My September newsletter

September 24, 2014

Dear friends and colleagues,

My first year as President of the University of California has gone by so fast. It feels like it was just a few weeks ago that I arrived for my first campus visit at UC Merced, to sit in on a biology class that started after 9 pm.

That was my initial experience of the sometimes startling, often humbling, and always inspiring commitment that characterizes UC’s students, no matter which of our campuses they attend. From undergraduates who are willing to go to class at all hours of the day and night at Merced to post-doctoral fellows conducting research at UCSF that may one day help cure a deadly disease, UC’s students routinely demonstrate a remarkable passion for learning.

Since I arrived a year ago this week to begin serving as the 20th President of UC, I’ve seen that passion demonstrated day in and day out not only by our students, but also by our distinguished faculty and our dedicated staff.

During my first year as president, I visited every campus, all three national laboratories, and as many related UC locations as possible. On each trip I saw professors in action, bringing to bear their own energy and enthusiasm on all those who sat in the classroom. By some magical alchemy, these professors are creating new knowledge and educating their students, not just passing on information.

These faculty members taught me a lot during my visits. They taught me about the importance of basic research, which, while it may not be easy to describe and might not yield immediate results, is nevertheless fundamental to the University’s success. They also taught me that in addition to teaching and conducting research, faculty members have a seat at the leadership table and that shared governance is a key value at UC.

I’ve also been fortunate to meet and work with many of our extraordinary staff. These committed public servants – gardeners, cooks, custodians, administrative assistants and policy analysts to name just a few – are essential to the smooth functioning of the University. Their work may not be glamorous, but without it our shared efforts to carry out UC’s missions of teaching, conducting research, and serving the public would falter.

Those missions, and our commitment to them, are what separate UC from the pack. We demonstrate that commitment every day, as shown in the unequalled number of students we enroll who are low-income, come from underrepresented groups, or are first-generation college students.

This past year has also given me the opportunity to launch initiatives that highlight UC’s bold approach to solving some of the world’s thorniest problems. One I’m particularly excited about is the UC Global Food Initiative, which aims to harness UC’s powerful resources to put the world on a path to feeding itself nutritiously and sustainably. Another is our historic purchase of solar power – the most ever by a U.S. higher education institution – which is part of my initiative to make UC carbon neutral by 2025.

As I embark on my second year as your president, I’ll keep listening and learning, and working to be sure UC remains the top public research university in the nation. In short, I’ll keep being the best advocate I can for UC.

Because along with everything else I’ve learned this year, I’ve come to understand just how important it is to serve as UC’s number one advocate. In that role my primary responsibility, which I keep in mind every single day, is to illuminate the vital connection between the University of California and the people it serves.

If I can do that, I’ll consider my time as President of the University of California a success.

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