Plan to transform UCLA for 21st century
Chancellor Gene block announces the long-term strategy that UCLA will take to advance its place as a major university.
"We must ensure that UCLA remains an amazing place."
By Cynthia Lee
Originally published in UCLA Today
Chancellor Gene Block presented UCLA's strategic plan to the UC Board of Regents on Wednesday, Jan. 20, laying out a blueprint that will take the university to its centennial in 2019 and beyond, defining the role of a public research university for the 21st century.
The strategic plan, a draft of which was shared with the campus community in May, sets out key objectives based on four core priorities: academic excellence, diversity, civic engagement and financial security. Although UCLA faces formidable economic challenges — a $100 million shortfall beyond what is being covered by temporary employee salary cuts — it would be a mistake not to plan for a more stable long-term future, campus leaders point out.
The plan is also being shared with various external groups and alumni in order to invite their comments. So it will continue to evolve, although its basic themes and directions are unlikely to change, they said.
Here's how the campus will be transformed:
- UCLA will become a residential academic community by bringing faculty, staff and graduate students closer to campus, a goal that will help with recruitment and retention of the best faculty;
- The campus will be an exemplar for problem-based teaching and research through local and international engagement;
- UCLA will be a leader in fostering new forms of collaborative, multidisciplinary research and teaching;
- The university will make selective investments in critical programs to lead in knowledge building and academic excellence.
To further its tradition of world-class scholarship and teaching, UCLA will continue to build on its culture of collaboration in teaching and research, as exemplified by the Freshman Cluster Courses and the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI), jointly run with UC Santa Barbara.
At UCLA, CNSI has become a major intersection where faculty from the College of Letters and Science, medicine, public health, law, management, the arts and architecture and the International Institute work together on research involving energy, the environment, health and medicine, and information technology.
"CNSI members have brought in $129 million for collaborative work using CNSI facilities," Block told the regents, who met this week in San Francisco. "They were responsible for 40 percent of all invention disclosures at UCLA in 2008-09, and they have published more than 4,000 journal articles. This is a center that has really taken off."
The chancellor identified other "targets of opportunity for distinction," such as the Institute of the Environment, the Center for Society and Genetics, the Luskin Center for Innovation, the Digital Cultural Mapping program and the Wireless Health Institute.
There will also be new initiatives in instruction, including the "capstone" experience, where students, before graduating, will be challenged in one final exercise to show their ability to integrate disciplinary knowledge. Developing such experiences "will be a major instructional goal over the next decade," Block said.
Better quality of life
To support academic excellence requires that UCLA solve some critical problems in order to recruit and retain top faculty — housing costs, access to child care and high-quality public schools. And the campus has been making inroads on all three fronts, the chancellor reported.
Having surveyed staff and faculty about their housing needs, campus leaders are currently developing a plan that will include construction of new rental housing on campus for some of UCLA's new faculty. Plans are also in the works for adding capacity to UCLA's child care program, Block said.
UCLA faculty and staff in education are also working to improve good neighborhood schools through its TIE-INS program, schools near Westwood that the children of faculty and staff can attend, no matter where they live. In its first year, 57 faculty and staff families have enrolled 74 children in these select schools.
While UCLA will continue to strive to improve student diversity, it's also vital to achieve faculty diversity. "I believe that diverse senior leadership is essential to this endeavor," Block said.
Since he became chancellor more than two years ago, the campus has recruited eight academic deans, two of them women and, with the recent approval of Dr. A. Eugene Washington as dean of the Geffen School of Medicine on Thursday, three of them African American.
"Unfortunately," the chancellor added, "gains in faculty diversity will be slowed by our financial situation. We have had to restrict faculty searches to 25 campuswide."
In terms of diversity studies, however, UCLA's four ethnic studies research centers, celebrating their 40th anniversary this year, have opened up new areas of research on ethnic communities. The centers have been critical to the recruitment of diverse faculty across the campus and to the development of a pipeline for minority scholars, he said.
Between 2005 and 2009, the centers raised $10 million in research grants and gifts and now house six endowed chairs. Between 1998 and 2008, the centers awarded a total of 1,393 ethnic studies bachelor's and master's degrees. "Impressively at UCLA, more Ph.D. dissertations focus on ethnic study topics than at any other university," Block said.
UCLA has historically been committed to civic engagement; the UCLA Anderson Forecast and the Center for Community Partnership are two examples of such programs.
"As part of our strategic plan, we are attempting to move civic engagement to a new level in areas where we believe UCLA can make a critical contribution," Block said.
One area where this is already happening is in one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in California, home to many low-income Latino families living in the area of Koreatown, Pico-Union and Wilshire Boulevard. Marshalling its experts and resources in the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies and elsewhere on campus, UCLA partnered with the Los Angeles Unified School District and opened the new UCLA Community School last fall.
"It offers outstanding education to a diverse student body and stands as a symbol of UCLA's commitment to the children of Los Angeles," Block told the regents.
Another new initiative that energized the entire campus, including 4,300 new students, was launched last September by the new UCLA Volunteer Center. On Volunteer Day, thousands of students, staff and faculty were ferried to eight sites all over Los Angeles to work on beautification and restoration projects at state and city parks, public schools and other locations. The Volunteer Center is an online resource that connects faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends with service opportunities.
While the loss of millions in state funds means that UCLA needs to become a leaner, more focused institution, Chancellor Block said he is confident that when the campus emerges from this crisis, it will be in a position of strength after academic programs are restructured and costs are cut to obtain efficiencies without sacrificing academic quality.
"It will likely be an institution with more self-supporting academic programs; perhaps one or two financially independent professional schools; some increase in out-of-state, out-of-country undergraduates; a more extensive program to capitalize on intellectual property; and expanded efforts to maximize our philanthropic capacity," Block said.
Campus leaders expect to undertake another major fund-raising campaign to culminate in 2019 on the campus' 100th anniversary. "Our new academic strategic plan will inform the fund-raising effort and direct the campaign towards our top academic priorities," the chancellor said.
In summing up his presentation, Block said, "We must ensure that UCLA remains an amazing place."
To read more details in the plan, go here.
Published: Friday, January 22, 2010