From the President: Planning a Path Forward
Wednesday, October 27, 2021
Dear campus community,
In 2015, SF State adopted a strategic plan that has guided us well for several years. Its focus on five broad areas—courage, life of the mind, equity, community and resilience—afforded us opportunities to launch some key initiatives and make some important improvements. Our accomplishments span the University and include important improvements in advising and tutoring and improved access to needed coursework. We created critically-needed infrastructure to support inclusive excellence, tutoring, equity and excellence in teaching, undocumented students, basic needs, financial support for students in crisis and a better experience for first-year students. We added almost six hundred beds to support students’ housing needs and opened our first fully new academic building in 25 years. And we completed our inaugural comprehensive campaign ahead of schedule and with some of the largest gifts in our history—raising $153M to support our students and employees. I am grateful to my predecessors and to all who contributed to bringing these initiatives to fruition.
Strategic planning provides a university with the opportunity to assess its success, embrace its challenges and engage in continuous work to strengthen itself and better serve its communities. As we slowly and fitfully emerge from the pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to assess the higher education landscape and our place in it. We need now to pause and reflect on who we are and, with broad participation from community stakeholders, who we want to be 5, 10 years from now. Our response to the pandemic demonstrated that universities can change and change quickly, but it also affirmed how important our classrooms, our buildings and relationships with one another are to our success as an institution. While many of our priorities, like our commitment to our students’ degree attainment, remain unchanged, we are at a critical juncture for planning our future.
The pandemic exacerbated preexisting inequities that could lead fewer students from BIPOC communities to college. Community college enrollments declined precipitously, and SFUSD has also experienced a decrease in student numbers. Locally, it dramatically accelerated SF State’s downward enrollment trends, and we anticipate missing our enrollment target by 10%. The pandemic’s impact on retention and graduation rates remains to be seen. But a recent Graduation Initiative 2025 update from the CSU shows that SF State has not made the progress that we had hoped nor kept up with the improvements that other CSUs have seen. While we have much to be proud of, particularly our success with transfer students, our 6-year graduation rate of 53.7% places us 18th among 23 CSUs. And we have the 7th highest equity gap (difference in graduation rates based on race and ethnicity) in the CSU. Given our commitment to educational equity, I know we can do better.
The strategic planning process provides us an opportunity to embrace our challenges and strengths and plan a path forward. Planning that future requires broad participation. The Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) will coordinate a strategic planning process that engages stakeholders across campus and our broader San Francisco State community. Over the next months, we will host a variety of opportunities for you to participate from online discussions and surveys to in-person conversations in the spring. We will cast a wide net and provide multiple opportunities. We will also review already-existing data, qualitative and quantitative, including, but not limited to, existing survey data, the Academic Master Plan, the Strategic Enrollment Management Plan, the Strategic Marketing Plan and the WASC self-study.
Please consult the Strategic Planning website for details about the SPC, the process and opportunities for engagement. The page also includes an easy feedback button for you to communicate to the SPC.
At SF State, serving our students, one another and our region remains our most important work. How we do this, how we prioritize and how we align our work to maximize its benefits requires that we all actively engage with this process. I thank you in advance for your engagement and look forward to hearing from you.
Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.