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Episode 37

transformed: The Psychology of Transformation

In this episode, Jane Close Conoley, PhD – President of California State University, Long Beach – describes how the personal and “ecological” fundamentals of change are incorporated into the culture, decision making and management methods at CSULB.

Joe Gottlieb: (00:01)

Welcome to transformed a Higher Digital podcast focused on the new whys, the new whats and the new hows in higher ed. In each episode, you will experience hosts and guests pulling for the resurgence of higher ed while identifying and discussing the best practices needed to accomplish that resurgence culture, strategy and tactics planning, and execution people, process and technology. It’s all on the menu because that’s, what’s required to truly transform. Hello, welcome. And thanks for joining us for this special presidential series episode of transformed. My name is Joe Gottlieb, President, and CTO of higher digital. And today I am joined by Jane Close Conoley PhD, President of Cal State University Long Beach. President Conoley, welcome to transformed. 


President Conoley: (00:54)

Oh, thanks, Joe. I’m really happy to be here. What do you wanna talk about? 


Joe Gottlieb: (01:00)

Well, glad you asked President Conoley. I want to talk about your views on the psychology of transformation, but before we dive into that really heavy topic, I’d love to hear a little bit about your personal journey and, and how it shaped your perspective and passion for what you do 


President Conoley: (01:15)

Well, thanks for giving me a chance. So talk about myself. Um, you know, I’m, um, um, a product of first generation, um, student in, in higher education. I did have a brother, a older brother and a twin sister who went to higher education, but we were the first in our large family to kind of make that, um, I got very interested in my doctoral studies, uh, in how schools promote or not thriving among students. I was, I loved school. Um, it was my, uh, comfort place for sure. Uh, but once I was in psychology doing practice, I realized that that wasn’t the experience of many children. And eventually I learned about kind of racial and economic divides that created problems, but I was very interested in how the school as an organization could promote thriving. And finally, um, I figured out that if I wanted to promote thriving in school, in this, in this case, it was higher education for all students. I better do more than write journal articles and books about it. So that really was the, um, motivation, the impetus, and the passion to become president of a university and tried to work with others to shape it into, uh, an organization that promoted, uh, thriving. Every, the idea that you could be your best self, uh, here at Cal State Long Beach. 


Joe Gottlieb: (02:40)

Excellent. Well, you went on to your background is quite suited to this and given your, the depth of study that you, you undertook in psychology in particular really gives you some unique perspective on change in general. And, and what, what I like to talk about in terms of the, the broader context of transformation and, you know, the, you could say those terms are equal. Uh, the way we talk about transformation, we like to lasso the entire scope of really the way organizations are having to evolve continuously, given all of the new vectors, all the new forces, which they often say, it’s just another version of what has happened in the past, but I believe technology is really accelerating this, right? So things are speeding up in various ways and, and it creates a bit of a unique context for how we’re coping with change. So given all that, perhaps we can start by having you hit some key points of emphasis on the fundamentals of change that you’ve learned from your life study, lifelong study of that topic. 


President Conoley: (03:45)

Yeah. Well, thanks. That’s, that’s a big, it’s a big topic. Um, well, for me, psychology is all about change. Um, often we think about it as individual change through a clinical process of therapy, but there’s a whole additional area of psychology devoted to systems change. And it’s actually called ecological psychology, at least by me. And, uh, and it’s about how systems interact to promote or undermine change, and that can be promote or undermine individual change or at a larger level organizational change. And, um, this is the perspective I use, uh, in my work. And so I feel like I can’t depend just on individual change. I just can’t say to people, no, you should do it that this new way, you know, but I have to look at the environment and the forces, uh, the regulations, the norms, the short and learn long term benefits of certain behaviors to understand what it would take to move, um, individuals and therefore, therefore the whole organization to, uh, you know, a new level of maybe productivity or, um, the adoption of a new process of pedagogy, uh, the endless kinds of opportunities. 


President Conoley: (04:59)

So I think my goal is always to understand the reality and the stresses, um, that first of all, change causes the entire community, cuz it is stressful for many and most people to change. You know, I don’t even like getting a new phone because I may have to figure out something new, um, on it, but also then to understand what do I have to do at an organizational level, um, to support that change and part of it, you know, the first for me the first stage is to kind of make the case, um, why this is really important and why it’s it’s vital that we do this and it will be better for everyone, especially in our case, our mission, um, to promote student success. So it it’s multi multifaceted. Um, and it, it can’t be just about the individual. It has to, we have to have an environmental, um, scanning process to see what’s possible at this moment in time. 


Joe Gottlieb: (06:01)

So true. I love this, this term, ecological psychology. It, it, uh, it really captures the rich complexity that you’ve just talked about, right? Which is it’s one thing how each individual feels about their relationship with change. And for that matter themselves and their two are probably deeply related, uh, but then how they are bopping around their job, uh, ecosystem and their family ecosystem and their, and their lifelong trajectory ecosystem, what they expect of themselves and all that’s a big, a big stew, right? And leaders, leaders have the challenge and opportunity to orchestrate, uh, that along some harmonics that might produce some outcomes. Super interesting, 


President Conoley: (06:46)

Getting the harmonics right is, uh, is, is part of the challenge. And, you know, in higher ed is a special case of an organization where we don’t, uh, uh, we don’t have a kind of command control mentality about doing things. You know, we talk in glowing terms about shared governance. And so it really is a matter most often of influence and motivation, not I told you to do it, you must do it. Uh, there may be other organizations like police force or army unit where command and control works, but it doesn’t work in higher ed. 


Joe Gottlieb: (07:19)

And what that translates to is it while there’s amazing, we use the word harmonic, uh, while there’s amazing rhythm that can be teased out of that. The effort required to do that, to put forth right, to, to really span some of those gaps that change produces or discomfort produces and stress produces, um, is a big effort. It’s an emotional effort, right? 


President Conoley: (07:43)

Uh, it is. And, you know, the way I have, um, I think kept my energy and focus is to, um, give most of my energy to those people who are kind of coming along, you know, who are ready for things. And, and to put a lot of my focus on celebrating what they’re doing and how it’s really making things better for them and maybe our students, or maybe our reputation and, and try to limit myself from just focusing on those who aren’t coming along. I used to, you know, that was that that was a hard shift to make as a psychologist, cause you’re always looking to solve a problem, but I have learned to be more focused on those signs of growth and, you know, and sometimes it goes in a little different direction than I thought, but, you know, that’s the way change works, uh, but really to focus on those early adopters, um, and let people see, um, that other people they respect are doing, uh, whatever it is. Uh, and it’s not just the president saying, boy, you better do this. If you wanna have a university in 2030, 


Joe Gottlieb: (08:47)

well, speaking of 20, 30, great segue, I know you’re working on, um, uh, beach 2030, which is your strategic plan. And I know from what I’ve learned from it for, you know, some brief scanning, uh, very, uh, very interesting, compelling, exciting, but also massive. Right. So how are, how have you thought about, um, in the con in the context of how you have a rhythm with your teams and how you’re promoting student thriving? Um, tell me a little bit about how you approached beach 2030. 


President Conoley: (09:22)

Well, we engaged, um, the Consulta consultative help from the Institute for the future, which is a bay area based, um, uh, entity. That was a spinoff, I think about 40 years ago from the Rand corporation. And I really liked them, uh, because their focus was on teaching us, um, writ large to think about the future, make predictions about what would be happening for us as a university, what we were looking forward to, what we might be afraid of, um, and kind of build a scenario of what, who are we 10 years from now, or what must we be 10 years from now to be, um, as successful as we are today. And we had to, and that means accepting the fact that just doing the same thing is unlikely to lead to, uh, the same level of, uh, success. So we, um, you know, went through a process that was in my experience, unique using, uh, the internet. 


President Conoley: (10:25)

And we had 3000 separate individuals who kind of posted what they were hoping for in the future, what they were afraid of in the future ideas that they had. And then with the help of the Institute for the future, we were able to kind of, uh, curate that stuff, getting into themes. Um, and it resulted in, you know, literally hundreds of focus groups and, um, discussions and task forces. And, you know, we came to, um, a set of values that we talk about every day. Uh, you know, diversity is our strength. We’re responsible for the public good intellectual rigor and discovery, uh, is, you know, part and parcel of what we offer, um, to the world. And we are committed to teaching and learning, uh, so that, you know, once it’s interesting how once we have just those four values, so many ideas about how to, um, uh, move toward them have been, uh, bubbling up from colleges, you know, various committees in the colleges. 


President Conoley: (11:28)

Um, and I was able to establish a 3 million pilot fund to launch projects and, and I was also able to hire somebody who we call the associate vice president for, uh, futures planning. And, um, we’ll be evaluating some of these changes, these pilots for permanent additions to a recurring budget, as we see, uh, how we work. And in my mind, the, the things that we’re choosing to, um, uh, support are not add-ons to what we were doing already, but really trying to keep it, um, to be connected to the core work and to our aspirations to be, um, you know, as we say, in beach 2030, a, a force for good in higher education in California. 


Joe Gottlieb: (12:18)

Well, that’s, uh, that’s super exciting. And of course you, you are accomplishing that during a period where, you know, finances can be tough. So it’s all the more, uh, important that, that you’ve been able to look forward and find ways to think about the future and find ways to start changing, to evolve in that direction. Uh, even while I imagine it’s been very, very tough operationally, uh, along the way. Um, 


President Conoley: (12:43)

Yeah, and certainly the pandemic, um, slowed us down a bit. I think we’re about six months behind the schedule we’d set for ourselves. Um, you know, people kept meeting on zoom, but you know, some of the creativity, um, in my experience, maybe you’re better at this than I am Joe. Uh, some of the creativity of a group is kind of sapped away by zoom because we don’t have the little side conversations, you know, it’s a little bit too, too much, but so it, you know, we have had, um, uh, a challenging time in this, this last two years, but, um, I, I, I kind of launched this year with a speech to our, what we call convocation. Everybody gets together. And the whole focus was one on what we had already established because I wanted people to understand that we weren’t waiting that we were already moving. And, um, and we have dozens of proposals, uh, in front of us, uh, to evaluate, uh, from all over, you know, every level, uh, students, faculty, staff, about what things we, we should do. 


Joe Gottlieb: (13:44)

Well, the, the approach you took there, uh, reminds me about the, the sort of the, and a dichotomy between top down and bottoms up change. And I know that, um, they each have their role and, and, uh, if you use, we use that word harmonic again, finding that harmonic between those two and what they, how they meet seems to be, uh, a useful recipe. Let’s talk a little bit about that. Is that true in your experience? 


President Conoley: (14:10)

Yeah, sure. It’s, um, it, it is, and I, here’s the way, here’s the way I think about it. Uh, and I’ll be interested to hear your view. You know, my job is to, uh, scan the environment and, and, and the scanning is for many things, but it’s, it’s an, I have an external job I’m supposed to know what’s happening in higher ed and how politics are affecting us and how state funding and federal funding I’m supposed to know about what, um, uh, forces and vectors are impinging on my university. That’s not everybody else’s job. You know, most of the people are, that’s not their job to do that. They have an internally focused job. Um, so when I think of top down, I think of my role as kind of, you know, throwing up pilot, uh, balloons in a way , Hey, did you know that? 


President Conoley: (15:00)

Did you know that term demographic, cliff, do you know what that means? You know, what’s coming and it’s coming here in 2026 or 2032, if we’re lucky, you know, and, oh, did you know that there were 4 million Californians without, uh, with some college, but without a degree, do you know what that means for the economy? So I think that’s the way I think about top, you know, but you have to figure out, uh, what will motivate people to jump into a change like that, or jump into activities that would relate, um, to, uh, to those ideas, those concepts, uh, even, you know, looking back, um, actually 10 years, uh, a little bit before my time coming, we made a big commitment to improve graduation rates. They were really dismal. Um, and what we, what, what was discovered was I’m a professor teaching a class. I do my best in that class, but I don’t really know if those students graduate. 


President Conoley: (15:59)

You know, that’s not, you know, maybe if I’m the advisor, I know, but I’m teaching hundreds and hundreds of students for most of them. I don’t know if they graduate. So it wasn’t simple, but just the fact that we had a provost then who started putting that, those data in front of people, do you know that the four year graduation rate is 16%? Wow. Do you know that, you know, and people, then our faculty and our staff started to realize, wait a second. Um, this matters, we, we didn’t know that this was happening. So sometimes it’s as simple as confronting people, um, with evidence. And that really helps them, you know, get on board. But you know, other people are, uh, will be involved for example, in we’ve greatly expanding our online presence in the career area. Um, and some people will in the, in the career, um, advancement area, I should say, or certification areas and doing completion. 


President Conoley: (16:58)

Some people are jumping on board there because that’s a whole other career for them to have. And, and so it’s, it’s a trajectory they wanna, they wanna get, get on, you know, others will, you know, embrace something because they are actually invested in the mission. You know, our, our sole mission is student success. And so if they’re invested in that they, that will give them energy to do it. So for me, part of managing change, um, is, uh, helping people see how a change will help them do their jobs better, easier, how it might contribute to the mission of our organization, how they can learn new skills that will be useful for their next career moves. And, and finally, how maybe they, they wanna work here or maybe they don’t wanna work here because we’re going in a particular, uh, direction. Uh, and that’s valuable to learn, learn too. 


President Conoley: (17:49)

Uh, so, um, so there’s not one, there’s not one way for the kind of a top management we have to fi I have to figure out what will motivate others. Um, uh, and just like I said before, it’s especially important in, um, higher ed, because we don’t have, uh, uh, a history of just ordering people to do things. Uh, I have found it’s critical to educate people at every level of the organization, the managers and the supervisors, um, about what we expect. So the messages that support change come, you know, from all levels, you know, we’re experiencing that now as we, you know, try to refine a telecommuting policy that is, um, supportive of student success, but also, um, supportive of the new reality of, of work. And yeah, that will depend entirely on supervisors and managers making, um, smart decisions, uh, about their particular work area. 


Joe Gottlieb: (18:53)

Fascinating. So I’ve heard you talk about it makes me think there’s a, there’s two different dimensions. I’ve heard you cover here. You’ve, you’ve talked about, I love the, the, the example of where data being shared with professors was so helpful in them breaking through to a, a, maybe a context that just wasn’t part of their thought process before, right? Yeah. Mm-hmm right. And, and so that’s data, but then also you, you shared examples of how ideas, you know, people getting really vested in, uh, things that you guys are shooting for in terms of mission and the like, and so those are two different things. And then there’s also another dimension I’ve heard you talk about already is, is sharing positive outcomes, as well as negative outcomes. Like, like you, the example of the, of the, the completion data, that’s certainly a negative outcome. Yes. But then you’re harnessing it as power to motivate potentially. Right. So as a, and then as a leader, like exercising, both of those dimensions throughout their scope just seems to be a very authentic and impactful approach. 


President Conoley: (19:57)

Uh, you know, it’s, it’s, it, it, it has really worked. So I remember, I, I might have said out loud that, um, 10 years ago or four year graduation rate was 16%. Now it’s 38%, you know, uh, now we still have a way to go, but in five years, 


Joe Gottlieb: (20:14)

That’s amazing, 


President Conoley: (20:16)



Joe Gottlieb: (20:16)



President Conoley: (20:17)

Doubling. We had an amazing change and we’ve gone from a 68%, um, within six year graduation rate. And that’s the federal definition that we were given. So that might mean you graduated in four and a half years or five years, but within six years, we went from 68% to almost 79%. Um, and you know, that took, um, you know, a hundred small changes, but one big, big, big change was, uh, some many professors, they were teaching the way they were taught and it wasn’t matching the current, you know, generation of students. And so many of our professors redesigned their classes to active, uh, learning models where they taped their, and this was good preparation for the pandemic. As a matter of fact, they videoed their lectures and the students had to watch it beforehand. And then they came in and they, they discussed it rather than, you know, sitting and listening, uh, to the lecture. 


President Conoley: (21:12)

And one professor in particular, um, who’s who teaches anatomy. She completely transformed her class because she had in her class, you know, dance majors and pre-med students. Um, and the, the failure rate was sometimes 50 to 60%. Uh, and or the, with we say, D DFW, they withdraw, they fail, or they get a D so it wouldn’t count. Um, and she transformed her class and got that DFW rate down to below 15%. Wow. And, you know, she, and the fact that she is a very well respected full professor, you know, we celebrated the heck out of her. We put her on video, we showed, you know, what she had done and what the effect was on, uh, students. And, you know, it helps students cuz a lot of the students who withdraw have to take it again. So they’re spending extra money and, you know, hitting on various themes about why is it important to graduate in four years? That’s not a magic thing, but economically it’s good for students to do. And you know, nobody’s forced to graduate in four years. Uh, but it’s, it’s good economically. It’s be good socially. It’s good for families. Um, so we tried to, as you alluded to before, tried to hit on all the, um, factors that created this sense of flow that or harmonics that, yeah, this is what we’re about. We’re, we’re not about just our own class, but we’re really helping them, you know, to get ready and be successful for the next class. 


Joe Gottlieb: (22:50)

Interesting. You know, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve come to understand better over the last few years and this may not be new, but just the, the increasing awareness that, that we have about how people learn and how it varies, but how ply or, or predominantly it’s difficult for us to sit through a long lecture. I mean the, the, one of the, one of the findings, one of the takeaways of, of this more emerging awareness or research or knowledge about this, the way the mind works and it’s has to do with attention span, it has to do with, um, exhaustion of the brain and how it works. Right. But to me, it seems like COVID produced a random scenario to, to trigger that learning for a lot of institutions to, to, to a level where they realized, oh my goodness, this is working better. Maybe, uh, because if, so, if you record the lectures in advance, students can asynchronously consume them. It, it, if they’re then guided to know that they might have short attention spans, or it may be very difficult for them to listen to a long lectures at a time, they would take them in small bites, if you even curated that level of approach and you, and you even encourage that via a modular breakdown. Do, do you see this actively affecting, um, effectiveness in teaching? 


President Conoley: (24:13)

Absolutely. Um, and of course, um, as usual there’s, there’s some caveats, but in fact, you’re, you know, the, the change to, especially in is the, it’s not just the sciences, but sciences are a good example of, you know, send the lecture out, let students listen to it a few times, do it on their own time. And then when they come in, don’t just let them sit there and listen more, have them do hands on mm-hmm , you know, we went for so many generations that seems of teaching where we thought we had to teach the theory and then we taught the application, but now we know we should teach the application and then go into the theory cuz then students make sense of it and they love the action. They love working in groups. If you work carefully in groups, um, I would say, you know, pandemic, um, data we have, and I’m not sure it’s replicated in every, um, uh, university, but many of our students did better. 


President Conoley: (25:07)

You’re exactly right. And many of our faculty, uh, say, uh, for example, they love the zoom rooms cuz they can pop into each of those and listen and see if the students have it right. And then give a little corrective feedback or a little pat on the back, you know, a way to go, um, and then move to the next one very easily. But we have a whole, um, uh, group of students, um, who actually did not do as well, uh, who did not persist for example. And you know, students who didn’t have, even though we were giving out free hotspots and free devices, you know, students who didn’t have environments, um, that, that, uh, promoted remote learning, um, or who needed that extra motivation of peer groups sitting around saying, yeah, let’s do that course together. You know, so we, we saw a drop off of, um, our low income students of color as not thriving in that environment. 


President Conoley: (26:04)

Mm-hmm um, so we don’t have to be careful about, um, you know, as usual in life, there’s not one size fits all I’m of the mind now that, um, we should experiment more with remote and online and hybrids, um, you know, for juniors and seniors, uh, less about, you know, freshmen and sophomores maybe where they really need that. Um, coming to campus, getting, um, connected to peers, getting to connected to student organizations, you know, we, we have 39,000 students. So we have to, we have to help them get into affinity groups, smaller little, um, modular groups so that they can feel like they have people who understand them, who care about them, who, who support them. So it’s um, uh, but, but to your, your, your point will never be going back, um, to the way it was mm-hmm right now, in some, in, in as many instances as we can for multi-section classes, we offer an online opportunity and those class, those online sections fill up fast. 


President Conoley: (27:13)

Yeah. Student leaders have, uh, told me that students want, especially, you know, advanced students want more online. It helps them dramatically here in California, if you can avoid a commute gas prices, all that, all those things are, you know, part of the ecology of being a college student for, for many, um, this is a, they can, they can, you know, schedule around work more easily cuz 80 more than 80% of my students hold full time jobs. So, um, wow. It’s a, you know, it’s a push and a pull and so that’s what makes it very interesting and challenging, um, to plan, uh, for the future. I, I am comfortable with adults in our new push for, um, nontraditional aged students. I think adults who are full-time workers, you know, they know how to manage time. They already have social groups. They already are at a different developmental level. I think they can really thrive, um, uh, in the, uh, online environment. 


Joe Gottlieb: (28:13)

Excellent. So let’s, I’m gonna shift gears a bit and talk about getting back to a little more of the psychology of change. So in this environment, how do you create trust as a catalyst for change? Uh, there’s a lots of ways to do this, but I, I know that you’ve got some things that are maybe a bit unique. 


President Conoley: (28:32)

Well, it’s a great question because people don’t change if they don’t trust mm-hmm they just, you know, they, they look inward and they just hold onto what they have. And so, um, I have, um, uh, my understanding is that what I needed to do, um, as a president was to really create a celebratory environment. So it’s like the, the adage in, uh, parenting, although I don’t consider myself a parent here, but you know, catch people being good. And we just, we pour on the celebration. Anytime we know somebody, uh, whether it’s a current faculty or staff member or an alum or a student, we do our best to catch people being good. We have a big site on our website that says making waves, who’s making waves, you know, and I send out, you know, personal notes to people you could imagine, I don’t wanna go on and on. 


President Conoley: (29:21)

And because I want people to know they are appreciated. They’re seen, you know, they’re, they’re visible to me. I value them and we talk a lot about growth mindset. Um, and I try to live it. And I promote that in my, my direct reports that, you know, when you make a mistake, you’ve learned something, there’s no blame. Uh, there’s only learning that is going on. And you know, I had a new, um, member of my team say maybe the first or second day I asked a question about something. And he said back to me, well, I don’t wanna throw anybody under the bus. Uh, and I, and my first reaction was, you know, we don’t have buses here. We’re only, I’m only trying to figure things out about, yeah, what’s the next step, but that a lot of people have that sense that there’s gonna be retribution if you make mistakes. 


President Conoley: (30:11)

And I think, um, we might have touched on this slightly before, but I know as a leader, I have to be telling the truth all the time and I have to admit when I’m wrong. And because people trust you more mm-hmm if, cuz they see that you screwed up and they want you to see it too. Yeah. And then they can trust that you did it. And um, and then as I said before, we, we rely a lot on data. We push out, you know, data road shows about everything, whether it’s budgeting or student success metrics. And we, you know, we get a lot of, you know, uptake on that groups, you know, faculty groups or student groups wanna see those data. And um, and you know, it’s, it’s very transparent. You, you can go look at it yourself. Um, so those are the, the things I’m thinking about. I’m sure there’s a lot more, but um, I think this notion of trust that you mentioned is in my mind a core, uh, issue when I think about change. 


Joe Gottlieb: (31:06)

So then tying that in the, the concept of data and also the concept before of trying new things, your strategic, uh, pilot projects. Um, I, I know you’ve, you’ve kind of refined that into a little bit of a, a little bit of a change weapon if I could put words in your mouth, right. This concept of a rapid pilot project launch. And, and, and, and, and so the evidence produced by that becomes useful in a context like this, I imagine. 


President Conoley: (31:33)

Absolutely. And, you know, uh, university we’re, uh, you know, our goal is to be evidence based. We’re not supposed to be just holding onto opinion or fads. And so I think when we talk about pilot, it neutralizes some of the fear of commitment, um, because we’re gonna look at it in a year. We say, we’re gonna do this for two years. Um, and you know, I’m very aware that professors, as well, as many other people in our environment, uh, believe that their opinions are facts or opinions actually equal evidence. Um, and we try to dissuade, uh, people of that. We, I, I personally always say, please be, please be skeptical, please. That’s your job as a, as a, as a critical thinker, but don’t be cynical. Don’t, you know, just push things away because they seem, um, uh, unfamiliar or novel. And, uh, you know, another, I think another, um, you know, danger in a change process is to get, you know, oh, let’s do this. 


President Conoley: (32:32)

You know, it’s like the next shiny object. So one of the little norms we have as we talk about things is, uh, you know, is that a squirrel squirrel, squirrel, you know, running away. Um, cause we don’t wanna, we don’t wanna go down too many rabbit holes, um, uh, because, and because people get exhausted, you have to focus you, can’t just asking people to change on every dimension. So, you know, we’re working on, you know, some pilots now about, um, staff telecommuting, uh, some of some targeted programs to increase a sense of belonging among students that, uh, requires, uh, peer to peer, uh, texting real, real peer texting you asking if you need stuff, use of food trucks instead of brick and mortar restaurants and outdoor classrooms. These are all things that, you know, came from our beach. Well, some, some from the pandemic and some from beach 30, but uh, 2030, but I don’t, you know, we’re not sure, um, that they’re gonna work, but we’ve established metrics so we can find out 


Joe Gottlieb: (33:33)

Interesting. So one more talk before we close. And that is I actually, I grew up in Southern California and my, my father was in, uh, at least the aircraft industry. And so I re recall the aerospace industry that was bubbling around for, for a long time. And it has, it has come back with a vengeance. I understand. And, and you guys are playing an interesting role in that. I, I checked out your, your side on space beach and, uh, the, all the funky projects you have going on there. Tell us a little bit about that. 


President Conoley: (34:03)

Yeah, that’s, uh, it, it’s fun. We’ve had a long history of aerospace, um, uh, you know, teaching and research and partnerships with big companies in the area, but you know, all these newer companies now have, uh, have come and they are, um, in part choosing long beach, uh, city as a site because of access to excellent universities around not just Cal state, long beach, but certainly Cal state long beach, um, for talent, because these are pretty high level, um, skills that are needed, uh, uh, on the engineering side, but also on, on other things. So we have, um, you know, we do call, we call a, a particular, um, kind of fundraising, fundraising partnership, raising space beach, you know, let’s get with industries, um, let’s, uh, partner with them. So our students can see the latest and greatest in equipment it’s would be impossible for me to find money, to have latest and greatest equipment in every single area. 


President Conoley: (35:05)

Let’s have the people in, uh, you know, Virgin, Philactic let let’s them, let them meet my faculty and realize what they can learn from them. We actually have, uh, a Boeing lab on campus where faculty and students work with Boeing, um, engineers and scientists. So that connection, um, uh, is, you know, it’s a, win-win, it helps faculty. It helps students and, and it’s a win-win win helps industry, uh, uh, uh, recruit, um, you know, great talent, uh, from us. And I think that’s part of the wave of the future. Uh, you know, we are very grateful for all the state support we do get, but state support will never keep us at the edge of excellence. We’ll ne it just, that’s not the way it works. So if we wanna be something special and actually spectacular for our students, we have to reach out to industry, government, nonprofits, health, hospitality, all the big, um, industry sectors, uh, that surround us 


Joe Gottlieb: (36:04)

And a major trend, right. Just in terms of the evolving. I know, I know, uh, Cecil and the, the Southern California area has been active in this for, for a long time. But I think increasingly these employer partnerships are becoming more active in terms of adapting, what is, what the areas of study and the employability. And even as we get into adult learning, there’s lots of work to do and lots of opportunity there. Yeah. 


President Conoley: (36:31)

So I’m glad you mentioned that, cuz that really is a new thing. Cuz years ago we would never have asked industry about what we should teach, but now there’s a constant conversation going on. 


Joe Gottlieb: (36:40)

Yeah. It’s a, it’s a new little bit of a new flexibility there for it is educators to take on. All right. So president Conoley three takeaways, we can offer our listeners, uh, in closing here on the topic of Cy the psychology of transformation. Let’s let’s bring it home. 


President Conoley: (36:56)

Okay. Well, uh, here’s my best, uh, attempt at three. So I, I see as a leader, I need to be totally present for this process of transformation. I can’t delegate it. Obviously I have teams to help me, but I can’t delegate it. I have to be the cheerleader. I have to stimulate engagement and have to make resources available. Number two, I need to stay focused on the goals and not on particular ways of reaching the goal cuz you know, my idea about how to get there might not be the best idea. Somebody else may have a better idea, but as long as I see the goal, I need to stay in support. And then I think communication, keep it flowing, you know, keep repeating what we’ve accomplished, um, and what others are doing in support of this. Even if I’m really familiar with it, I’ve learned the lesson that, um, what I know is not what everybody else knows just in the same way that what they know. I don’t always know. But so keeping that communication flowing is absolutely critical. 


Joe Gottlieb: (37:51)

Uh, great points, president Conoley. It’s been a pleasure to have you today really appreciate you joining us. 


President Conoley: (37:56)

Well, my pleasure of course, um, part of transformation is keeping it at the top of my mind. So our confirmation, our conversations has helped me in doing that in a very important way. 


Joe Gottlieb: (38:08)

Excellent. And, and thanks to our guest for joining us as well. I hope you all have a great day and we’ll look forward to hosting you again on the next episode of transformed.



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As president of Higher Digital, Joe supports customers with strategy development, change management, and strategic operations. He is energized by the complex challenges and profound opportunities facing higher education and is motivated to have and share discussions around these topics.

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