My November newsletter

November 21, 2016

Dear friends and colleagues,

Like many of you, I’m digesting the results of the presidential election and considering what they may portend for UC and the country in the years ahead.

I know many in our community are concerned about feeling respected and safe on our campuses. I, along with our 10 chancellors, issued a public statement after the election reaffirming our absolute commitment to supporting all members of our community and adhering to UC’s Principles Against Intolerance. As our Principles make clear, the university embraces diversity and strives to foster an environment in which all are included and given an equal opportunity to learn and explore. We will continue to pursue and protect these principles now and in the future, and I urge students, faculty, staff and others to do the same.

One of our most immediate actions has been to begin evaluating how our students and campuses could be affected by the incoming administration’s potential immigration policies, including the possible elimination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. We have formed a working group to work through DACA and other immigration issues that affect our students and other University community members, and I will meet soon with our undocumented student coordinators to discuss how best to protect our students.

I am proud that UC stands for diversity, inclusion, and tolerance. I will continue to work to convey that positive message to others in our state and nation.

November is “Opportunity Month”

It’s more important than ever that we preserve our core values, expand opportunity, and continue to create and share knowledge in the public interest. The opportunity afforded by UC is a life changer, and it’s one that our young people deserve.

November is application month at UC, or as I call it “Opportunity Month.” That’s why regents, chancellors and I have been busy traveling around the state, reaching out to thousands of California students to let them know a UC education is both attainable and affordable.

Yes, getting into UC means working hard, but it’s doable and worth it. Two out of three California students who apply are admitted to a UC campus.

And once admitted, a UC education is affordable. People are often shocked to learn that 57 percent of our California students receive enough financial aid to fully cover tuition. Seventy-five percent pay less than the sticker price. Nearly half our undergraduates finish college with no student debt whatsoever.

Our financial aid program is among the most generous in the country. If your family earns less than $80,000 a year, UC’s Blue and Gold plan covers all tuition and fees. Additional aid is available to help pay for books, food and housing, and other expenses to help students complete their education. Families who earn $80,000 to $150,000 annually are eligible for the Middle Class Scholarship Program, and low-cost loans can make borrowing manageable.

This is the second year that we’ve stepped up our outreach. Last year, we committed to enrolling 5,000 additional Californians this fall, a goal that we’ve already exceeded. I’m proud that this year’s entering class is our most diverse ever, and one of our strongest academically.

We’re opening our doors even wider, with plans to add another 2,500 students each in fall 2017 and fall 2018. That’s more than 10,000 additional California undergraduates in just three years.

As we expand enrollment, we also want to make our students feel welcomed and supported once they arrive. More than 40 percent of our students are the first generation in their families to go to college. For them, the first weeks of school can be particularly daunting as they try to navigate an unfamiliar landscape of academic culture. Those who don’t have ready mentors in parents and family are more likely to feel out of place.

At UC Irvine, the First Generation Faculty Initiative aims to ease these students’ transition by connecting them to professors who were themselves first-generation students when they were in college. These professors serve as mentors who students can go to for advice and help as they settle into campus. It’s a wonderful program and one we plan to replicate at other campuses.

Investing in women entrepreneurs

Even as we focus on student outreach, we’ve also been busy advancing our Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative.

During Global Entrepreneurship Week, we’re launching the “I am a UC Entrepreneur” campaign and inviting UC students, faculty, staff, postdocs and alumni to submit a 30-second video on what makes them an entrepreneur. We’ll use these videos to highlight and publicize individual stories, as well as the breadth and depth of entrepreneurial efforts across the UC system.

Startups and venture capitalism are largely male-dominated enterprises, but at UC, women entrepreneurs are emerging as a powerful force. We’re proud of that and doing everything we can to foster a diverse entrepreneurial culture.

UC has more than two dozen incubators and accelerators across the system. At UC San Diego, which has the highest share of female STEM graduates in the nation, mystartupXX, an accelerator that supports women-inclusive startups, helps teach team building, prototype development, and provide space and networking opportunities. It also provides women entrepreneurs with one-on-one coaching sessions with mentors as well as pep talks for investor meetings. Similarly, ChickLabs at UC Irvine offers mentoring to female entrepreneurs and helps their enterprises get funded and scale.

UC entrepreneurs, male and female, are working on innovations that aim to improve our quality of life, and that’s something worth sharing with the public. Last month, several female UC entrepreneurs showcased their innovations at a TEDWomen Experience event. The startups ranged from a gaming company that uses virtual reality to help people overcome trauma to an exoskeleton that lets people with disabilities transcend their wheelchairs.

I can’t wait to see the other innovations our entrepreneurs will develop.

Dinner with former UC leaders

Former UC presidents

Left to right: Mark Yudof, Dick Atkinson, Janet Napolitano, David Gardener, Bob Dynes

Lastly, I recently had the privilege of spending an evening with four former UC presidents: Mark Yudof, Bob Dynes, Dick Atkinson and David Gardener. We had a substantive and wide-ranging conversation. We talked about some of the challenges UC has faced over decades and the substantial progress that UC has made. We all noted and expressed great appreciation and respect for UC’s resilience, and are proud that we’ve been able to maintain UC’s tradition of accessibility and excellence in the face of economic recessions and an ever-growing student body.

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