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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

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SDSU's commencement ceremony returned to Viejas Arena for the first time since 2019. SDSU's commencement ceremony returned to Viejas Arena for the first time since 2019.

SDSU Year In Review 2022

This year, SDSU reflected on its legacy, celebrated its present, and asserted its commitment to a better future.
By SDSU News Team

For San Diego State University, 2022 was a year for reflection on a legacy, record-breaking achievements of the present, and commitments to a future with an increasingly worldwide impact.


From groundbreaking research in campus labs to transformations underway in Mission Valley and Imperial County, it was a year of progress and building upon success for San Diego’s oldest institution of higher education. Commencement ceremonies returned to Viejas Arena for the first time since 2019, and the university unveiled a new look for its primary logo along with a bold new theme: Transform Your Tomorrow.


Here, the SDSU News Team looks back at some of the highlights of 2022:


125th Anniversary Celebration Begins


SDSU launched a 20-month celebration of its 125th anniversary with visitors attending a community open house and birthday party at Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union. Artifacts and exhibits filled Montezuma Hall to tell the story of the university’s rich history and traditions, which began as the San Diego Normal School for aspiring teachers on March 13, 1897.


Vignettes of key figures were represented by student actors, and hundreds of visitors at the party sang “Happy Birthday” to SDSU as the Marching Aztecs played.


The event also marked the kickoff to an updated and cohesive brand identity for SDSU, with a new tagline: Transform Your Tomorrow.


“With a contemporary brand and strategy that considers the unique experiences and contributions of our students, faculty and staff and all of our campus locations, we are better positioned as a transborder academic and research powerhouse driven to transform the communities we serve and the industries we impact,” said SDSU President Adela de la Torre


State Senator Toni Atkins sponsored a resolution honoring the anniversary and SDSU’s continued commitment to students, faculty, staff and the greater San Diego region.




SDSU Imperial Valley Poised for Major STEM Expansion


San Diego State University Imperial Valley will receive $80 million in state funding for a facility at its Brawley campus devoted to STEM research and education.


Part of the 2022-23 state budget, the funding supports a center of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and chemistry programming, envisioned to contribute to regional plans for economic development as California’s Lithium Valley. Plans call for 25,000 square feet for labs and core facilities with major instruments, to include space to collaborate with both public and private partners; 20,000 square feet of STEM-focused classroom and teaching laboratory space; and additional office space.


The bid had strong backing from the county’s elected leadership and business community, applauding its potential to help generate a skilled workforce for good-paying jobs, diversifying a regional economy currently dominated by agriculture.


The funding also ties into local excitement over prospects for extracting lithium, found underground near the Salton Sea. Lithium is used in electric power and in creating rechargeable batteries designed for cars, mobile devices and energy-grid storage, making it an essential part of renewable-energy technology and of California’s net-zero emission goals. 




Completion of Snapdragon Stadium Launches SDSU Mission Valley


Less than four years after voters approved a ballot measure authorizing the City of San Diego to sell 166 acres of land to SDSU, the university completed the first component of a multifaceted, community-oriented development known now as SDSU Mission Valley.


The 35,000-capacity Snapdragon Stadium held its first event on Sept. 3 with the Aztecs football team’s nationally broadcast season opener against the University of Arizona. Snapdragon also hosted a high school football open division championship game in November.


The men’s and women’s Aztecs soccer teams each played a game at the stadium. With direct service from the San Diego Trolley, the stadium is also the new home to the National Women’s Soccer League’s San Diego Wave Fútbol Club, and talks are underway to bring a Major League Soccer expansion team to the stadium.


Spectators praised the stadium’s seating for excellent sight lines and proximity to Bashor Field. Visitors also enjoyed a variety of concessions choices dominated by locally prominent restaurants, along with a menu of selected Aztec-authentic and Aztec-inspired food items


Development of a river park at SDSU Mission Valley is now underway, and in October, AvalonBay Communities was selected for its first round of residential and retail development, and the selections of developers of the first phases of an Innovation District and affordable housing units are expected soon.




State Approves New Independent Doctoral Degree for SDSU, Other CSUs


Signed into law in September, Senate Bill 684 allows SDSU and other campuses in the California State University system to offer independent Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) programs for the first time. Previously, such degrees could be awarded only through a joint program with the University of California or a doctoral-granting private university due to restrictions in the state Master Plan for Higher Education, now more than five decades old.


If approved by CSU leaders, the degrees could be offered at SDSU as soon as the 2023-24 academic year.


The need for independent doctorates in the CSU system has been a personal passion of de la Torre and was supported by county public health officials across the state as well as numerous hospital systems. 


“This new legislation is a step towards that, and will allow us to meet a critical workforce need,” de la Torre said. “It makes little sense to still require that the state's largest and most diverse university system go through a legislative approval process for each and every new workforce degree at this level.” 




Applications and Enrollment Soar; Students Meet the Challenge


Bucking both state and national trends that have seen modest declines at many public universities, SDSU enrollment rose to a record 36,637 in fall 2022. The figure represents combined enrollment in San Diego and Imperial Valley and includes a first-year class of 6,514 students, also the largest ever. 


In October, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reported a third straight year of decline in undergraduate enrollment nationwide, a dip attributed to fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. SDSU’s enrollment, however, shatters records dating back to 2007 and 1987.


The entering class included 3,878 transfer students, with about two-thirds of the total from SDSU’s local service area. A systemwide CSU initiative seeks to strengthen the community college pipeline to four-year institutions.


Students set additional records in their two biggest annual fundraising events. Dance Marathon at SDSU raised $400,170 in February for kids and families at Rady Children’s Hospital, and Aztecs Rock Hunger finished its campaign in November with $109,676.




Research Funding Hits New High


SDSU moved closer to realizing its goal of achieving the highest research classification for doctorate-granting universities. Researchers secured $164.5 million in grants and contracts in 2022, marking a record-breaking year for university research as faculty sought to improve human health, confront injustice and develop solutions to major societal issues like climate change, homelessness and the need for better electric vehicle batteries.


“This is a groundbreaking year for research at SDSU,” said Hala Madanat, vice president for research and innovation. “This incredible research activity is a testament to our faculty and how committed they are to improving society through their work.”


The figure represents a 17% increase over the previous year and marks progress in the university’s goal, outlined in its five-year strategic plan, of becoming a premier public research university with R1 status from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.


Some 350 principal investigators received 761 awards from 323 funding agencies that included the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Defense. Research-related funding at SDSU Imperial Valley more than doubled from the previous year, surpassing $1 million.


After receiving a generous $15 million grant from NIH last year to establish SDSU FUERTE (Faculty Unified towards Excellence in Research and Transformational Engagement), nine researchers joined SDSU in 2022 to research Latinx health disparities. The new faculty will look at Latinx health from every angle, including aging, cancer and environmental health.


Eight faculty received NSF CAREER awards — a prestigious award given to highly competitive early career faculty. Their work touches on a wide range of research: from exploring bioelectrotechnical systems that allow energy recovery from wastewater to studying how soil microbes produce and absorb greenhouse gasses.




SDSU Named “Diversity Champion” and “Best of the Best” for LGBTQ Students


INSIGHT Into Diversity, a leading website and magazine in higher education, named SDSU a “Diversity Champion” for its commitment to diversity and inclusion throughout the campus community, academic programs and administration. It also selected SDSU for its HEED (Higher Education Excellence in Diversity) Award for a sixth time. 


SDSU was among 16 colleges and universities to receive the 2022 Diversity Champion designation, and the only one in California to receive both the Champions and the HEED awards. They are based on factors that include student, faculty and leadership demographics; success in closing retention and graduation equity gaps; and diversity resources and programming.


In addition, Campus Pride Index selected SDSU for a second straight year as one of the “Best of the Best” colleges and universities for their commitment to LGBTQ students.


SDSU again earned a perfect five-star score for LGBTQ programs, practices and policies that make a safer and more inclusive environment. It was the only California university, public or private, included in this year’s 40 Best of the Best, a distinction Campus Pride said it reserves for universities that “have shown themselves to be deeply committed to LGBTQ students.”




Fundraising Sets Records


SDSU received $136 million in gift commitments over the 2021-22 fiscal year, the most successful ever for philanthropic support for the university. The total represents an increase of more than 2% from 2020-21 and a fourth consecutive year of growth.


$6.25 million grant from the James Silberrad Brown Foundation through the San Diego Foundation will provide $5 million for an artificial intelligence (AI) center at the Fowler College of Business, and $1 million for the Aztecs Going Pro student-athlete career development program.


Founding gifts to the Snapdragon Stadium Excellence Fund included a $2.5 million grant naming the Walter J. and Betty C. Zable Foundation SDSU President’s Suite.


Other support for SDSU Mission Valley included a $750,000 gift from alumni couple Ben and Nikki Clay for the river park. now under development, as well as a $500,000 gift establishing The Alta and Franklin Grant Family Mission Valley River Park Fund to help develop, operate and maintain the community resource, expected to open by the end of 2023.


Small donations do their part, too. In March the annual Day of Giving raised over $685,500 from more than 2,460 donors, setting records in both categories for the single-day fundraiser.




Television and Film Teaching Facility Slated for Chula Vista


In a dream come true for the City of Chula Vista, SDSU in September announced its new Television, Film and New Media Studios program will move to an $89 million project the city is building on its east side. The Cinematic Arts Academic Center & Library project, expected to break ground in 2023, will be a world class, multi-institutional university and innovation district in the South County city’s master-planned Millenia community. 


Plans call for a 50,000-square-foot film and television teaching facility containing sound stages, modern editing and mixing suites, brand new classrooms, meeting rooms, and administrative and faculty space. All will be equipped with the latest film and television technology.


The complex will be the first of its kind in San Diego County and fulfills the city’s long desire for a partnership with a four-year institution of higher education. Funding includes $30 million from the State of California and $59 million from the City of Chula Vista. 




Extending a Transborder Reach 


In May, SDSU opened the Oaxaca Center for Mesoamerican Studies in Oaxaca, Mexicoaiming to foster transborder diplomacy and cross-disciplinary relationships. The opening was followed by a two-day conference on binational collaboration in research. 


President de la Torre led the SDSU contingent, joined by a similar group of dignitaries representing government and education institutions in Mexico. SDSU has more than two dozen faculty who regularly conduct research in Oaxaca.


In November, SDSU hosted its fourth annual RE:BORDER binational conference, dedicated this year to sustainability and innovation in the transborder region




Five Athletics Programs Score Conference Championships


SDSU athletes brought home five Mountain West Conference championship trophies in 2022.


In February, the swimming and diving team posted the highest team score in conference history, their sixth conference title in 12 years.


In April, the women’s tennis team recaptured the MW Conference tournament crown and advanced to the NCAA Team Women’s Championship for the 23rd time in school history. In three matches in the event, the Aztecs outscored Wyoming, Colorado State and UNLV 12-2.


The month of May brought three additional MW titles.


Men's golf stormed past Colorado State to claim the fourth conference title for the Aztecs since 2011.


The Aztecs won the softball regular-season title after winning all seven of their MW series, including four sweeps. SDSU will host the 2023 MW Softball Championship. 


And the Aztecs were crowned conference champions in track and field for the second consecutive year.


Finally, SDSU Athletics announced the launch of the Women's Fund to benefit the 12 Aztec women's sports programs in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Title IX legislation. The Women's Fund aims to raise awareness and financial support and to enhance the academic and athletic resources for SDSU's female student-athletes with scholarship support, facility updates, and other annual program needs.