Convocation Address

President Ronald M. Berkman
January 21, 2010



Watch video of the ceremony.

University Highlights

University Highlights is a representation of selected University achievements as submitted by academic units on or before January 18, 2010.

University Honors and Awards

Distinguished Faculty Award for Service
Barbara K. Modney ~ College of Science
William M. Bowen ~ Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs

Distinguished Faculty Award for Teaching
Murali D. Nair ~ College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences
Jearl D. Walker ~ College of Science

Distinguished Faculty Award for Research
Dena S. Davis ~ Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
Crystal M. Weyman ~ College of Science

Distinguished Staff Award for Service
Marjorie Placek ~ College of Education and Human Services
Kim Hurn ~ College of Education and Human Services

Distinguished Academic Advisor Award
Michelle D. Chinoda ~ College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences

Welcome Trustees Stephanie McHenry and Sally Florkiewicz, faculty, staff, students, honored guests and friends. I also want to thank my wife Patsy Bilbao Berkman for attending today’s convocation.

I would like to begin by offering congratulations to William M. Bowen, Michelle D. Chinoda, Dena S. Davis, Kim Hurn, Barbara K. Modney, Murali D. Nair, Marjorie Pacek, Jearl D. Walker, and Chrystal M.Weyman for the awards they are receiving for their work in teaching, research and service.

This year is a year of “firsts” for me, and today is another – delivering my first Convocation Address, or as it is also called, the “State of the University.”

I have received a warm and welcoming reception from students and faculty, as well as from the community leaders, including Mayor Frank Jackson, and Cleveland City Council, and state leaders including Governor Ted Strickland, President of the Ohio Senate Bill Harris, Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives Armond Budish and Chancellor Eric Fingerhut.

We are fortunate to have state leadership that is committed to education and higher education, recognizing that the transformation of the region depends upon dramatically increasing the baccalaureate attainment rate.

There is good news in this regard. In 1980, this region lagged behind the rest of the country in the pace of the economic recovery. Then, less than 15 % of the regional workforce held a baccalaureate degree. In 2008, the census estimated that 23% of the region’s workforce held a baccalaureate, placing Ohio much closer to the national census data average of 27%.

Locally, progress in baccalaureate educational attainment by the workforce is making a noticeable impact in our economy. A recent report by TEAM NEO – one of our regional economic development organizations – cited the increasingly educated workforce of the region as a key factor in stimulating a stronger recessionary recovery that is currently underway.

Aligning outcomes in regional economic performance with our work to increase the educational and employment attainment of our students and graduates, offer an important indicator of progress and connection for this University. As an urban university tied to our urban environment, our research and pedagogy should reflect who we are and what we are: Engaged learning; a research agenda in urban sustainability and urban health; research partners such as NASA, the Cleveland Clinic the city of Cleveland and the state of Ohio.

There have been many note-able achievements by the faculty, students and staff of this University. Rather than a recitation of these achievements, we have produced a review of our collective work. A highlights booklet will be distributed to you as you depart the auditorium today and e-copy is available through the University web page. At this time, I will briefly mention a few special achievements.

  • Our Confucius Institute, an Institute based on expanding Chinese language and instruction has received final approval from the Chinese Ministry of Education. This was celebrated by a visit from the President of Capital University in Beijing, our partner University.
  • On January 6, President Obama held a program at the White House to spotlight the work of the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) and its UTeach program in preparing a new generation of highly qualified math and science teachers. The President announced the expansion of the highly successful UTeach teacher training program from 14 to 20 universities nationally with Cleveland State as one of the new sites.
  • Cleveland State is a finalist for the Ohio Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship program. Virtually all Ohio public universities applied and only four will be selected. The extremely positive site visit to our campus took place January 11 by a team from the program which included Woodrow Wilson President Arthur Levine.
  • CSU has been honored to receive the only Title 3 cooperative grant awarded by the Department of Education in 2009. We take this as recognition of the successes of CSU Learning Communities, created by an earlier Title 3 award in 2006, that allowed us to develop smaller classes, inter-disciplinary collaborations across colleges and faculty and a variety of co-curricular activities. More than 500 students have benefited from a “Learning Communities” experience
  • In continuing our University’s tradition of receiving Fulbright Scholarship awards, Dr. Regennia Williams, Department of History will be teaching in Nigeria this spring semester as our 2010 Fulbright Scholar.
  • In terms of our immediate surroundings, Cleveland State is a neighborhood in an urban core. As a partner with other institutions to advance neighborhood, we are now called the “Campus District” as opposed to the Quadrangle, since most people would rather be on a campus than on a piece of geometry.

    Through the campus district organization, the University will be a central player in the continued revitalization of our neighborhood and community. Next steps in the development of the district in collaboration with our institutional partners include the hiring of an executive director and the advancement of the district plan presented at the December 2009 annual meeting of the newly named organization.
  • In terms of our campus plan, we are taking an incremental approach to the development for the North Campus, as reflected in a new RFP for the 20 acres of project area.
  • We have been in discussions with Cleveland schools CEO Dr. Eugene Sanders, and have formed a task force and a design team for a K-12 school. A report and recommendation from that Task Force is due at the beginning of February. In that regard, if you read the Plain Dealer two weekends ago, you might have noticed the strong statements of support by the Editors in their piece entitled, “CSU’s smart school plan” where they wrote, “..If Cleveland hopes to hold on to young downtown residents as they become parents, it needs a blockbuster local school to seal the deal…Luckily that is what Cleveland State University…and Cleveland public school officials seem to have in mind.”
  • As you may also have read in the newspaper, we are in the exploration stages of examining the feasibility of an arts district at Playhouse Square. The plan provides for a move of the Art Department and the classroom and rehearsal spaces for the Theater Department from their present buildings off Chester Avenue at E. 23rd Street into the Middough building, located in the heart of the city's theater district.

    However, the vision is much grander. There is the potential to create an “arts campus” in Playhouse Square by concentrating arts, theater, dance, TV, radio, film and digital media, forming a vibrant arts community proximate to our campus. The arts campus will be embedded in Cleveland State and joined with the second largest theater district in the United States.
  • We are actively working to develop a collaboration agreement between Cleveland State and Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine and Pharmacy (NEOUCOM). This collaborative effort is in response to the Strategic Plan announced by Chancellor Eric Fingerhut.

We envision a medical education program leading to an M.D. degree given collaboratively with NEOUCOM that seeks to train students interested in primary care with a focus on urban health issues.

As we work together to achieve these great advances for our institution, our state our region and beyond, we can embrace our character as a young institution that has considerable identity on the landscape of American higher education.

For example, the great arbiter of public perception of higher education is the yearly rankings of the U.S. News and World Report. There are approximately 3,000 accredited institutions of higher education. To determine rankings, U.S. News surveys administrators at peer institutions and also considers up to 15 other academic indicators including graduation rates, student retention, standing of the student body and faculty resources. I am proud that Cleveland State University is recognized by U.S. News in the national university category.

In other ratings nationally, Cleveland State ranked 10th among the nation’s top 20 Specialized Research Universities – Business, Education, and Social Sciences in the third annual Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index (FSP) compiled by Academic Analytics and reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

In terms of our growth as an institution of choice for students, enrollment is at a fifteen year high (undergrad, grad and law). There are 16,542 students at last count. Approximately 6,000 are graduate students. Given that we have the largest percentage of graduate students in the state, it is particularly important that we become innovative in this domain. The recent appointment of Dr. George Walker, a national leader in research and graduate education, as Vice President of Research and Graduate Studies, will offer the leadership we need to realize our goal of developing nationally innovative graduate education and growing an urban research university.

In summary:

We are in an exciting period, an upswing, as we bring more students to live on campus, build our neighborhood, and form vital partnerships with the Cleveland schools, Tri-C, medical institutions, Playhouse Square, the city of Cleveland and the state of Ohio.

We look forward the openings of the:

  • College of Education and Human Services Building in March 2010
  • Student Center Building in June 2010
  • Dormitories at Euclid Commons in August 2010
  • And the Prospect Avenue parking garage in August 2010

Much good work has been done and there is much still, to do. Let me briefly define some key challenges. I emphasize that these challenges cannot be met without the energy, creativity and commitment of the faculty.

  • Together, we can continue to recruit quality faculty such as the 23 individuals who began their tenure or tenure track appointments this past fall.
  • Together, we need to be more active and visible in the national higher education associations such as USU, ASCU and APLU; as faculty presenting research papers at national conferences and in the publication of sponsored research.
  • Together, we need to increase non-state support through grants, sponsored research and philanthropy – donors, alumni, corporate giving, partnerships, foundations and state and federal sources.
  • Together, we need to improve retention and graduation rates without sacrificing standards. This will require re-examination of undergraduate education.
  • And, together, we need to seek new international opportunities

I am committed to working to realize the goal of making Cleveland State University a unique regional asset and a premier urban research university.