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President Junn talks strategy, graduation rates at spring address
president junn pic
President Ellen Junn talks about the future of Stanislaus State to faculty, students and staff gathered at the Snider Music Recital Hall for her spring address on Tuesday. - photo by ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal

When Ellen Junn was officially inaugurated as the 11th president of Stanislaus State last March, she asked the university community to imagine with her the future of the school. That future is well on its way to being realized, as made evident by the president’s annual spring address delivered to a crowd of over 200 on Tuesday morning.

Since taking the helm of Stanislaus State during the summer of 2016, Junn has participated in a “whirlwind of activities,” she told the faculty, students and staff gathered at the Snider Music Recital Hall, building working relationships with those working around her, discovering what is important to university students, meeting and developing strong relationships with alumni and, most importantly, preparing a foundation for the future of the school.

“Let’s consider those months as the prologue,” said Junn. “Think of it as a book that all of us are writing together about the bright future of our university.”

Now that the prologue is complete, it’s time for Stanislaus State to begin writing the chapters of its book. The content that will fill those pages?

“The Strategic Plan is in place, and now we can start writing new chapters,” said Junn.

The university’s Strategic Plan is a roadmap for the vision that Stanislaus State hopes to reach by 2025, and was released in late November. It’s designed as a “living document,” which means that the strategies can be adapted and adjusted, and key themes overarching the plan involve being a student-ready university, facilitating transformational learning experiences, pursuing innovation and creativity, honing administrative efficacy through stewardship of resources and strengthening bonds within the community.

Implementation of the school’s Strategic Plan is already well underway, Junn pointed out. The university’s student to teacher ratio of 22:1 is one of the best in the CSU system, she said, giving teachers the chance to interact directly with each student on a day-to-day basis and bettering student engagement throughout the campus.

“I consistently hear from our alumni that what had made the biggest difference in their education at Stan State was the way that our faculty and staff are willing to develop mentoring relationships with our students, guiding, motivating, encouraging our students in their studies and also well beyond their graduation day,” said Junn. “As a campus, we’ve redoubled our efforts to make students feel welcome at Stan State from the moment they step foot on our campus.”

Junn has established new events and designated spots on campus to help students feel as if they belong at Stanislaus State, like Freshman Convocation, which helps welcome freshmen onto campus, and its new Diversity Center, which is a space dedicated to unity, diversity, peace, multiculturalism and inclusion.

The university has also reached many milestones since Junn became president, she shared. The most students in Stanislaus State’s history – all 3,022 of them –  graduated last year, and the Fall 2017 semester admitted the largest class ever recorded at Stanislaus State at 1,438. And, for the first time ever, over 10,000 students enrolled at the university last year.

The recent launch of My Academic Pathway, which helps students pick the classes they need to graduate and guide them through that process, is also helping the university make strides toward its Graduation Initiative 2025. The On-the-Cusp program also helped 161 students who only needed one or two more classes to graduate do so, increasing the graduation rate by 4.3 percent.

While graduation is important, the university has also focused on providing students with support for their future jobs and careers through the relaunch of the Career and Professional Development Center, and the creation of a new division on campus, the Strategic Planning Enrollment Management and Innovation, or SPEMI.

“In today’s fast-paced world, SPEMI on our campus is positively impacting how we are using data to inform our enrollment projections, student success predictive modeling, as well as budgeting tools,” said Junn.

Preparing students for their future careers also involves fostering a relationship with employers in the area, Junn added, like the local schools, who employ many graduates of the university’s credential program.

“You would be hard pressed to go to any school within 50 miles of our campus and not discover that more teachers at that school attended Stan State than any other university,” said Junn.   

The same goes for many other employers in the area, too, she said, with Stanislaus State graduates holding positions in higher management levels at corporations like Foster Farms, E & J Gallo, Hilmar Cheese and numerous regional medical centers.

That special connection that Stanislaus State has with local employers and the surrounding community is what sets the university apart, and that bond has been expressed in both the past and the present with gifts, like the recent donation of $2.37 million left to the school by the estate of Helen and Lou Yecny of Hilmar.

Seventy-four percent of students at Stanislaus State are first generation. The future of the university is bright, said Junn, with a majority of students identifying as “First in college, next to lead.”

At the end of her address, Junn posed a question to the audience.

“What will you contribute to our Stan State story?”