Dear UC Merced Colleagues:
The summer months are quickly drawing to their end. Although summer typically brings a smaller number of students to campus, the work we do to advance the mission of UC Merced continues full steam. I hope you have found some time for rest and relaxation nonetheless.
We lost a wonderful colleague this summer to a tragic accident. Gabe Houser, who worked at UC Merced since 2005 with the library and IT teams, left us with precious gifts of friendship, and I for one will always remember his patience, gentle demeanor and wonderful smile. Gabe, your family, friends and colleagues miss you and also thank you for the ways in which you enriched our lives.
My summer has included travel to Israel in June followed by meetings in Washington, D.C., with congressional leaders and federal agencies, attending the UC Board of Regents meetings and myriad other activities. The trip to Israel featured opportunities to visit with high-level Israeli and Palestinian officials as well as several prominent universities with potential for student exchange and research partnerships. In Washington, D.C., I had the pleasure of meeting with an enthusiastic alumni group and enjoyed learning how their experiences at UC Merced have shaped their lives thus far.
Because of the quality of work you do and its impact on students, it is a pleasure to be able to serve as an ambassador for UC Merced wherever I travel.
As the summer winds down and we begin to gear up for the new semester, I wanted to provide you with some important campus updates.
Urban Land Institute
A group of senior administrators has been preparing over the summer for a September visit from a team of experts from the Urban Land Institute (ULI), a nonprofit land-use and planning organization. We have engaged with ULI to help us study alternative scenarios for meeting future capital-development needs at UC Merced.
As you know, on-campus space continues to fall woefully short of our needs for facilities that adequately support our research, instructional, administrative and support functions. Although we are fortunate to have several new capital projects under way, the campus’s development beyond the initial “golf course footprint” is severely challenged by enormous costs related to the expansion of infrastructure in a fiscal environment that remains severely constrained.
With a projected enrollment of 10,000 students within eight to 10 years, the university must find creative ways to meet that demand without relying on traditional state funding to finance the necessary classrooms, laboratories and other facilities.
We must also consider viable alternatives for adding physical capacity — both on campus and off — that won't require significant construction, infrastructure or mitigation costs while remaining fully aligned with the institution’s academic and research mission.
The role of ULI will be to assist us in identifying and evaluating a range of scenarios for meeting our future space needs. The ULI advisory services panel will consist of leading experts from across the country in fields ranging from urban planning to capital finance. When they arrive in September, team members will visit potential off-site locations for expansion, tour the developed and undeveloped portions of the campus and meet with university leadership and individuals within the greater Merced area to explore possibilities and develop proposals the university will then evaluate. We will continue to keep you apprised of progress on this initiative.
In other developments, I am very pleased to introduce Jody H. Hironaka-Juteau, one of the 2012-13 American Council on Education (ACE) Fellows, who will spend the fall semester on campus.
The ACE Fellows Program, established in 1965, is designed to strengthen institutional capacity and build leadership in American higher education by identifying and preparing promising senior faculty and administrators for responsible positions in college and university administration. Fifty-six fellows, nominated by the presidents or chancellors of their institutions, were selected this year in a national competition.
Dr. Hironaka-Juteau, associate dean and professor in the College of Health and Human Services at Fresno State, will take full advantage of her time at UC Merced by shadowing senior leaders and also engaging in a project that will benefit UC Merced. As chancellor, I serve as her primary mentor, but the richness and depth of her experience with us will depend on the willingness of many others to share insights with her. You can find Jody in KL 328 or email her.
UC Board of Regents Meeting
As you may already know, during their most recent meeting, the regents agreed to suspend any tuition increases for undergraduate students pending the outcome of Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax proposal that will appear on the November ballot as Proposition 30. While this freeze is surely welcome news to students and their families, if Proposition 30 fails, the University of California will endure another huge budget cut that will require it to consider a range of options that includes steep mid-year tuition increases, academic program closures, hiring freezes and even layoffs. The board plans to review a range of worst-case scenario options at its September meeting.
Although the Board of Regents has endorsed Proposition 30, I want to remind faculty and staff that we are precluded by law from using state resources, time or equipment to lobby either for or against any ballot measure. As illustrated by this message, we can, however, share factual information about the initiative’s impact on the university. And members of the UC community can, of course, participate in political activities on their own time and using their own resources.
Lastly, I hope to be able to introduce you to the provost-designate before the school year begins. The nomination is being reviewed by UC President Mark Yudof and the Board of Regents, as is customary for appointments of senior-level campus executives.