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SDSU President Adela de la Torre speaks during the 2023 All-University Convocation at Montezuma Hall. (SDSU) SDSU President Adela de la Torre speaks during the 2023 All-University Convocation at Montezuma Hall. (SDSU)

SDSU Celebrates Progress, Shared Values at All-University Convocation

Faculty and staff gathered to recognize academic triumphs, campus unity and reaffirm goals during the official fall welcome event ahead of the first day of classes.
By Jeff Ristine

San Diego State University President Adela de la Torre opened the 2023-24 academic year with a recognition of the campus community’s recent achievements in student success, research and academics, and the shared values it can draw upon in a time of nationwide polarization.

More than 850 faculty and staff attended the annual All-University Convocation, held Aug. 17 in Montezuma Hall at the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union. The event marked the beginning of the university’s 126th academic year and continued an annual tradition of honoring exceptional faculty and staff.

In her sixth convocation as SDSU president, de la Torre outlined noteworthy institutional accomplishments as well as “the progress we have made together.”

Among them: SDSU already has surpassed California State University’s systemwide graduation rate goals for 2025, set in 2016 in a plan for all 23 campuses called Graduation Initiative 2025.

For first-time students, it set a six-year graduation goal of 70%, de la Torre noted, and “SDSU is already at 78%.” In addition, she said, a majority of first-time students graduate in four years. Among Black students, first-year equity gaps have been eliminated altogether.

Student success also has been enhanced by a concerted effort to award more scholarships. Partly due to a new unified portal for all scholarship searches and applications, SDSU last year awarded 99.6% of available funds compared with 71% five years ago.

“I can't tell you how important this goal is to me. And I know this is a goal shared by our students,” de la Torre said.

More than halfway through a five-year strategic plan entitled “We Rise We Defy,” SDSU has achieved nearly 75% of the milestones identified among its individual goals, the president said. For the research priority, about 77% of all goals have already been accomplished.

In the year ending June 30, SDSU received more than $192 million in research grants and contracts, an increase of more than 40% over the past five years.

In Imperial Valley, she noted, SDSU has expanded degree programs and student services, and will construct a STEM building with an $80 million investment from the state.

De la Torre said she hopes to see the 2023-24 academic year characterized by “harmony, purpose and depth.”

Amid political and economic uncertainty, de la Torre said the SDSU community “must reach into our shared values and goals and recognize the depth of our purpose at this institution.

“I share this theme to challenge us to continue to rise above the chaos of dissent that undermines civility, respect, and our ability to listen with intent and purpose,” de la Torre said.

Also during convocation, Interim Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs William Tong and Samuel Brown, president of the SDSU Alumni Board of Advisors, presented the annual Alumni Distinguished Faculty Awards.

“SDSU is an extraordinary university, in large part because of our extraordinary faculty,” Tong said. “Among them are masterful, inspirational teachers; phenomenal researchers; committed and engaged citizens of our university community; passionate leaders of their scholarly disciplines both nationally and internationally; compassionate servants of our SDSU communities and many who excel in all these areas of professional endeavor.

“Additionally, we have outstanding librarians who are committed to student success and who assist faculty in their professional endeavors,” Tong said.

The faculty awards include an honorarium from the SDSU Alumni Association. This year’s honorees are:

  • Pascale Joassart-Marcelli, geography, College of Arts and Letters
  • Michelle Dean, management, Fowler College of Business
  • James Marshall, educational leadership, College of Education
  • Mahasweta Sarkar, electrical and computer engineering, College of Engineering
  • Eunha Hoh, environmental health, College of Health and Human Services
  • Peter Cirino, theater, College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts
  • Tom Huxford, biochemistry, College of Sciences
  • Jeanette Shumaker, English, SDSU Imperial Valley

Also recognized were the Presidential Staff Excellence Award recipients for 2023:

  • Lindsay Vance
  • Roseanne Pasenelli
  • Rosie Villafana-Hatcher
  • Aaron Brown
  • Magaly Corro Flores
  • Bridget Frattalone
  • Alfredo (Jun) Dandan
  • Team: Claudia Gavaldon, Sarah Hershberger, Leviticus Johnson, Zuzanna Lever and Juno Paláu (College of Engineering undergraduate advising team).

The university’s third annual Lifetime Achievement award recipient was Maureen Dotson, facility coordinator for the University Library.

University Senate Chair Nola Butler Byrd and Associated Students President Tarek Morsy also spoke at convocation. 

Several events planned for welcome week were canceled in the interest of public safety given potential regional weather-related impacts, including Sunday's New Student and Family Convocation. De la Torre and other leaders shared a message of thanks following Tropical Storm readiness and response in a recent welcome back message to the campus community. 

"The actions of many across our campus locations helped to minimize challenges while our state worked to respond to regional weather impacts, some of which have resulted in devastating impacts to communities in Southern California, Baja California and other parts of Mexico," de la Torre wrote in her message.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated since the original release to report on the weather-related cancelations of SDSU's Welcome Week events due to Tropical Storm Hilary. 

SLIDESHOW: All-University Convocation 2023
Faculty and staff gathered to recognize academic triumphs, campus unity and reaffirm goals during the official fall welcome event ahead of the first day of classes.