CSU Carves a New Path

citizen | 5/10/2011, 6:45 a.m.
Chicago State Universitys story is a tale of more and better: Were enrolling more students,...
CSU President Dr. Wayne Watson discusses several initiatives that encourage the University's students to complete college.

Chicago State Universitys story is a tale of more and better: Were enrolling more students, retaining more students, graduating more students and changing the way we do business to do it the right way.

Along with our focus on academic quality and support for our students, CSUs mandate is to be more accountable to stakeholders, including you, the taxpayer. Weve undertaken major reforms during our short tenure that began October 2009. Were serious about the manner in which we educate students, which is why reaffirming our schools accreditation in the spring of 2010 was a priority. Protecting our students access to federal funding and maintaining the integrity of transfer credits was crucial to maintaining the viability of an institution which, more often than not, serves both the least -- and the best -- of us: lower-income students and those who are the first in their families to attend college.

So as a change agent, a phrase that sounds more appealing than the reality of being one, I and my team have made great strides to increase enrollment and retention, put strategies in place to improve graduation rates, raise academic standards, enhance our professionalism and change our work culture. The truth is the university was operating in less-than-optimal conditions; youve seen the headlines for the past four years. Yet, another truth is Chicago State has excellent programs, including STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), pharmacology, social work, education and many others.

Its not where weve been, its where were going.

Specifically, since joining CSU in October 2009, CSU has:

1. Increased enrollment

2. Improved student retention

3. Put strategies and support in place to raise graduation rates

4. Reaffirmed the universitys accreditation

5. Implemented new and better financial and administrative controls

6. Improved faculty, student and staff morale

7. Enhanced the work culture

8. Taken over management of the Jones Convocation Center

CSU is a story of continued improvement, and as stated above, were getting better: If youve read about us lately, you might think this progress isnt real. The truth is our most recent state financial audit, which began before our current administration arrived, revealed many disturbing facts about historic and current practices. CSUs management team has addressed all 41 findings of its 2009-10 audit, which underscores the mandate my administration faces in implementing positive change, efficient and effective processes, and ensuring CSU has in place appropriate financial and compliance controls. CSU has activated corrective action plans for each finding, including hiring additional personnel, and implementing process and policy changes. Constant improvement is the mantra of our management team.

Lets not forget why were doing this: Our students tend to be older. They work. Many have families of their own. We are an institution that embraces the socioeconomic and environmental realities of our students, and we endeavor to provide the support necessary to surmount these challenges. In the past, our first-time, full-time freshman graduation rate for six years has been 14 percent; were on track for an increase to 20 percent in May. Moreover, our graduation rate for transfer students the population we mainly serve is 45 percent.

The takeaway is this: In the past 10 years, CSU has graduated nearly 10,000 students about 20 percent of black students graduating from a public university in Illinois. Today, our ethnically diverse array of graduates includes physicians, nurses, educators, lawyers, business professionals and much more.

Thats the true and amazing story of CSU.

Wayne D. Watson, Ph.D.


Chicago State University

You may read audit reports for every state university, including CSU, at the following link: http://www.auditor.illinois.gov/Audit-Reports/.