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October 3, 2006 > CSUEB President Mohammad 'Mo' Qayoumi

CSUEB President Mohammad 'Mo' Qayoumi

by Steve Warga

In July of this year, California State University East Bay (formerly known as Cal State Hayward) tapped Mo Qayoumi to replace, Norma Rees, who retired after a long and distinguished career. A native of Afghanistan, Dr. Qayoumi has employed his extensive engineering and administrative credentials in a variety of positions in private industry, government and academia.

Warm, direct and well-spoken, Qayoumi is pitting his skills and experience to address serious challenges as CSUEB struggles to increase its community access and service. He demonstrates an impressive command of facts and statistics relevant to his plans for the university's long-term future.

TCV: Why Cal State East Bay?

Qayoumi: I have a history in the Bay Area going back to the '80's when I was a professor and administrator at San Jose State University which is also part of the Cal State system. My wife and family lived here then and we liked the area's diversity and vitality.

I saw a good match between some of my skill sets and the university's needs. This is an opportunity for me to get back to a familiar area where I could work to expand our outreach to the community.

TCV: What are your immediate priorities?

Qayoumi: My top three priorities are to increase enrollment; stabilize our finances; and advance our "tenure-track" faculty.

TCV: Let's talk about each of those.

Qayoumi: In terms of enrollment, one of the key elements of the California State University system is access. I believe enrollment should increase at least as much as an area's population increases. In reality, it should exceed the population increases because technology and job skills demands grow even faster. Today, more than 85 percent of careers require a four year degree; that percentage has grown dramatically in the last three decades.

So, if we are not increasing enrollment, then we are not meeting the communities needs for education and training. We have to ask ourselves, "To what extent are we really relevant; are we meeting the needs; are we really providing the types of programs, the modes of instruction, and the environment for lifetime learning on the campus?"

TCV: What does stabilizing finances mean?

Qayoumi: More than 60 percent of our finances are provided by the state. If you look at the state's economic history, we've always had some periods of good economic conditions followed by some hardship. So we need to create an environment that allows us to weather the leaner times without losing too much.

TCV: You mentioned increasing tenure-track faculty, why is this important?

Qayoumi: Since faculty are the true providers of a university's mission, the quality of faculty will distinguish one institution from another. In our more recent economic downturns, CSUEB replaced retiring, tenured professors with part-timers. The feeling was that if we hired full time professors, they might be laid-off a few months later. That's not good.

Now, part-time faculty who come from private industry serve a very important role as they bring new ideas and perspectives. But, just like any industry, we need to have a healthy balance of part-time and full-time teachers.

TCV: So, the problem was the university didn't have the money to hire long-term professors?

Qayoumi: Exactly! When you're facing budget cuts, you know you can't hire long term. We now have the funds to hire faculty who can come here confident they'll be able to pursue a tenured position.

TCV: How will you measure the extent of your success?

Qayoumi: There are other factors to consider, but bottom line: enrollment. CSUEB enrollment has been essentially stagnant for several decades now. We're doing many things, like new outreach programs to underserved members of society and we've expanded our educational offerings for nurses and social workers. We're improving our technology, including our new admissions software going online next week.
So, I don't think it's any one thing in particular. But, where you can see whether we have made some gains or not, is to look at enrollment. Is it where it's always been, or is it improving? That is one simple, basic measure. I've been very upfront about this and we want our campus and community to hold us accountable.

TCV: Any parting thoughts?

Qayoumi: This is an exciting year. We're opening our new Wayne and Gladys Valley Business and Technology Center in about two months. I hope TCV can come back and do a story on that. We're also planning a new student and administrative building and we're finishing a 400-bed, $33 million housing building.

What we ask of your readers in the community is to remain engaged and let us know how we can help. How can we really reach them and be a part of the community? This is Alameda's and Contra Costa's public university. The Cal State system offers one of the highest quality, most affordable programs in the country. We seek to give our students individual attention and we want the community to think of us as theirs.

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