Rethinking Higher Ed
As CSUMB launches into a self-assessment, interim president strives to cozy up to the community.
Thursday, September 6, 2012
IIt’s SWOT time at CSU Monterey Bay.
The two-day exercise—Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats—started Wednesday, Sept. 5. It’s the first step toward updating the university’s strategic plan and achieving Interim President Eduardo Ochoa’s goal of identifying ways CSUMB can modify its curriculum to meet regional needs.
Agriculture, hospitality and education/research are the big three in Monterey County. “There’s more than one way our programs can support those industries,” Ochoa says. “Marine science is one that’s proving popular with the students, and it attracts research-minded faculty because of Monterey Bay.
“I’ve also been informed that there is a shortage of people with finance and accounting training in this area, so growing our business curriculum may be another field.”
The final decision about adding any academic fields of study will be made in concert with the campus community, Ochoa adds, through dialogue with CSUMB officials, community and business leaders and other stakeholders.
This speaks to Ochoa’s leadership style, says CSUMB Provost Kathy Cruz-Uribe, who attended CSU-wide provost meetings with Ochoa during his tenure as provost at Sonoma State University.
Ochoa was named interim president in May. At the time, the Argentine native was in Washington, DC, serving as assistant secretary for postsecondary education with the Obama Administration, a post he’d held since 2010. Before that, he was Sonoma State’s provost and VP for academic affairs for seven years.
Although his CSUMB post is an interim one, he does want the job permanently. “I moved across the county, and I left the position in the Obama administration,” he says. “I wouldn’t have done that for only an interim appointment. I do have a hope and an expectation that the appointment can become permanent.”
In addition to growing his own role at CSUMB, Ochoa says he wants to see the university increase its voice in regional development.
“We’re looking forward to playing an active and constructive role in the FORA process,” he says, referencing the Fort Ord Reuse Authority and its mission of repurposing the former Army base, which includes the CSUMB campus. “We would like to be an intellectual resource in terms of thinking through what makes the most sense, and proactively going after those projects rather than just reaching to any proposal for any development.”
Ochoa’s third priority is to make CSUMB a model in education. “We have a chance to exercise national leadership in developing a new, sustainable model for liberal learning,” he says. “Not just as a fast-food education, but as a full-fledged college education.”
President Obama has set a goal of making the U.S. the most educated country in the world by 2020, upping the percentage of Americans with college degrees from 40 percent to more than 60 percent. “We’re not going to be able to do that unless we stabilize funding for higher education,” Ochoa says.
If Proposition 30, a tax measure to prevent more cuts to higher ed, doesn’t pass, the CSU system will face an additional $250 million in cuts.
But Ochoa says CSUMB’s youth and philosophy give it an edge even in this economic climate. “Many institutions with longer histories have so much at stake, so much invested in the traditional methods of education, that it’s going to be hard for them to be nimble enough to adapt,” he says.
“Here, we have a climate of optimism and innovation that can be tapped to provide the right framework.”