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CUSP II Report introduction

president's message introduction vision strategic plan acknowledgments


In the fall of 1998, after a three-year, campus-wide process that involved hundreds of students, faculty and staff, San Francisco State University enthusiastically adopted a new strategic plan. That shared vision has energized and guided the campus since then, proving through concrete accomplishments to have been a plan that fit this University well. At our request, it became the basis for the University's self-study and 2001 re-accreditation review by the Western Association of Colleges and Universities (WASC).

Why, then, just four years into a plan that was envisioned as a guide to the next 10 years, did the University establish another Commission on University Strategic Planning, CUSP II, in order to rethink the institution's future once more?

WASC was one part of the answer. The highly positive re-accreditation report included eight recommendations (, several of which touched on important strategic planning issues and served to encourage a fresh discussion. Chief among those issues were student needs, student learning, and quality criteria for graduate programs.

Many of the other spurs to a renewed strategic planning effort lay outside the University. In 1998, California was still feeling flush from the high-tech boom. NASDAQ and the S&P 500 were on their way to the historic heights they would reach two years later. When looking to the University's future, it was reasonable to anticipate both a strong regional economy and state support that would encourage new initiatives. In addition, in 1998, the Higher Education Partnership between the State and the CSU assured San Francisco State University of strong base funding, including fixed annual increases in general fund support and additional revenue to "buy down" student fees, averting the need for an increase.

A year later, the agreement was modified. By the start of CUSP II in early 2002, the dot-com boom had collapsed, the partnership agreement could not be funded, and the campuses were seeing their first multi million-dollar funding cuts. Over the course of CUSP II's work, the University would struggle to absorb some $31 million in reductions to its general fund budget.

During the 1995-98 work of CUSP I, the anticipated statewide enrollment surge known as Tidal Wave II was hitting the shore primarily in Southern California. In the seven Bay Area counties, high school graduate numbers were increasing only modestly, while in San Francisco, the high school population was actually shrinking, as families left the city. San Francisco State University's enrollment was steady but not rising, inviting discussion of redefining the University as a destination campus, one that would aim to attract more of its students from throughout and beyond the state.

But with budget cuts prompting changes in CSU enrollment policy, the need to balance access with the University's ability to provide classes and other services led to a need to reconsider enrollment priorities and strategies.

International student enrollment, an intellectual and social asset to the University and a contributor to its budget, was strong and rising. The attacks of 9/11 would eventually touch on that student population, as well on other aspects of campus life.

Internally, new tenure-track faculty had not yet become the significant proportion of the University population that they are today. In recent years, an expected wave of retirements and an active faculty recruiting effort have begun to reshape the faculty. By fall 2004, one in every three tenure-track faculty members had been hired within the last five years. Integrating this new cadre into the life of the University and preparing them for their future leadership role have taken on new importance.

Since 1998, the campus has markedly expanded its footprint. The acquisition of 47.6 acres of adjacent property, containing both housing units and recreation space, and 11 more acres at the Romberg Tiburon site, has meant both new opportunities and new needs for planning.

Change demands response, and this picture of significant change in the fiscal, physical, social, and educational environment in which San Francisco State University functions spurred a second wave of strategic planning.

Following the highly successful model of CUSP I, a campus-wide group of faculty, students, staff, and administrators came together early in 2002 to start the new planning process. They began by identifying a set of "defining questions" for planning ( The questions -- some 50 of them, grouped under such themes as Defining Ourselves, Instructional Priorities/Resource Allocations, The Student Experience, and Structure and Delivery -- provided both a stimulus and a framework for the ensuing work.

The questions clustered around these areas of inquiry:

  • What should we be to whom? How will we achieve this? What will stop us?

  • What are our academic priorities and how can we use them to guide resource decisions?

  • What should the role of graduate and professional education be at SFSU? How should we be supporting it?

  • What kind of University experience do we want our students to have?

  • How do we attract the best faculty and staff to the University? How can we make SFSU a fulfilling place for them to work?

  • Do we want to become a destination campus? What will it mean for the University if we do?

  • Do we have the most effective structure and delivery systems to support our educational goals?

  • What is our proper community role?

The questions formed the basis of the work of more than 150 people in four planning groups structured to define goals, objectives, outcomes, and strategies in four important areas of University endeavor: the Academic Experience, the Student Experience, the Employee Experience, and the University and Its Environment. The reports provided by these four planning groups ( were then used by CUSP II in crafting a comprehensive strategic plan for the University.


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