My February newsletter

February 7, 2016

Dear friends and colleagues,

In my last newsletter, I reflected on the many inspiring accomplishments of our students, faculty, staff and alumni in 2015. As noteworthy as the past year was, I’m even more excited about 2016, which has started off with good news in several key areas:

Student enrollment and housing

Keeping UC accessible for our talented young Californians is one of my top priorities, and our plan to boost in-state student enrollment has resulted in encouraging increases in both freshman and transfer student applications. As UC expands to accommodate a growing student body, one of our most important challenges is to sustain the academic excellence that makes us the nation’s preeminent public research university. To that end, we are hiring additional faculty members, evaluating programs and looking for the best ways to create more UC graduates.

As we increase student enrollment, we also must make sure that our students have access to affordable housing. This can be challenging since many of our campuses are located in expensive real estate markets. To address this critical issue, I have created the President’s Student Housing Initiative, to be led by Chief Financial Officer Nathan Brostrom in close collaboration with colleagues on all 10 campuses.

The initial goal will be to add at least 14,000 student beds by the 2020 academic year, with a mix of undergraduate and graduate housing. We are looking at every means possible to speed up the completion of new housing. Much of the funding for this construction will be external, and a top priority will be to keep the resulting housing affordable for UC students.

Sustainability

At last month’s UC Board of Regents meeting, the UC Office of the President’s sustainability team presented the 12th Annual Report on Sustainable Practices. The report highlighted the progress we are making with our comprehensive sustainability program, ranging from carbon neutrality to food sourcing to water conservation.

Our recent advances in renewable energy are especially noteworthy. UC Davis has opened the largest solar energy installation of any campus in the country, allowing UC to surpass its original on-site renewable energy goal by over 300 percent. By the end of this year, two large solar farms in Fresno County should come online, both beneficiaries of our commitment to invest $1 billion over the next five years in climate change and sustainability solutions.

In recognition of our efforts, the State of California granted UC approximately $6.7 million in incentive payments in 2015 from the statewide Energy Efficiency Partnership program to implement 72 energy efficiency projects. These projects are projected to save approximately 23 million kilowatt-hours of electricity and 1.2 million therms of natural gas annually.

We’ve also made great progress in our food sourcing and water conservation programs. In 2015, the university shifted $28.7 million (23 percent of total annual food expenditure) toward local, fair, ecologically sound and humane food sources. Seven of our 10 campuses have already exceeded the 2020 goal of reducing water use by 20 percent, leading us to increase the goal to 36 percent by 2025.

Our sustainability efforts are not complete without the robust participation of our students. Our Cool Campus Challenge, a friendly energy-saving competition, drew 19,000 participants from our 10 campuses. Three dozen UC students have received Carbon Neutrality Initiative fellowships for the 2015&8211;2016 academic year, supporting undergraduate and graduate projects that help the UC system move closer to carbon neutrality. In the fall of 2015, each UC campus awarded the first ever Faculty Climate Action Champions, a recognition for a faculty member that comes with a $25,000 award to be used for a project involving students in community-engaged research related to climate change.

Innovation

I’d like to close this newsletter with an observation. As I look at the year ahead, and beyond, and I consider what underlies virtually all that we do, one word comes to the fore: Ingenuity.

UC’s ingenuity is on display in finding solutions to climate change and aiming for carbon neutrality by 2025. It’s found in the university’s Global Food Initiative, which has helped spark a national dialogue about food.

And ingenuity is inherent to our Innovation and Entrepreneurship initiative. This initiative is creating an unprecedented competitive environment for our faculty to find solutions to society’s challenges, as exemplified by the 2016 winners of the President’s Research Catalyst Award. Our excellence has not gone unnoticed: In December, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Vivek Ranadivé announced the creation of a new venture fund that will invest in innovation opportunities emerging from the University of California. And Forbes magazine recently chose 40 people with ties to the University of California as being among “America’s most important young entrepreneurs, creative leaders and brightest stars” under the age of 30.

The boundless ingenuity of our faculty, staff and students ensures our University will meet the challenges ahead.

Thanks for reading and please email me at janet@ucop.edu if you’d like to share an idea or comment. Feel free to pass this letter onto friends and colleagues and to encourage them to sign up for future newsletters if they’d like.

Yours very truly,

Janet Napolitano
President