So, my marketing director suggested I write a message for the launch of our new web site. She also suggested that perhaps I should focus on what makes the Tseng College different and why, as dean, I sought to create that difference.
Of course, my immediate reaction was to consider writing about something altogether different. As someone close to me once observed, "The only sure way to get you to do anything is to tell you it cannot be done." Who could resist? Trying to figure out how to do something worth doing, how to fix a problem, or how to create something exceptional engages me completely. But, isn't that true for you, too?
It seems so natural. As children, we are full of questions, wanting to figure everything out, and inclined to experimentation. Personally, I was fond of rearranging creek beds in Southern Ohio. I wanted to change the water's flow and see what would happen if you put a rock in here and took out another there.
One of the great things about working in higher education is that it attracts people who still approach life in pretty much the same way, persistently following their own distinctive paths of inquiry into their particular fields of scholarship and teaching.
In my case, higher education expanded my sense of the possible exponentially. For example, I remember sitting on the floor in the library at the University of Chicago while reading a book that called my attention to some aspects of the human condition that I had never examined thoughtfully. Looking around, I realized that each of the thousands of books in the nearby aisles – not to mention the more than four million books then in the library's collection – likely contained equally illuminating ideas, and that the extent of what I didn't know would forever dwarf whatever I managed to learn. I found this realization terribly exciting.
While there is certainly something grand about knowing the things, people and places that one has already encountered, there is an even greater excitement in discovering what we have yet to learn, and that's what education is all about. Our worlds and our sense of the possible grow as the range of our own ideas, capabilities and understanding expands.
Given this conviction about the power of education, we in the Tseng College work with CSUN faculty from across the disciplines as well as with scholars and practitioners from across the region, the nation, and – increasingly – the globe in order to develop degree, certificate and other educational programs that provide distinctive and powerful educational experiences. In fact, we invest far more time and dollars in curriculum development than is typical for colleges of our size because we want to ensure that the educational experiences we offer are really carefully crafted with a focus on the most influential contemporary scholarship and insights from the forefront of professional practice.
We craft these programs so that they will provide not only a strong knowledge base in the advanced professional practice of their respective fields but also the conceptual skills and habits of mind that will enable our graduates to question, wonder, imagine, create, challenge and even change the flow of things in their professional and organizational contexts. After all, it is these habits of mind that are most needed for leadership in any field today, and the best way to acquire them is through an education that provides the knowledge and encouragement needed to push the boundaries of the possible.
Over the last decade or so, the Tseng College has moved (OK, I was pushing, but we wouldn't have gotten far without the talents of our faculty and staff and the creative context provided by CSUN) from providing more general and mostly noncredit professional-education updates to focusing on graduate, international and midcareer education. We have also shifted from functioning primarily at the boundary of the University to working within CSUN's academic heart – i.e., with faculty from a wide range of departments – in order to create a seamless engagement between the University, working adults and the industries and organizations that employ them. This is a very large change and one that has resulted in exceptional and excellent advanced professional education programs for those who study with us.
While the Tseng College retains and continues to cultivate deep regional roots, our reach has become national and international through carefully crafted online programs that create both national and international learning communities. We have also completely reconceived and restructured our approach to program- and student-support services for midcareer professionals, so that today's students can receive – even at this public university – the same high-quality, responsive and effective support services previously available only at the most expensive private institutions.
In short, we create and support the kind of educational experiences that contemporary working adults need to play meaningful roles in the emerging regional and global economy that demands well-educated, highly talented professionals with agile minds and working imaginations. And isn't that a rather exciting adventure? It certainly keeps me fully engaged and looking forward to the innovations we have yet to create.
So, the Tseng College is different, but is this difference useful? Comments from our graduates indicate that it is. Many have written that their Tseng College learning experiences were both life changing and career altering. The fact that our on-time graduation rates regularly exceed 80% and rather often rise over 90% (and have even achieved 100% in a particularly demanding master's program) speaks volumes as well.
As for why the Tseng College made this kind of top-to-bottom change in who we are and what we do, it seemed to me that – in the light of all the changes in the world, the economy and higher education over the last decade – we at CSUN needed to ask ourselves whether we were doing enough to collaboratively create something surprising and exceptional, just as we have always expected our graduates to do in their professional and community lives. Much of what we have undertaken and accomplished has been inspired and encouraged by what they have achieved as leaders and innovators. We expect to learn from what they have accomplished, and we do.
But do I want to write a Dean's Message about all of that?
By and large, it is far more engaging and makes a much bigger difference to actually do what we do, so I will get back to working with CSUN's remarkable staff and faculty on creating new programs for the years ahead.
In the meantime, do explore this new web site and see the difference – and the possibilities – for yourself!
Joyce Feucht-Haviar, Dean
The Tseng College