Cal State LA President William A. Covino welcomed the start of the new academic year and announced new groundbreaking university initiatives during Convocation 2019.
The president opened his Aug. 19 address by underscoring the importance of the work done by Cal State LA’s outstanding faculty and staff in supporting their students.
Covino lauded the university’s recent reaccreditation and thanked faculty and staff who worked on the effort. The WASC Senior College and University Commission awarded Cal State LA a 10-year accreditation, the maximum possible term.
During his remarks, the president announced that a plan to create a new College of Ethnic, Racial, and Social Transformation at Cal State LA is moving forward. The college will be home to the departments of Asian and Asian American Studies, Chicana(o) and Latina(o) Studies and Pan-African Studies, and will feature a curriculum that includes faculty from across the university.
“With the creation of this college, Cal State LA will become the premier destination for ethnic studies scholarship, praxis and training of educators,” Covino said to cheers from the crowd.
Covino introduced new features to enhance student well-being, improvements to campus facilities and efforts to promote sustainability.
The president provided updates about new facilities upgrades at Cal State LA, including the opening of Parking Structure E, which will offer 2,200 new vehicle spaces and features 36 Level 2 electrical vehicle charging ports, three DC fast-charging stations, rooftop solar panels and a smart parking occupancy system. A total of 64 rooms in King Hall and the Biological Sciences building were converted to classrooms, and automatic door openers in buildings across campus have been updated to ensure accessibility.
New Well-Being Classrooms will open this week, Covino said. The classrooms in Salazar Hall include a moss wall, ample natural light and features that contribute to well-being and comfort, including air and lighting systems. They are expected to be certified by the WELL Building Standard, which is based on medical research that aims to improve health and well-being through the built environment. The rooms accommodate two 30-student classes or one 60 student class at a time.
“We understand student well-being encompasses all aspects of their educational experience, including their learning environment,” Covino said.
The Mind Matters Relaxation Station will be open for fall semester in the University-Student Union, featuring state-of-the-art sleep pods where students can nap, relax and recharge between classes.
The new Mind Matters Garden, which has broken ground near the Career Development Center and Student Health Center, will provide a place for students, faculty and staff to relax and also offer space for class meetings and campus events. The garden, made possible by philanthropic support, is being created in response to requests from students who have participated in Mind Matters Roundtables, offering suggestions for healthy campus practices and advancing effective learning.
These new programs are part of the Mind Matters initiative, a comprehensive approach to wellness that helps students achieve inner well-being and combats food and housing insecurity. The initiative was started by President Covino and First Lady Debbie Covino in 2014 to promote a welcoming and inclusive environment for learning, interaction and engagement.
As part of the university’s sustainability efforts, Covino reminded guests that Cal State LA ended the use of plastic bags and straws last semester. Cal State LA is continuing its ambitious initiative to become a zero-waste university by introducing central zero waste stations located in building hallways.
Covino also noted the historical significance of this academic year, which marks the 50th anniversary of the Educational Opportunity Program, known as EOP. “Thank you to the staff of EOP for your work in transforming the lives of students,” he said.
The president lauded the progress of We Are LA: The Campaign for Cal State LA, the university’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign. So far, University Advancement has raised $61 million on the way to its $75 million goal by the university’s 75th anniversary.
At the ceremony, 43 new faculty members were welcomed to Cal State LA by Covino and Professor Veena Prabhu, who is serving her final year as chair of the Academic Senate.
“I’ve enjoyed every nanosecond of my time as Senate chair,” Prabhu said to the audience of faculty. “The reason is you. What binds us is our passion and dedication for our students.”
Covino acknowledged that the academic year is starting against a backdrop of national tragedies. He noted that this summer the country experienced “the horror of mass shootings in three cities and an escalating climate of hate.”
“Knowing this leaves all of us with a heightened responsibility to look out for and to care for each other,” Covino said. “We must work together to maintain a community that embraces diversity and inclusion.”
As he came to the end of his remarks, Covino invoked Nobel laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Toni Morrison, who died earlier this month, quoting from her apt advice to college graduates in a previous commencement speech:
“But then, I am a teller of stories and therefore an optimist, a believer in the ethical bend of the human heart, a believer in the mind’s disgust with fraud and its appetite for truth, a believer in the ferocity of beauty. So, from my point of view, which is that of a storyteller, I see your life as already artful, waiting, just waiting and ready for you to make it art.”
The president ended his address with words of inspiration for Cal State LA faculty and staff as they head into the new academic year.
“In this spirit, let’s work together in ways that sustain our bonds and fulfill our purpose. Let’s affirm and declare our belief in the power of education, the beauty of our diversity, and the necessity of caring for each other,” Covino said. “I wish you a year filled with excellence and impact. Thank you for all that you do to make this a great university.”
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California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 28,000 students and has more than 245,000 distinguished alumni.
Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex and the TV, Film and Media Center. For more information, visit www.CalStateLA.edu.