Initiatives and Priorities

Find out what Academic Affairs is doing to promote excellence and equity.

In Academic Affairs, educational excellence and equity are our top priorities. To learn more about these exciting programs, expand the accordions below or navigate to the respective page using the links.

During 2016-2017, San Francisco State University conducted the Foundations of Excellence (FoE) first-year self-study. Faculty and staff from  Academic Affairs and Student Affairs & Enrollment Management provided input throughout the duration of the academic year to determine the barriers to success for our first-year students. 

Their key recommendations fell into various categories: Academic and Social Engagement, Advising and Mentoring, Sense of Belonging, Organizational Structures and Bureaucracy, Communications and Professional Development for Faculty and Staff.  Among the high priority recommendations, the FoE steering committee recommended the institutionalizing of the first year experience collaboratively between Academic Affairs and SAEM.  In addition, this institutionalization of the first year experience is also part of efforts in terms of the campus Student Success and Graduation Initiative 2025.

Amongst the high priority recommendations, the steering committee identified the following twelve as the highest priority recommendations:

  1. A first year faculty director from Academic Affairs and a first year director from Student Affairs should be appointed/hired.
  2. The Academic Senate should create a first year experience steering committee consisting of campus members from Student Affairs, Academic Affairs and Associated Students. This committee should be chaired by the First Year Director from Student Affairs and the Faculty Director from Academic Affairs.
  3. The Academic Senate should pass a resolution supporting a campus philosophy for the first year which aligns with our mission.
  4. A first year peer-mentoring program should be developed and supported financially.
  5. An assessment plan should accompany any new FYE project.
  6. All first year students should take a first year seminar. The FY Steering committee should investigate various models for such a seminar and make recommendations to the Academic Senate on the requirements for such a course.
  7. New student orientation should be accessible for all incoming freshmen, in either an in person or virtual format.
  8. A communications plan for first year students and their families should be created.
  9. The University should recognize and reward excellence in FY teaching. First year courses should  be desirable teaching assignments that are sought after by excellent teachers.
  10. Professional Development should be made available for all faculty and staff who regularly  interact with first year students.
  11. The Center for Equity and Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CEETL) should provide specific programming around engagement of first year students in the classroom.
  12. The University must find ways to engage students outside the classroom. The academic and Nonacademic aspects of student life must be integrated.

For more information on First Year Experience at San Francisco State, visit the FYE website.

SF State's current graduation initiative includes:

  • Increasing our six-year graduation rate for first-time freshmen from 51% to 69%
  • Increasing our four-year graduation rate for first-time freshmen from 18% to 33%
  • Increasing our four-year graduation rate for transfer students from 76% to 86%
  • Increasing our two-year graduation rate for transfer students 37% to 49%
  • Eliminating the achievement gap

To meet the workforce demands of California’s economy, the CSU 2025 Initiative aims to graduate an additional 100,000 baccalaureate students, a total of more than one million, over the next ten years. SF State will contribute to this goal by increasing transfer and freshman graduation rates by an average of 11.25% and eliminating the opportunity gap.

Toward these ends, our campus plan is structured around six strategies:

  1.  Improved course availability and curriculum;
  2. Coordinated, intrusive and strategic advising;
  3. Broad accessibility and visibility of student success data;
  4. High-quality student experience in the first year of college for incoming freshmen;
  5. Effective, targeted support services to achieve educational equity (directed specifically at our first-generation, low-income and underrepresented students, with special attention to men of color); and
  6. Faculty hiring and development

Graduation Initiative 2025 is the CSU’s commitment to remove the obstacles to student success, enabling our students to experience transformation for themselves and a lasting impact on California.

Visit the Graduation Initiative website to learn more.

Metro is a campus-wide program that is based out of the College of Ethnic Studies. We offer learning communities ("Academies") in each of the colleges at SF State—Science & Engineering, Liberal & Creative Arts, Health & Social Sciences, Business, Education, and Ethnic Studies.

In the Foundations of Excellence summary for advising and mentoring it notes many of our students declare a major prematurely, without adequate guidance about appropriate majors that would align with their goals and skills, contributing further to low engagement, underperformance, and attrition. Improving our lower-division curriculum, advising for undeclared students and career counseling will address this need. The goal of a peer mentoring program is to support First Year Students in their transition to SF State, encourage successful academic and personal development, promote student involvement and enrich the connections of SF State students to each other, the college and the SF State campus.

Academic Affairs, together, with support from SSGI funding, continues to invest numerous efforts into the Undergraduate Advising Center to help undergraduate students enjoy a successful college experience. There is a wide array of support available to our students so they have a clear academic path to  graduation.

For more information please visit the advising website.

The San Francisco State Scholars program provides undergraduate students with an accelerated pathway to a graduate degree.  Students in this program pursue a bachelor’s and master’s degree simultaneously. This program allows students to earn graduate credit while in their junior and/or senior year, reducing the number of semesters required for completion of a master’s degree. The San Francisco State University Scholars program offers students additional career prospects, intellectual growth and the opportunity to deepen skills and research competencies. In addition, Scholars program students will receive a unique form of mentorship that is not often expected at a large urban university.

For more information please visit the Scholars program webpage.

The San Francisco State Experimental College (Exco) provides undergraduate students with an opportunity to design and teach a course based upon their own interests.  Exco student-teachers join a community of students who, together, deepen their understanding of the learning process through teaching other undergraduates who share their passions for the course topic. 

Through a guided process of monitored syllabi development, student recruitment, peer mentorship, and weekly meetings, Exco student-teachers authentically develop skills in leadership, organizing, communication, research, and discussion-facilitation as well as discovering the joys of the creative process of lesson plan development.

The mission of The Teagle Foundation is to advance the liberal arts, which we see as fundamental to meaningful work, engaged citizenship, and a fulfilling life. To translate our mission into practice, our grantmaking supports faculty who are committed to improving undergraduate education in the arts and sciences. 

We have found that when courses proliferate without good reason, or students face a bewildering array of options to meet requirements, the curriculum can hinder rather than help them achieve a broad and deep education. The reform of curricula that may have become bloated or incoherent is therefore essential if students are to be well served.

Curricular reform is never easy. Any serious effort involves many stakeholders and moving parts. Among other obstacles, institutions face financial constraints as they seek to improve learning, graduation rates, and the student experience. The typical additive approach to curricular design is not only unsustainable but may ill serve the goals of liberal arts education. Yet there are surprisingly few resources to help institutions navigate curricular reform, and faculty are rarely well prepared for their roles as stewards of the curriculum. As one Teagle grantee put it, "I didn't get my Ph.D. in general education." 

We hope that our latest evaluation report, "In Search of Curricular Coherence," which distills lessons learned from our "Faculty Planning and Curricular Coherence" initiative,  helps to close this gap in the literature. We partnered with Madeleine Green, who brought her deep experience from her 35-year career at the American Council of Education, to gather these lessons across our funded projects in this initiative. The projects focused on the role that curriculum plays as a driver of both quality and cost in higher education and how faculty could work together to create more coherent and efficient curriculum with goals, pathways, and outcomes that are clear to students. Participating faculty gained a wider perspective on their course offerings and how they strengthen--or detract from--the overall curriculum. The strategies they developed to promote curricular coherence took various forms, including efforts to curb course proliferation, develop themed and linked courses, and strengthen integrative advising in order to help students see the connections among their curricular and co-curricular experiences.

Here are two insights from the evaluation report:  

  • Faculty typically approach the charge of developing more coherent curriculum with one of two assumptions: that students must take the lead in integrating their curricular and co-curricular experiences, or that it is the responsibility of faculty to shape the curriculum into a coherent whole on behalf of students. These attitudes are not mutually exclusive, but because they are usually tacit rather than explicit in the institutional culture, they can make it difficult to achieve a shared understanding among faculty, and between faculty and students, of what a sensible undergraduate education should be.
  • Curricular reform is a learning process for everyone involved. Institutions need to consider how their efforts to improve the experience of their students are tied to opportunities for faculty to develop their knowledge and understanding of how and what students should learn. Focusing on such questions can foster a climate of inquiry and learning, especially when institutions provide opportunities for a scholarly approach to the issues, involving colleagues within the department, the institution and across partner institutions.

We hope this report helps campuses overcome common barriers as they embark on their own curricular reform efforts. We extend our deepest appreciation to our grantees, who brought great creativity and dedication to their work, and without whom this report on lessons for the field would not be possible.