STATE OF THE CAMPUS: Big initiatives on the horizon
By Dave Jones
Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi delivered her State of the Campus address Feb. 28, saying there is much to feel good about and more to come this year as the university continues to turn challenges into opportunities.
One of them — the 2020 Initiative — has been under study for more than a year, and the chancellor declared in her prepared remarks: “The time is right to move forward with our plan for thoughtful and careful growth between now and 2020.”
Katehi said she sees another opportunity in her proposal to establish a World Food Center here. Capitalizing on “our standing as the leading university in the world when it comes to food-related issues,” the center would be the world leader in “innovation and research on how to feed and nourish a growing planet in an environmentally sustainable way,” she said in her prepared remarks for the Academic Senate’s Representative Assembly.
“Our goal is to raise a $100 million endowment, which would help provide the budget needed to get the food center up and running,” Katehi said in her fourth State of the Campus address. “UC Davis is positioned to become the university of the 21st century and I see the world food center as a key component of that vision.”
In her hourlong presentation, the chancellor outlined other initiatives to enhance the undergraduate student experience and reduce time to degree; improve technology transfer to make a bigger impact on economic development in the region and state; boost diversity among faculty, staff and students; and convene an online education summit “so we can come up with a plan and a strategy that is right for us.”
Besides reducing time to degree, Katehi discussed the idea of a three-year degree program as a way to ease college costs for students. As envisioned, UC Davis would work with selected high schools to engage students in college-level work in their senior year, after which the students would attend community college for one year, then come to UC Davis for two years.
Speaking to 50 or so senate members in the Student Community Center’s multipurpose room, she commended the faculty for their achievements (17 professors, for example, won election last year to the American Association for the Advancement of Science) and rejected any notion that faculty are underworked (a topic that is expected to come up when Gov. Jerry Brown joins the rest of the UC regents at this month’s board meeting).
Katehi said a “supermajority” of faculty members are hard working and dedicated to their students, dedicated to their research and dedicated to the benefits that their research can bring to the world.
As an example, she cited the Department of Psychology and its 38 faculty members: 100 percent manage active labs and research teams, and more than 98 percent hold active research grants and are principal investigators on more than 100 grants worth more than $50 million.
She continued: “The department is highly ranked, it is our largest undergraduate major, and 16,000 students take psychology courses here every year. Hundreds of them get hands-on training in psychological science each year through internships in research labs.”
Katehi lauded the UC Davis Health System for its world-class care, federally designated “comprehensive” status for the cancer center, an “A” grade for hospital safety — and research like the work that Professor Sally Rogers has done on autism, meriting recognition by TIME Magazine as a Top 10 Medical Breakthrough of 2012.
“So I feel very positive about our campus,” Katehi said. “We are on a good path, thanks to our outstanding students, faculty and staff. I want to thank you all again for your hard work and many outstanding contributions.”
‘Cause for a big celebration’
Research funding in 2011-12 totaled a record $750 million, with Katehi noting that UC Davis posted the biggest increase among all of the UCs. “We intend to build that up even more — to a billion dollars — and, despite the chaos in Washington, I know we will get there,” she said.
The Campaign for UC Davis made equally impressive strides, bringing in $929 million from 98,529 donors as of the morning of Katehi’s speech. She said development officials expect the campaign to hit its targets — $1 billion from 100,000 donors — ahead of the December 2014 scheduled completion date.
“That will be cause for a big celebration, but we will not rest,” she said. “We are already planning an even more ambitious campaign in the near future.”
Still, tough fiscal challenges remain, she said, despite voter approval last November of Proposition 30 (which staved off further cuts to higher education) and a 2013-14 budget proposal from the governor to boost UC spending for the first time in five years.
UC Davis remains committed to greater efficiencies and creative ways of doing more with less, but the fact remains: The campus has a $40 million structural deficit in 2013-14, because of increased pension and health care costs.
She also cited deferred maintenance costs of $1.5 billion, and a pressing need for a new chemistry-chemical engineering building.
The 2020 Initiative
“And don’t forget, state support to UC was reduced by about a billion dollars over the last five years and we would get only about 25 percent of it back if the governor’s budget is approved,” Katehi said.
And this is where the 2020 Initiative comes in, a strategy to boost enrollment to bring in additional tuition to help cover what the state has taken away.
The plan calls for adding up to 5,000 undergraduate students and appropriate numbers of graduate students, faculty and staff, along with needed facilities, “to make sure our students have the support they need to succeed.”
“The plan is bold and it is ambitious,” Katehi said. “I believe it provides a way to help stabilize our finances, make our campus more international and allow us to continue building a better, more accessible university — even if state funding continues to diminish.”
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