My August newsletter

Aug. 29, 2014

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

The last month has flown by, and though it feels like it went too fast, summer’s end is indeed approaching. New and returning students are arriving on some of our campuses, bringing with them the excitement and energy that fuels UC. I’m looking forward to getting started on a new academic year, and I hope you are too.

One of my highest goals as your President is to make sure that UC attracts and supports the best students and faculty in the world, whatever their background. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been involved in several projects and initiatives that support that goal, and I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you about a few of them.

Earlier this month, I met with two students from Tuskegee University who spent their summer doing research at UCSF under the mentorship of UC professors. The students were here as part of the University of California-Historically Black Colleges and Universities Initiative (UC-HBCU), which funds competitive grants to UC faculty to encourage students from these schools to pursue graduate degrees, and ultimately academic careers, at UC. The initiative also aims to build and strengthen UC’s partnership with these distinguished institutions.

I was proud to provide $2 million for fellowships over three years to this initiative and I’m pleased to report that it has had, and continues to produce, tangible results. Since 2012, UC has hosted 147 summer interns from HBCUs at nine campuses across many disciplines. To date, 13 former UC-HBCU interns have enrolled in UC doctoral programs with financial support from the initiative.

The UC-HBCU initiative is just one piece of a larger strategy aimed at ensuring that UC has the most innovative and productive graduate students and faculty possible. I believe this goal can only be achieved by bringing the best students from as wide a variety of backgrounds as possible to UC to pursue their academic dreams. The strategy to build a strong and diverse pipeline of scholars includes other elements, such as the Eugene Cota-Robles Fellowships for PhD students and the President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, to name just two. I believe these programs, and others that increase graduate student and faculty diversity, contribute directly to UC’s academic excellence by enlivening debate in academic departments, pushing scholars to confront new ways of thinking and contributing to a more rigorous intellectual environment all across the UC system.

Another way we can help build a robust academic pipeline is to reach out to people who may not think UC is affordable or accessible to them. By encouraging all high school and community college students to think of themselves as potential university students, we broaden the pool of qualified UC candidates, ensure an even stronger student body and help fulfill our mission of public service to California.

Accordingly, at the beginning of the summer I started writing a column for New America Media, the country’s largest collaboration of ethnic news organizations. Each month, the column is translated into four languages and distributed widely. My goal for the column is to help give UC a voice in a new set of communities and to broaden interest in the University. You can read one of my columns here.

As the national debate over the importance of a college degree heated up in recent months, I’ve been reflecting on the role of public universities. I was pleased to be able to contribute an essay to the Washington Monthly in which I explain why it’s so important that public colleges and universities be protected as an investment in our nation’s future.

The essay was published in conjunction with the magazine’s annual university rankings, the only national ratings that attempt to measure the public good that colleges and universities produce for the country. As the Washington Monthly’s editors say in their introduction to the rankings, the nation as a whole benefits when universities generate research that helps the economy grow and when they lift lower-income people into the middle class.

So I was delighted when, measured by these standards, four of the top five schools in the country were UCs (UC San Diego was No. 1) and nine of our campuses made the top 100. Congratulations to all of us for this recognition, which highlights a key aspect of our success as a university system.

I want to end this month’s newsletter by telling you about a wonderful trip I took late last month to Yosemite National Park. My two-day visit allowed me a first-hand look at UC’s valuable partnership with one of the country’s most stunning landscapes. It was inspiring to meet students in UC Merced’s Yosemite Leadership Program and fascinating to learn about research UC is involved in that will help preserve Yosemite and the rest of our nation’s wilderness areas for future generations.

Standing atop Sentinel Dome looking out at Yosemite Valley was a reminder of how precious our nation’s natural resources are and provided me with a moment of real pride in the important environmental work being done at Merced and across the UC system. That work, which covers subjects from water preservation to wildfire management and everything in between, is a credit to all of us at UC.

Thanks very much for taking the time to read this newsletter. If you’d like to share an idea or comment, please feel free to email me at janet@ucop.edu. And please pass this newsletter on to your friends and colleagues so they can learn about UC too.

Yours very truly,

Janet Napolitano
President