready for that, and I believe my peers are as well,” sophomore Rachel Herzog said. “It’s just that we’re unsure about what the university wants for us as well.”

John Spiak of Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana said he would like to see greater student engagement and interpersonal connections on campus increase in a world where people are often absorbed by social media.

“How do we get them out of that technology base into that real world base? And I think we need to ask (current students) or a generation younger than them before they even arrive at this university,” Spiak said.

García agreed that accomplishing goals listed within the strategic plan will be dependent on communication between different groups on campus and that the voices of students are important.

“We need to listen to the younger voices, we also need to listen to the older voices and the in-between voices; all the voices,” García said. “So that we can come together as a community to listen and become the model comprehensive university.”

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