Letter From the President
Dear ITU Students, Faculty, Staff, Alumni and Community,
A YEAR OF SUCCESSFUL REBUILDING
It has been a full year (since October 15, 2019) when I was reappointed President and CEO of ITU by the Board of Trustees and was also reinstated to ITU’s Board at that time. In this period, ITU has gone through tremendous change. Our staff and faculty have worked as a coordinated unit, to improve continuing operations, while making dramatic refinements to serve our current students, our alumni, and the greater community in a financially sound way.
THE COVID FACTOR
With COVID, 2020 has been a year like no other. The global impact of the pandemic has pushed many businesses into insolubility and forced the restructuring of how all companies plan, execute, and operate in their respective business environments. However, in crisis, opportunities also appear to the nimble and alert.
SCHOOL-WIDE REVAMP OF ITU
In this “sleepy” time, ITU has upgraded and streamlined our personnel, consolidated and advanced our technology platform with added functionality in payment services combined with course listing, so students have an interactive influence on which courses are ultimately offered each term. As of Summer Term 2020, ITU launched a completely restructured Master’s Degree program that optimizes our students’ competencies in “topic-focused” areas that are trending in the Silicon Valley industry. This allows “deadwood” topics to be dropped, as quickly as Silicon Valley changes technology. We have reintroduced “ITU Presents” — a TED TALK-styled course — showcasing the movers and shakers in Silicon Valley with many celebrity expert speakers sharing their insights directly with students. The class is formatted for intimate student Q&A interaction with the speaker with each talk. We have turned up the project-based “Capstone” course to highlight technologies and entrepreneurial projects mastered by ITU students. The Capstone course combines the latest technologies learned at ITU, professionally applied to real-world industry projects, and executed by small group teams of our graduating students. All these implemented changes give our students a direct connection with Silicon Valley industry leaders and the latest tech skills trending in high-in-demand, highly paid, low-in-supply topic areas. Students benefit from project-based interaction with their fellow ITU classmates across different disciplines, consolidating future career “partners” for all graduating students.
ITU TECH PLATFORM UPGRADE
Leveraging off the expertise of our own faculty/staff, ITU has now consolidated the use of six disparate software platforms across all our departments, into one, our own natively developed ITU EMS (Educational Management System) platform. This incredible accomplishment was forged by ITU’s CTO, Dr. Mamoun Samaha, working with ITU staff and directing a handful of talented developers.
In a whirlwind of efficiency, as I write this update, ITU’s Spring Term 2021 registration is being processed for the first time with our own new integrated proprietary software system that merges student payment with our dynamically generated Registrar’s Course listing. We’ve eliminated the many sources of human input error in our past methodology, and transparently displayed our student’s payment status as transactions are processed in real-time. Of course, with all new software, we expect bugs to pop-up which may result in short delays and challenges, but our CTO’s leadership is solid, our development team dedicated and ready to generate quickly debugged solutions. This will ultimately result in an operating platform created with the latest technology, serving our current students with transparent accuracy, and with the capacity to scale ITU educational delivery exponentially, with a consistency verified by metrics gathered and built directly into the system. With COVID sequestering worldwide, globally all students are forced to learn via online methodologies, which means ITU is poised to become a leader of both quality and innovation in the industry-focused global online training field.
WSCUC “SHOW CAUSE” STATUS
Three days after new leadership was reinstated into ITU, WSCUC issued a “Show Cause” action letter to ITU (October 18, 2019), automatically potentially removing accreditation from 12 months of the date of the letter. Procedurally, following this action, ITU hosted a WSCUC four-person visiting panel team in January of 2020 to scrutinize and evaluate ITU’s operational integrity. Following those results, ITU met with the WSCUC Commissioners in February of 2020.
The following link accesses the WSCUC letter sent to ITU describing their concerns for ITU’s stakeholders: * https://itu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/CAL_191018_ITU_ShowCause-final.pdf
In brief, the impending termination of ITU’s accreditation on Oct 18, 2020, has been extended by the WSCUC Commissioners, carrying forth ITU’s “Show Cause status” to 2021. This means that ITU extends and retains its accredited status a full year, through to October 18, 2021. During this period a second Special Visit Panel team meeting with ITU is scheduled for May of 2021, followed by a second meeting with the WSCUC Commissioner’s in June of 2021, after this, WSCUS will declare ITU accreditation with respect to ITU’s “Show Cause” status at that time.
Though ITU was disappointed WSCUC did not lift the “Show Cause” status last February 2020, with our aggressive progress, ITU will have developed into a shining model to follow — for all WSCUC universities — by June of 2021. We are back on track to fulfill ITU’s founding vision and have already rectified the fundamental financial mismanagement of the $30M loss created by the 2015-2019 executive/board leadership, to the point of reaching self-sustainability within one year of new leadership direction. Our students have communicated their experience at ITU, documented by the WSCUC Panel Team, which verifies that since October 2019, ITU has improved our service and quality of training to our students in every metrically discernable way, and continue on an upward path of improvement that invigorates both our students and motivates our staff.
Greg Li, retired San Francisco attorney, with many years’ deep experience in corporate litigation, corporate structuring, and guiding and defending non-profit organizations, has joined the ITU Board in August 2020. Greg’s legal guidance will enable the revision and upgrading of ITU’s By-Laws to comply with national and California State requirements. Greg’s litigating background will also preempt harm to ITU by corrupt individuals or institutions, as it had been vulnerable to in the past.
Dr. Stefan Al, already teaching his second term at ITU, having served on the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, will also join the ITU Board in the first or second quarter of 2021. Dr. Al contributed to the world-recognized design of the Canton TV Tower (the world’s tallest) which shows his renowned pioneering industry expertise in the architecture and design domain. But Dr. Al also has extensive experience in e-learning, having co-authored multiple online courses, one notably in Coursera, which had over 70k students. Aside from teaching at ITU, Dr. Al has been consulting with ITU, developing standards with ITU’s online team on the development of ITU’s mobile platform, such as the functions, operations, and student learning/designing tools to be included. Dr. Al is currently exploring the development of new Departments at ITU, such as Smart City Building and Digital Design and Manufacturing.
Dr. Amal Mougharbel has moved from the Business Department Chair position, in which she attained independent accreditation by ACBSP to filling the Chief Financial Operator position for ITU. Dr. Mougharbel has instituted standard financial improvements and practices to bring financial stability and standardized best-practice routines to how ITU budgets, controls and manages our important financial resources. Having inherited a financial mess from an outgoing CFO who did not even hand over signatory rights to ITU’s accounts, Dr. Mougharbel has, after one year, completed all the lagging financial reporting and audit preparations of the past administration to be fully up to date with ITU’s current financial status and reporting compliance.
The Notice of Intent to Withdraw (NOIW) levied on the previous administration of ITU from the Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP), a department of Homeland Security dealing with F1 Student Visas has been settled as of the first week of January/2021. Formal announcements of ITU’s resolved, clean status with SEVP will be announced later this month on ITU’s website.
Chris Brown, a seasoned HR/Corporate Finance expert, has been retained by ITU. Chris has been and continues to resolve, clean up, and make ITU to comply with all areas of legal exposure to ITU as an institution, to include staff training, reporting compliance, termination procedures, and resolution of any current and future HR, financial, national, and state regulatory issues. Additionally, Chris applied and successfully attained ITU’s first PPP Loan and is currently working to apply for Congress’ new allocation of national funding for worker’s payment protection to American institutions.
The first change new executive leadership made in Oct/2019 was to create the Office of Compliance, Directed by Philip Ng. Philip is the school’s “BackUp” — to safeguard the institution — verifying that all matters are legally, properly, and ethically handled whenever challenges arise. ITU’s Compliance Officer ensures a channel of communication directly to all parties in an area of conflict and represents ITU’s commitment towards transparent cooperation towards optimizing solutions when possible.
ITU’s main purpose is to deliver top-notch industry-relevant training and education to our students. This core function will continue, improve, and expand in the new year. Throughout 2021 and moving forward, the entire staff and management are committed to having a “Student Service” centered mentality. As Dr. Cory often stated in the past, ITU’s goal is to become the “Best Loved University in Silicon Valley!” Once our foundations are built and tested locally, ITU will continue to spread our education globally. Come join us on this worth-while and impactful journey!
My last comment to the ITU Community is that ITU is not only a wonderful institution but it is also my Family’s Legacy, I am fully committed to reaching the original global goals and founding vision of the institution. In just one year, we have seen ITU go from a plummeting path to certain bankruptcy, to rising up to a state of healthy institutional self-sustainability, with a highly motivated and capable staff determined to make ITU soar. Just wait and see what ITU accomplishes after the completion of this new year number two …
Thank you for your continued support and belief in ITU!
Stick with us!
President and CEO
* ITU Response to WSCUC Order of Show Cause