Commencement celebration studded with star guests
George Takei, three prestigious alumni bestowed honorary doctorates.
George Takei, a noted actor and tireless advocate for community engagement and social justice, encouraged the graduates of the Class of 2016 to continue pushing boundaries in his keynote speech at the 69th Commencement ceremonies in June.
“Let us learn from the lessons of history and, as our founding fathers did, shape a new nation to fit the ever-advancing, constantly innovating, dynamic challenges of the 21st century,” Takei told the audience. “Let us boldly go where we have never gone before and may the Class of 2016 live long and prosper.”
Takei grew up near Cal State LA in Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights neighborhood and is best known for playing Sulu in the original, award-winning television series Star Trek. He received an honorary doctorate during the Commencement ceremony.
A record number of Cal State LA students—nearly 8,000—received diplomas during the three days of celebration. As he has in previous years, President William A. Covino shook the hand of each graduate who marched across the stage.
“Your success reminds us what matters most: students come first. Your future is at the heart of our initiatives, plans and projects,” Covino told the graduates. “Your success is our success.”
“Let us boldly go where we have never gone before and may the Class of 2016 live long and prosper.”
Three Cal State LA alumni were also honored and gave keynote addresses:
Maria Contreras-Sweet, an accomplished entrepreneur who served on President Barack Obama’s Cabinet as the administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, received an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters during the College of Business and Economics ceremony.
Ofelia Esparza, an esteemed artist and educator who has been widely recognized for her contributions to the arts, education, community and cultural pride, received an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters during the Charter College of Education ceremony.
Kent Twitchell, an extraordinary artist whose murals have beautified Los Angeles and cities across the nation, received an honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts during the College of Arts and Letters ceremony.
Former judge Michael Nash, director of the Los Angeles County Office of Child Protection, gave the address for the undergraduate ceremony of the Rongxiang Xu College of Health and Human Services. Alumnus and longtime Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich gave the keynote address at the ceremony for the college’s graduate students, as well as graduate students from the College of Natural and Social Sciences.
U.S. Senate candidates face off in nationally televised debate at Cal State LA
The two candidates squared off for 60 minutes inside the packed University-Student Union Theatre. Harris ultimately won the election to fill the seat that had been held by Sen. Barbara Boxer since 1992.
The Oct. 5 debate was sponsored by the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State LA, KABC-7 TV and the League of Women Voters California Education Fund. The candidates fielded questions from ABC Eyewitness News anchor Marc Brown and a three-person panel representing the sponsoring organizations.
Associated Students, Inc. President Kayla Stamps asked Sanchez and Harris what each could do to encourage college students to vote and use their political power.
The debate was aired live by KABC and streamed on the Cal State LA YouTube page. C-SPAN broadcasted the event to a national audience. The audience included reporters from news organizations across California, including the Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, KQED Public Media, and KPCC Southern California Public Radio.
State Assembly Speaker kicks off lecture series at University’s Theatre
Rendon took part in a discussion on “California Leading the Way,” with Raphael J. Sonenshein, executive director for the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State LA, in front of a standing-room-only crowd in the University-Student Union Theatre on Sept. 8. Rendon spoke about the importance of civic engagement, gave an update on state legislation, and took questions from the audience.
The event was organized by PBI and the Center for California Studies at Sacramento State University.
Covinos start Mind Matters initiative to support student well-being, health
The Mind Matters initiative comes at a time when college students nationwide are experiencing high levels of stress, including problems caused by sleep deprivation and anxiety about adjusting to university life. The President and First Lady realize that without mental and physical well-being, there is no academic success.
To help ensure student success, additional counselors were hired for the Student Health Center and the center was renovated to accommodate the additional counseling.
The University hosts numerous events, workshops and activities throughout the year to promote well-being. Students have had visits from therapy dogs during final exams, attended guest lectures, were led through guided meditation in the Reflection Room, received health screening at an event with the Clinton Foundation and the Women’s Heart Alliance, and even participated in the Pokémon GO Health Walk, which incorporates key locations on campus from the popular gaming app.
Mind Matters also produces videos that include information on managing time and stress, and a podcast series on elevating mood and memory. The videos and links to the podcasts can be found on the University’s Mind Matters web page.
The initiative has also increased the number of peer health educators on the Student Health Advisory Committee (SHAC). These volunteers help educate students about health and wellness issues.
University works with Clinton Foundation to fight heart disease
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy participated in a heart disease awareness and health screening event at the University in October 2015, which included a forum with Cal State LA President William A. Covino, National Council of La Raza President Janet Murguia and Rita Redberg, professor of medicine and director of Women’s Cardiovascular Services at UC San Francisco.
“The key to preventing disease is a healthy lifestyle,” Murthy said at the forum. “There are everyday steps you can take to lower your chance of developing heart disease by eating a healthy diet; being active and exercising regularly; and staying tobacco free.”
The event launching the #GetHeartChecked campaign was sponsored by the Women’s Heart Alliance, Clinton Foundation and Cal State LA, which was the first university selected to participate in the initiative. Another screening is scheduled for April.
Cal State LA looks toward future success with new Strategic Plan
“Our new Strategic Plan is a road map for Cal State LA, created by Cal State LA,” Covino said in his Fall Convocation speech in August.
The Strategic Plan is a guiding document used to set short- and long-term priorities for the University to focus energy and resources and ensure all stakeholders are working toward common goals.
The Strategic Plan creation was spearheaded by Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Lynn Mahoney and a Strategic Planning Coordinating Committee comprised of students, faculty members, administrators and staff.
The University gathered input from more than 2,500 stakeholders through planning workshops, surveys and town hall meetings. After gathering feedback and analyzing the data, the committee refined the University’s mission, vision and value statements. Committee members also identified key strategic priorities and established outcomes that can be measured and tied to action plans.
During his address, Covino explained the new Strategic Plan’s mission, vision and values, as well as four strategic priority areas: Engagement, Service, and the Public Good; Welcoming and Inclusive Campus; Student Success; and Academic Distinction.
SCAQMD hails Cal State LA as a national leader in sustainability
Agency board member Michael Cacciotti said the University is one of the first in the nation to rely on battery-operated electrical landscaping equipment. The weed-eaters, lawn mowers and chainsaws are used daily by Facilities Services personnel across the 176-acre campus.
The University’s use of the equipment was made possible by a grant from the SCAQMD, and plays a key role in the agency’s efforts to improve air quality across the region, Cacciotti said at an August news conference.
The lawn equipment is just one of several initiatives that Cal State LA has launched to contribute to a healthy and sustainable planet, according to Cal State LA President William A. Covino. The University’s award-winning and cutting-edge Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility has been a leader in California’s efforts to promote the use of zero-emission vehicles. Cal State LA reduced its water consumption by 31 percent. Covino also joined more than 200 other college and university presidents in signing the White House American Campus Act on Climate Pledge.
“As a public university, Cal State LA must be a leader in this effort,” Covino said. “The issue of sustainability affects us all—where we live, work and play.”