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President's 2018-19 Academic Year Welcome Remarks


 ConvocationConvocation 2018 Slide Deck (PDF)

Good morning and welcome to a great new year at Cal Maritime!
 
We're starting our convocation recognizing an essential partner, and beneficiary, of the fantastic work that occurs on in this beautiful campus EVERY DAY - Vallejo- our home every day for the last 75 years.
 
The City of Vallejo places enormous trust in us - and they know that they have a willing and capable university shipmate - a special university, a maritime academy - endeavoring to change lives and lift souls - one at a time. We are making maritime better, and making Vallejo better - day by day, hour by hour. The leadership of Vallejo knows it, the citizens of Vallejo know it.
 
Our focused and persistent engagement with the city is creating positive impact. Listen to what people are saying about Vallejo right now. Here's what they said about us. WATCH VIDEO: Choose Vallejo - Economic Development >>
 
Why should this matter to us? Primarily because it strikes at the central idea of a public university. This idea has emerged over many centuries, moving from the conception of the institution as one devoted to the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, to one dedicated to specialized research, to one, at least in the American experience, born of our Nation's experiment in democracy - with the university principally in service to the public. A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Adam Daniel and Chad Wellmon from the University of Virginia outlines the likely outcomes of current higher education trajectories. 
 
Their article states, "If the university is to flourish and continue to play a vital role in American life, it needs to reinterpret its democratic legacy. And it needs to do so with a frank acknowledgement of the fragility of the public it purports to serve. The university is what it is today, in part, because of the atrophy of other public institutions, which has left universities to fill a widening void. Higher education is in a precarious position; so too is the American Republic. In order not just to save themselves but to fulfill their social role, universities need a more refined understanding of their responsibilities to the public - and of how to meet them in ways that are consistent with their own animating purpose. They also need an honest appreciation of their limits."
 
Traditionally, universities have been viewed as agents for maintaining the social unity necessary for democracy to succeed. Others expect our influence to be beneficial to everyday families, others still advocating that we instill in our graduates a spirit of service. - in other words, a social compact. This proliferation of purposes can be dizzying, and the caveat from the authors to understand our limits provides a useful caution. Yet, here we sit, as a public institution doing all we can with all we have.
 
While many maritime academies have fostered a more monastic version of maritime education, Cal Maritime has chosen to differentiate itself through identification as an emerging maritime university. This conception of ourselves does not denigrate or supplant the immense value of our historic and traditional academic focus on shipping. Instead, it seeks to add value where value is sought - in transportation, energy, logistics, ocean science and environmental security - where new investments in our graduates will best benefit our society - whether from a viewpoint of economic utility, social mobility, creation of knowledge or sustainment of our democracy.
 
Vallejo needs us, so does California, as does Washington, Alaska, Oregon, Hawaii, and 45 other states in the US and the District of Columbia. The 67 members of IAMU need us too. Cal Maritime's leadership in maritime education is sought - and welcomed - locally, regionally, nationally and globally. You are punching well above your weight - congratulations.
 
Now I'd like to turn to a more serious and pressing discussion. Let's imagine how we've moved from a snug harbor to rough seas. Twenty-five years ago, higher Education was a relatively "calm" space - ask our senior faculty - they were in doctoral programs then. The world was transitioning into a post-Cold War era and the US maritime industry had just demonstrated an 8,000 mile steel bridge to get supplies to forces liberating Kuwait. Today, higher education sees dramatically reduced state funding for public higher education, diminished support for and skepticism of the need for higher education by the polity, MOOCs and online courses, the resurgence of for-profit online educators, reduced college-age populations nationally, competition from foreign universities for students we'd previously assumed had no other choices for quality education and questioning within the academy on the proper trajectory for a safe future at many institutions.
 
The world is witnessing the return of a multi-polar geopolitical environment, growing competitiveness between economies - including major allies, continuing emaciation of the US merchant fleet - down 1/3 in the last quarter century and down almost 75% in the last half-century. Transitions to renewable energy, increasing interest in the health and wealth of our oceans, vulnerabilities to cyber-attacks, and greater expectations for environmental stewardship, worker safety, and industrial health appear to be accelerating. This, amidst uncertainty in economic alliances (ala Brexit, NAFTA) and defense alliances (NATO), and volatility in international relations and world trade markets. Some contend that this is a return to normal.  
 
This is the ecosystem we live in now. As Billy Joel sang, 'We Didn't Start the Fire" - but we will need to navigate intelligently through this period and through this ecosystem. What's ahead? A bumpy ride. How do I know? I don't, but I won't risk the future of our university expecting consecutive miracles to get us through these times. We will need to create our own destiny.
 
The ecosystem ahead has certain features worthy of our exploration and requiring our attention. This ecosystem is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. What does this mean?
 
Chart 1
 
This chart has two axes: the horizontal axis depicts "how much do we know about the situation?" The vertical axis portrays ‘how well can you predict the results of your actions?" As we encounter problems, opportunities, and challenges in the maritime profession and changes in society generally and in the broader American public specifically, we are going to need to understand where we stand vis-a-vis this rubric. Whether we decide to restructure, experiment, devote resources to preparedness or invest in collecting information will depend our profound understanding of what we know and what we don't know.
 
The nature of the challenge is akin to a Churchill quote: we face a puzzle inside a riddle wrapped in an enigma. We also face significant contradictions. 
 
For example:
 
Should we seek greater internationalization of our student body - it could bring us more revenue …. and create more dependence on this revenue stream.  As foreign universities expand and improve in quality, what risks are we assuming if we become more dependent on international students to fund our universities? What risks could emerge to our domestic maritime labor unions? What benefits might emerge for shoreside businesses and the overall profession? Could it improve our diversity? Could it bolster our Global Awareness mission?
 
How will we deal with Gen Z? Many students (and their families) see themselves as consumers and expect to be treated like one. If we do not respect their expectations, we may lose them to other universities that will treat them as a consumer. Yet if we do treat them as a consumer, we create an unhealthy tension in the institution with faculty, whose influence in the classroom may be diminished dramatically by this thinking.
 
Should we consider different tuition models? By major? By units? Time to completion continues to stretch out as students either cannot afford to complete their degree in the traditional 4 years or find the curriculum too demanding to do within 4 years. Moreover, culturally it has become acceptable - throughout the nation - to take 5-6 years to complete a 4-year degree. But governments do not want the added expense of supporting extended completion times; they are moving toward rewarding universities for on-time degree completion - or punishing those who don't or can't produce graduates in 4 years. 
 
What changes to the way we teach will improve learning, and perhaps reduce student costs? Students want to learn at their own pace and in their own place. Virtual learning is making that possible, yet many institutions insist on physical teaching techniques and environments that have not fundamentally changed since Aristotle. The hybrid model has been touted as an inevitability, and our stakeholders are demanding we create personalized virtual learning experiences much faster than universities have traditionally been able to pivot. However, it doesn't fit everywhere.
 
Finally, governments are demanding more control over universities. Increased compliance demands, salary freezes, and tuition caps are some of the tools they use. Yet at the same time, they are whittling away at our operating resources. They want more control and are not always willing to pay more for it.
 
These major shifts are filled with opposing and conflicting messages. None of these trends and directions have clear and obvious outcomes and conclusions. In an ecosystem like this, full of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity and now contradiction, navigating to our future requires an open mind, an agile culture, and a willingness to quickly adapt to new realities.
 
I would like to introduce two ideas on how we will not only navigate this ecosystem, but also thrive in it.
 
 Chart 2
 
The first is an idea from Kim Scott, a Bay area leadership coach. there are two axes here and they are simple: how much you care personally, and your willingness to challenge others' ideas directly. An interesting quad chart emerges. I won't spend a lot of time down here at the bottom, because I know that the grand majority of the people on our campus live up here. In fact, Kim Scott notes that most of the behavior she sees is not in either of the two bottom blocks, but in the upper left block. I believe that in order for Cal Maritime to succeed in the ecosystem confronting us, we will need to work together to get more people moving to the upper right block. Let me try.
 
Here's Some Radical Candor. I don't have all the answers - I get the answers from you. From boards, councils, committees and task forces composed of students, faculty and staff. From industry, the maritime profession, Washington DC, Sacramento, Long Beach, Vallejo, CFA, CSUEU, and ASCMA - to name a few.
 
Most of our campus colleagues were selected to your positions by your departments or divisions. Faculty select their own peers, staff are hired through peer review, managers are hired through nearly the same process, all of us were selected by a process that focuses on departmental or divisional consensus, except one: the president.
 
I dwell on this occasionally, to clarify my role as "one serving many" - from the breadth of stakeholders, to the wide range of issues, to the even wider temporal dimensions of stewardship of our campus. Here's some more radical candor: the president is the only employee on campus vetted by the entire campus and by the board of trustees. This brings special responsibility for the long-term, strategic health of the university. With attendant obligation to listen to many voices, with many ideas and answers, to consider everyone's strongly held views and highly rational answers that would benefit their department or constituency. And listen to the answers - to questions posed or issues debated - from a wide spectrum of interests. 
 
The president must sift out the important from the urgent, value the past, sustain the present, and protect the future - for everyone - not just for the faculty, or staff, or a particular department, or alumni, or parents, or campus neighbors - for everyone- including the future faculty, staff and students who aren't here yet.
 
This means not only weighing different solutions, but also disagreements. It may be a disagreement between two vice presidents, between faculty and the deans, between students and staff, between faculty and students.
 
So, let me stop here for a moment.  Disagreement is not bad, in fact disagreement is an essential part of the life of any vibrant university, including a maritime university. It is perhaps its fundamental essence, because argument, in its best and highest meaning, delivers better decisions and gets us closer to truth.
 
And as the expression goes "You can disagree without being disagreeable." More radical candor: We have some work to do here, accepting that disagreements are OK, and that we actually strengthen our campus community when we disagree with civility. Radical candor will be absolutely essential to finding the best answers in a challenging ecosystem, and I know we have the ability within this campus community to bring it forward in the best possible ways.
 
The second idea for navigating this challenging ecosystem is for us to learn, together, how to make brave, timely, high-quality decisions. Let's take those in reverse order. Let's look at high-quality decisions. What are the critical elements of a high-quality decision? Setting the right frame - understanding the decision environment. Considering alternatives - often best if they are dramatically different alternatives. Gathering meaningful data - this may be the linchpin - basing decisions on shared facts. Clarifying values and tradeoffs - understanding what you're trying to do and why. Using logical reasoning - which means our process is rational, criteria-focused, risk-assessed. Committing to action - which is often a blend of considered alternatives. For those of you who have used the 6-step planning model, it sounds and looks rather familiar. 
 
Notice anything missing? How about time. For some reason we have been led to a notion that time is among these elements, but it's not. More time to decide doesn't necessarily yield a higher-quality decision, but it does yield a longer path to implementation, which may mean we get where we're going too late. Not sure about that? How much time do you take to decide to change lanes driving in today? How long did you take to decide to say yes to your grad school admission? Any good reason? How much time did President Obama take to decide on implementing a myriad of emergency measures to address the financial meltdown of 2008? We may overestimate the need for time, when our real need is for meaningful data and time cannot substitute.
 
To paraphrase former Secretary of State, "The reason that we demand more time for making decisions is because the stakes are so small." Timely, i.e., faster decisions will be key to succeeding in the emerging, challenging ecosystem ahead. Want to read a case study? Try Amazon. Jeff Bezos built the company on 14 leadership principles. They are all important, yet one sticks out as particularly useful for us. Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit. Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly. I wonder if they met Kim Scott before they wrote this!
 
How might this look at Cal Maritime? Trusting our colleagues on campus, who represent us in various decision-making bodies. Giving them the benefit of the doubt as they deal with thorny issues. Respectfully challenging one another in the process of decisions. Committing to other people's ideas and decisions even when we personally disagree. These are the behaviors that will deliver the timely decisions necessary for survival and success in the new ecosystem
 
Finally, how do you make a brave decision? What is a brave decision? Here are a couple of examples. Did you know that Martin Luther King improvised his "I Have a Dream" speech? Originally, there wasn't meant to be any mention of dreaming. He had an entire speech written and prepared, but when Mahalia Jackson, a gospel singer in the audience, shouted "tell ‘em about the dream," he started to improvise. He began speaking from the heart, not his prepared notes, and the result was perhaps the greatest example of public speaking in American history. By the way, how long did he take to make that decision?
 
How about Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation? Gorbachev instituting Perestroika? When Johnson & Johnson learned that bottles of its Tylenol being sold in Chicago had been laced with cyanide and had left seven dead, CEO James Burke pulled off the shelves every bottle of the painkiller nationally and designed a tamper-proof bottle — all at a cost of $100 million. 
 
Those were brave decisions and though the impact of our decisions may not be felt as widely, we'll likely face a number of them in this ecosystem - and they will be felt acutely by our colleagues on campus, our students, their families, our alumni, neighbors and the maritime profession.
 
The key to brave, timely and high-quality decisions will be well-functioning bodies of shared governance. In the spirit of radical candor, let's work to ensure that shared governance on our campus enjoys a welcome revival. It will be an all-hands effort.
 
Before we take a short break, let me finish this portion of our morning with an observation. Like you, I've spent a lot of time thinking about the role of Cal Maritime, its history, its heritage, its promise and potential. I find this place, this academy, this nascent maritime university to be fascinating and remarkable. The level of effort - the care and ownership- which emanates from each person on our faculty and staff is remarkable. It is real, it is evident, and it is making a difference in ways likely unknown by those who are toiling away.
 
As I speak about Cal Maritime in any public forum, I can speak very confidently about what we do. I not only love the idea of this place and its people, I find that every week I learn more about it. Let's take the compass rose, our symbol that guides us in what we do. What do the 4 points on that compass rose mean? 
 
Academic Excellence: This is our bread and butter. Attracting, hiring, retaining and developing the best qualified faculty brings greatness to our campus, in the form of a great and unique education for our students.
 
Applied Technology: Hands-on application of classroom concepts and theories is a proven method for learning. It is also one of our more differentiating features as an institution. New curriculum developed for the coming ecosystem will need to ensure that this remains an enduring part of the Cal Maritime experience.
 
Leadership Development: Our current program, the Edwards Leadership Development Program, recently graduated its first cohort of 4-year participants. It is undergoing a 3rd-party assessment later this month for the simple reason that we want it to be better. It will not deliver its fullest impact until we have woven it into classroom activity. I see this akin to a DNA strand. From a distance you only see one body, and as you get closer you begin to see the distinct elements of the strand. In this case, ELDP is but one element of a broader academy purpose in developing the whole person - intellectually, spiritually, physically, socially, and morally.
 
Global Awareness: Every graduate from our academy must be prepared for global citizenship. It is not easy. Campus groups like the Unity Council, along with cadet clubs like the Asian Pacific Islanders provide programming to expand one's worldview and prepare the community within our campus for a satisfying professional life across the globe. We may want to think about Global Preparedness, not just Awareness.
 
As I have reflected on the Compass Rose and the four points of our mission focus, I have often asked myself a question: Is this construct of the four points of the Compass Rose enough to explain who we are? Is this enough to highlight our impact? I'll answer those questions after our healthy intermission.
 
Well, the question I posed to you before our break was: Is this construct of the four points of the Compass Rose enough to explain who we are? Is this enough to highlight our impact? As it turns out, and a number of you pointed it out, our compass rose actually has 8 points. The 4 points which are most prominent represent our areas of focus: Academic Excellence, Applied Technology, Leadership Development and Global Awareness. I must confess that I have forgotten those other 4 points, which are not as prominent but do stand closer to the heart of the compass rose.
 
 Iceberg
 
This oversight on my part, led me to wonder if there was a way to understand those points as representing less obvious qualities or perhaps even under-appreciated facets of our campus culture. After all, they lie closer to the center of this representation of us. Cultural investigators refer to diagrams like the one above to explain how organizations establish identity: what we see is success, we often don't see what creates it. In a similar way, we can use our Compass Rose to understand the nature of who we are - and who we will be - as well as the impacts of our work together. Let me suggest a different way of looking at ourselves, a way that helps us to see the nature of the place we call Cal Maritime. We'll do this through the lens of impact - our impact as agents of progress - for the public we serve.
 
The first is to see ourselves as a problem-solving university. We solve problems for our community, we solve problems for the maritime profession, we solve problems for our nation, for our society. We know that solving problems requires invoking positive change, it requires cross-disciplinary teamwork, it requires steady leadership and, in the end, it requires action. Here's a model we'd like you to consider using as you embark on managing change: whether on campus or off. It's included on the small cards we've distributed in the Lobby during the break. Now, let's take a look at a piece by Len Schlesinger, former President at Babson College on problem-solving. WATCH VIDEO: Len Schlesinger, Action Trumps Everything, Relevant Time 21:17-27:50
 
The power of action in problem-solving is enormous. As Len says, you can't think your way into a new way of acting; you need to act your way into a new way of thinking. This entrepreneurial spirit is key to our future and it has been key to a many campus victories over the last year. These victories are the direct result of our Cal Maritime colleagues' tremendous efforts. Let's take a moment to recognize some of them for their great work. 
 
Another way to see ourselves differently is through the lens of the maritime profession. As keepers of the flame for this profession, the nature of our university is one of profession-sustaining. Very few universities have the responsibility and privilege to set the trajectory for future leadership of a nationally-critical profession. We educate, train and develop maritime professionals at our academy. Our faculty and staff serve as subject matter experts for the broader maritime industries. We have both obligation and opportunity to shape the future of the maritime profession - one that will undergo disruptive change in the next several decades. Now, let's take a look at remarks by KD Adamson, a futurist who describes the challenges we face - and acknowledges the need for action now to sustain the profession into the mid-century. WATCH VIDEO: An Interview with KD Adamson >> 
 
Profession-sustaining requires taking advantage of technological changes, exhibiting and teaching the correct mindset for success, listening to a wide range of stakeholders, and integrating data into business models and even training delivery. Whether it is our campus expertise clarifying the mission and purpose of shipping and the maritime industry, innovating within the system of systems that make up our profession, or developing evidence-based decision-making models for the future, this campus must lead the way. In fact, many of you are already leading the way in profession-sustainment, and we'd like to highlight some of your campus victories in this realm over the last year. These victories don't just happen. They occur because our colleagues direct their talent and energy to making them happen, and our maritime profession has benefitted immensely as a result. We'll now recognize some of them for their great work:
 
The next way to see ourselves is something we may truly take for granted - our public good-providing nature. This part of our DNA is perhaps so obvious that we miss it, because it comes to us so naturally. As a university, we provide an incredibly important public good. We lift others through an educational experience focused on the whole person, we develop broad-minded, culturally aware leaders through deliberate programming, and we intently focus on building societal leaders. The build leaders with emphasis persistence, resilience and personal growth. We employ this model within the Edwards Leadership Development Program for our cadets. These are timeless principles that apply to practically everyone, so we will utilize this same model to develop campus leaders within our faculty and staff. Providing the public good of a college education requires understanding the necessary mindset for developing our future graduates. Let's look at a brief TED talk by Angela Duckworth on her experience. WATCH VIDEO: Grit - The Power of Passion and Perseverence >>
 
To deliver the public good, we need to evoke passion and perseverance for long-term goals, demonstrate and build stamina for the long-haul, work really hard to reach lifetime goals, and be able to sprint in the middle of the marathon. You are doing that right now. It is clear from repeated campus victories that we know how to do this, and we have the challenge coming to do it at scale. Victories in public-good providing institutions can be hidden from the very people who make them happen. I hope you've found some inspiration in this quick look at the extent of commitment and passion for delivering our public good. Now let's recognize our colleagues who have been especially successful in delivering Cal Maritime's public good.
 
We'd like to make special mention of two colleagues who truly went above and beyond in their work with the Unity Council. Sharon Culpepper and Tyrone Wise managed one of our most successful Black History Month celebrations ever this year and we have a small memento of appreciation. Thank you also to Demetra Miller, who was recognized earlier this year. Congratulations to all of our colleagues serving as public-good providing heroes.
 
To complete this idea of seeing ourselves in a different way, according to our institutional impacts, we now add another dimension to our compass rose: opportunity-creating. To meet this weighty challenge in the new ecosystem, we'll need to foster innovation on our campus at an intensity we've never experienced. The challenge is simply that strong. Here's a model of innovation that we'd like to use as well. It's also on the card we've distributed. Exploring, finding or creating opportunity is part and parcel of the American experience. Innovation works hand-in glove with opportunity-seeking and creating. It does not require technology - a generation of immigrants created opportunity in the 17th century, navigating across the Atlantic to the New World. They did not have GPS, satellite phones, Wi-Fi or Google search. They improvised with what they had. Another generation of immigrants arrived in California in the 19th century. They did not have Snapchat, Rosetta Stone, email or Twitter. Many did not speak English, and they often scraped their way to a better life - with what they had. At the same time, Americans on the East Coast began moving across the plains of the Midwest - in what were affectionately, and interestingly from a maritime perspective, called "Prairie Schooners" - the Conestoga wagon. Same story. A hundred years later- only 100 years later - two American astronauts landed on the moon, using a computer that had 1300 times less computing power than an iPhone 5. 
 
You don't need a lot to innovate. You do need tenacity, purpose, and an idea. Entrepreneurship in the university has the potential for creating opportunity in practically every sector of societal life, with special opportunities in the social space. Let's listen to President Michael Crow of Arizona State. WATCH VIDEO: The New U: New Solutions, New Futures >> If we are to meet the promise of our potential, to achieve the aspirations we mutually share, to deliver the impacts that our community, state, nation and world need, our path to success is one of continuous innovation - with purpose. It is just such purpose that has been driving our colleagues toward excellence in opportunity-creation. 
 
At this time, our Vice Presidents and Captain Bolton will introduce our team mates who have joined Cal Maritime since our last convocation and those who have assumed new roles. Please stand when your name is called. To our new colleagues and team mates: welcome! You have joined an amazing group of dedicated people. We are excited for you, and we commit to helping you succeed. 
 
For colleagues new and old, I bring great news. On July 24th, the California State University Board of Trustees approved the campus physical master plan, a plan that renovates and rejuvenates our campus infrastructure from now until 2032. This ambitious and visionary plan - which you created - was approved unanimously by the board. In addition, our campus enrollment cap was adjusted, allowing us to continue responsible enrollment growth to 2200 FTE cadets. 
 
The significance of this vote, and its impact on us, is remarkable. This vote is an expression of confidence in this campus community and an acknowledgement of your ability as educators to excel. Through this vote, the board has committed to resources for more faculty, more staff, better infrastructure and improved programming for a greater number of eager cadets. Congratulations and enjoy this quick video of your future campus. WATCH VIDEO: Cal Maritime - The Maritime University of the Future >> 
 
Thank you and welcome to a great new year at Cal Maritime!
 

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Videos



Commencement 2017 Speaker, Dr. Rick Rigsby

Choose Vallejo - Economic Development

Len Schlesinger, Action Trumps Everything

An Interview with K D Adamson

Grit: The power of passion and perseverance

The New U: New Solutions, New Futures

Cal Maritime Physical Master Plan

Convocation Video 2018


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