Cal State LA President William A. Covino welcomed the start of the academic year with University Convocation 2021, praising students, faculty, and staff for their dedication and resilience as the university continues to navigate the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This academic year opens against a varied backdrop: part familiar excitement and part surreal because of the current challenge of the COVID-19 Delta variant,” Covino said during his address Thursday, Aug. 19. “We all had hoped that the pandemic would be behind us by now. It is still with us.”
“But even under these circumstances, the Cal State LA community—our faculty, staff, and administrators—has pulled together and worked in extraordinary ways to support the success of our students,” he continued. “I applaud and thank you all for the dedication you’ve maintained for the past 18 months.”
This year’s University Convocation, which marks the ceremonial start to the academic year, reflected the unique moment. President Covino spoke from a lectern in the Luckman Theatre—rather than via the Zoom video conferencing platform as in 2020. A limited audience watched from the theatre, clad in face coverings, while most faculty, staff, and students tuned in via livestream from the university website.
During his remarks, the president outlined the university’s plans to welcome many students, faculty, and staff back to campus during the fall semester while keeping health and safety as the top priority. He also discussed new developments at Cal State LA and its continued efforts to support not only the university community, but also families in the wider Los Angeles region, during the pandemic.
Students beginning fall classes this week selected from a robust schedule of courses, half of which offered remote instruction and half in-person instruction. Cal State LA anticipates an enrollment of about 27,000 students in the fall, including more than 4,000 new first-time students and 3,800 new transfer students, which will be the largest class of transfer students in the university’s history.
Black student enrollment at Cal State LA continues to increase. The president announced that the university admitted 24% more Black students for fall 2021 than in fall 2020 and 140% more than in fall 2019.
“Throughout this year and beyond, we will continue our work to maintain a diverse and inclusive campus where all students feel a sense of belonging,” Covino said. The president discussed the university’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, which follow county, state, and federal public health guidance, including indoor face covering requirements, COVID-19 testing, vaccination verification, and on-campus vaccination clinics.
Cal State LA is enhancing and monitoring the heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in buildings across campus and upgrading technology in university classrooms.
“All of these measures are designed to protect our community so we can be together and be safe,” Covino said. “We are ready to welcome you home.”
The university will continue to assist students with emergency grants, food pantry distributions, and laptops and hotspots, resources that were offered throughout the course of the pandemic. New first-year and transfer undergraduate students will also be able to request iPads through the California State University’s new CSUCCESS program.
Covino reflected on the university’s integral role in the fight against COVID-19, working with government partners and community-based organizations to combat the pandemic and support families in need. Cal State LA served as one of the first federal vaccination sites set up by the Biden administration and then a city-run vaccination center. From February through June, nearly half a million people received their vaccinations at Cal State LA, its mobile vaccination units, or satellite sites.
The university also hosted community food distributions, a flu shot clinic, and a free COVID-19 testing site.
“We have long prided ourselves on the rich relationships we’ve forged with the communities we serve, the ways we have collaborated with community-based organizations to do important work,” Covino said. “We’ve used the time during the pandemic to expand our responses to need, loss, inequity, and creativity and enterprise.”
At the ceremony, President Covino and Academic Senate Chair Talia Bettcher welcomed new faculty members to Cal State LA, including some who started during the pandemic and are arriving to campus for the first time in the fall.
“I believe in us, I believe in our mission—in transforming individual lives and thereby moving society closer toward justice through this fundamental value we call knowledge, discovery, creation, education,” Bettcher said. “We do more than equipping our students to enter the [workforce], we empower them to be better human beings.”
During University Convocation, seven faculty members were recognized with awards for excellence in teaching and outstanding achievements. The outstanding faculty award recipients were announced by Professor ChorSwang Ngin, a faculty member in the Department of Anthropology who serves as chair of the Outstanding Professor Awards Committee.
Cal State LA expects to substantially grow its faculty this year, with plans to hire 91 new full-time, tenure-track faculty. “We believe this may be the largest number of new hires in the recent history of the university,” Covino said.
The fall semester also marks the opening of Cal State LA’s new dormitory-style residence hall on the north side of campus for freshmen and sophomores as well as a new state-of-the-art Student Services Building.
To meet the needs of the university’s students, Covino said, Cal State LA is hiring four additional psychological counselors as well as a new director for the Student Health Center and an additional staff physician. The WellBeingU initiative will continue to support the inner and physical well-being of students as they navigate school, family, jobs, and the pandemic. WellBeingU, formerly known as Mind Matters, was started in 2014 by President Covino and First Lady Debbie Covino to promote a welcoming and inclusive environment for learning, interaction, and engagement at Cal State LA.
At the close of his remarks, the president emphasized the need for the Cal State LA community to continue to come together to support the students and communities served by the university during this challenging and uncertain time.
“For me, the notion of community begins with the need and the desire to take care of one another,” Covino said. “I’m inspired by the ways we do this every day, the way we sustain each other. We need each other.”
“I look forward to seeing faculty and staff again, face to face. I look forward to seeing the students I know and meeting new ones,” he added. “And I look forward to telling each of you: Welcome Home. Let’s have a good year.”
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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 26,000 students and has more than 250,000 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.