My September newsletter

September 28, 2015

Dear friends and colleagues:

The dawn of a new academic year is always exciting. There is a feeling of anticipation in the air.

We start this academic year off with re-affirmation of the broad value of the University of California and the education it provides.

The new White House College Scorecard unveiled this month shows that UC is not only a good investment for students and their families, but for the federal government and the state. According to the scorecard, UC grads rank among the highest in the nation when it comes to six-year graduation rates and median earnings within 10 years of enrolling. Five campuses — Berkeley, Los Angeles, Davis, Irvine and San Diego — were listed by the Department of Education as among the 15 public colleges in the top 10 percent in both measures.

Also released this month was U.S. News and World Report’s annual rankings of American colleges and universities. UC Berkeley topped the list of best public universities, with UCLA a close second. UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, UC San Diego and UC Davis were all among the top 11. No other state had more than two universities among the top 11 publics.

UC campuses also have placed prominently in recent rankings of world universities, universities that serve the public interest and those that deliver a great education at an affordable price.

It is gratifying to see recognition time and again of the hard work and commitment to excellence that define our faculty, students and staff.

In that vein, congratulations also goes out to UC Irvine professor Vicki Lynn Ruiz and UC alums Alice Waters and Fedwa Malti-Douglas for being among the 10 recipients of the 2014 National Humanities Medal bestowed this month by the White House. The medal honors individuals and organizations whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the human experience, broadened citizens’ engagement with history and literature or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to cultural resources.

Ruiz, a Distinguished Professor of history and Chicano/Latino studies, was honored for an academic career of reclaiming the stories of Latinas who have fought for civil and labor rights. Waters, a Berkeley alum and founder the landmark restaurant Chez Panisse, was recognized for her efforts to promote gardens and kitchens as interactive classrooms for academic programs. She has been a valued partner in our UC Food Initiative. Malti-Douglas, a UCLA alum and emerita professor at Indiana University, was rewarded for her work in Arabic literature.

Finally, I’m pleased to provide you with progress reports on several important initiatives.

First is our effort to accelerate the transfer of new technologies from the lab bench to the marketplace. Last month, we announced the first primeUC competition, which will award $300,000 in seed funding to promising start-ups in the health sciences.

In collaboration with Johnson & Johnson Innovation, we have invited start-ups related to therapeutics, consumer health, medical devices and diagnostics to submit applications for funding. We plan this to be first of several such competitions that will be opened up to fields beyond the health sciences.

To be eligible a company must be founded by a UC faculty or staff member, or be managed or founded by a UC student, postdoctoral fellow or alum. Among the applicants, twenty finalists will be selected for the final competition in December. There will be one award of $150,000 and three of $50,000 each.

As I talked about in my most recent LinkedIn post, prioritizing and nurturing innovation and entrepreneurship is not only integral to UC’s mission and service to the public, but to maintaining California’s vitality as well.

I was pleased to see that the value we place on innovation was recognized earlier this month when Reuters ranked UC as one of the most innovative universities in the world. Among other things, the list recognizes institutions like UC for creating useful technology and having the greatest economic impact. One example: The UC system is one of the leaders in direct investment in startups.

On another front, a Carbon Neutrality Summit is being planned for October at UC San Diego. The summit is part of our ongoing commitment to make UC the first major university system to emit net zero greenhouse gases from its buildings and vehicle fleet by 2025. The summit will focus on scalable solutions for achieving significant greenhouse gas reductions. It will feature state and federal officials, corporate sustainability leaders, green technology entrepreneurs and the latest UC research on carbon and climate mitigation.

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to share an idea or comment, feel free to email me at And please pass this note on to friends and colleagues you think might be interested. If they like it, encourage them to sign up for future newsletters.

Yours very truly,

Janet Napolitano