SAN MARCOS — Constant changes in the region, nation and globe have put pressures on universities across the nation to keep up with the rapidly changing landscape.
California State University San Marcos is ready for that, university President Karen Haynes proclaimed on Thursday to a sold out crowd of about 500 people at the annual report to the community.
Haynes credited the university’s relative youth — 2015 marks the university’s 25th year anniversary — for allowing it to stay ahead of the curve of these changes.
“Our nation and our world are changing every day and will certainly become a very different place in the next 25 years,” Haynes said. “But, together we are ready for that.”
Haynes’ 45-minute-long speech touted a number of accomplishments the university has made in the areas of educational accessibility, community engagement, healthcare, service to veterans and active duty military and the environment.
One of the accomplishments she is most proud of is the creation of the Division of Community Engagement in 2011, six years after the idea was conceived. The division helps design service projects that help the region’s most pressing needs through volunteerism.
“We are the only university in the Cal State system who has this,” Haynes said after her speech. “I think that is an incredible feat.”
Haynes also highlighted advances in the university’s expanded offerings: a recently added certificate program in water leadership and management, a forthcoming certificate program for fire sciences, a new environmental science bachelor’s program and the university’s landmark CSU Institute for Palliative care, which has educated more than 600 healthcare professionals, launched 15 online programs and provided programs to 2,000 people throughout the region.
In addition, she discussed the accomplishments of partnerships both within the university and between the university and neighboring cities and regions, including with Palomar Hospital, from which the university’s School of Nursing was created, and in Southwest Riverside County, where a satellite campus in Temecula is thriving and boasts a 95 percent graduation rate.
One of the most significant highlights of the partnerships, Haynes said, is between the school’s nursing and computer science departments, which have created a patent-pending mobile app that will allow children with chronic illnesses to manage appointments and medications.
“Since day one, I have been committed to assuring that CSUSM does not just reside in this region,” Haynes said. “But is deeply embedded in it. I believe that public institutions are ‘stewards of place.'”
Haynes said the university has accomplished several major milestones during her 11 years as president, none more important, she said, than making higher educational not only more accessible to minorities, veterans, the socioeconomically disadvantaged an at-risk populations, but helping those students graduate from school.
Hispanic and Latino students comprise 40 percent of the university’s population, and the university has been able to close the gap between minority students and White students, one of the few state universities to do so.
Haynes credits mandatory time management courses, strong advisement policies, the creation of seven first-year learning communities and other practices as the primary driver of the successes in this area.
The result: 80 percent of students return to school for their sophomore years, a 20 percent increase in just 10 years, Haynes said.
Haynes said she wants the university and its community to continue to set big goals and accomplish them, and urged those in attendance to continue their partnerships with the university.
“We are rich in achievement and possibility, and this forward-focused, regional university has much to teach the nation,” she said.
Local officials in attendance said the partnerships the university has forged within the region has allowed the region to flourish, and will continue to do so.
“It is a cornerstone of our city,” San Marcos Mayor Jim Desmond said. “The fact that Cal State San Marcos has been able to engrain itself into the fabric of the community, and make themselves open to all of the pivots and adjustments in the needs of the business community and community at large is very vital to our region’s growth.”