State of the university address highlights diversity, new programs

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The Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce and California Lutheran University President Chris Kimball hosted the third consecutive State of the University Address in the Lundring Events Center Feb. 1. As Kimball took his place behind the podium, he took the time to reflect and pay respects to the victims of the Nov. 7 Borderline Bar and Grill mass shooting and the Hill and Woolsey fires that engulfed Ventura County.

Kimball summarized the “shocking strength” he witnessed from the Cal Lutheran and Thousand Oaks community coming together to have an even greater impact in helping one another.

“In good times and bad times, we stand Cal Lutheran strong, T.O. strong,” Kimball said.

He said his collaboration with the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce was an opportunity to detail how Cal Lutheran could further help the community and future leaders as well as business owners.

“If we have programs that help teachers, help psychologists, or help businesses we’d want to be able to do just that,” Kimball said. “It is always good to get people from the business community and education community and so forth to come and see if there is an opportunity to be a partner.”

In the last two addresses, Kimball has addressed the public with a strategic five-year plan for future improvements of the campus and the community. The five-year plan has influence on many of the new improvements seen among the various departments and offices on campus.

Kimball took a different approach this, allowing the members of the Dean’s Council to present their own departments and highlight what the future will bring for each of their programs.

The Dean’s Council include School of Management Dean Gerhard Apfelthaler, Bachelor’s Degree for Professionals Program Dean Lisa Buono, Graduate School of Education Dean Mike Hillis, Graduate School of Psychology Dean Richard Holigrocki and College of Arts & Sciences Dean Jessica Lavariega-Monforti.

Most of the presentations were based on the three I’s mentioned in Kimball’s 2018 Address: inclusion, innovation and investment. Then each dean broke down the history of the programs, benefits, partnership, improvements, class sizes, triumphs and ethics.

Some of the new improvements include the first ever mariachi ensemble, Lavariega-Monforti said.

Other highlights include a new sports communication course added last spring, a new Department of Earth and Environmental Science and the opportunity for physics majors to spend three weeks at one of the world’s largest scientific research center, CERN, in Geneva, Switzerland.

New initiatives include the Swenson Science Center that is currently under construction, a new world class music studio that is expected to open in spring of 2020 and a new Music Production and Engineering program.

“Cal Lutheran is a place where things are moving and shaking and we are trying to be innovative,” Lavariega-Monforti said.

Hillis spoke about many new improvements within the Graduate School of Education (GSOE) that are being implemented to accommodate the new increasing rate of diversity in student population.

“As our student population changes, and now we are a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), how do we actually become a graduate school and prepare them to go out to the workforce where they are more demographically diverse?” Hillis said.

Hillis said the GSE aims to become more culturally diverse by working alongside a facilitatory provided to all of the faculty, staff and graduate school attendees in order to comprehend “what it means to be more culturally proficient.”

As for the Graduate School of Psychology, new programs will rise in order to “articulate academic offering,” Holigrocki said.

The Bachelor’s Degree for Professionals program will continue to work on developing different activities in order to engage students and their families, Buono said.

Finally, the School of Management is gearing up for the start of a new sports management program and a new MBA program that will help broaden the student’s choices within that department, Apfelthaler said.

Maria Barragan
Reporter