Remarks at Investiture Ceremony
UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland
San Francisco, CA
[As prepared for delivery]
Thank you, Chairman Lansing and President Yudof. It is a tremendous honor for me to be here tonight with all of you — the many people who have lent both strategic and moral support to our young campus. Some special guests are also here — to my son, Eric, and distinguished members of the UC Merced Foundation Board of Trustees, thank you for celebrating this occasion with me.
When the decision was made to create a tenth UC campus in the San Joaquin Valley, no one imagined the obstacles that would be hurled in this young university's path, not the least of which was the recent global recession that left the great State of California with staggering budget deficits. For the University of California, this has meant equally staggering cuts in state appropriations and capital expenditures over successive and painful years.
As you know all too well, the dramatic decline of state support has had alarming effects on all ten University of California campuses and their students. But it could have been a deathblow to the University's tenth campus were it not for the protection that the UC provided to its youngest member. You, the people in this room — the Board of Regents, President Yudof and his staff, and our sister UC campuses — shielded UC Merced from the financial blows that could have otherwise shuttered our research labs, closed our classrooms and dashed the hopes and dreams of the students and communities we serve.
And so tonight, on the ceremonial occasion of my investiture as the third chancellor of UC Merced, I want to formally acknowledge the support you have provided to our young campus during these extraordinarily challenging times. Your actions stand as testimony to the University of California's commitment to the greater public good, the future health of the state and the well-being of its citizens.
Even as it faced daunting fiscal hurdles, the UC refused to abandon one of the most impoverished regions of the state and, indeed, of the entire nation. You continued to recognize the enormous benefits to individuals, families, communities and the state in providing a UC quality education to deserving and underserved students, many of whom are first-generation minority students from financially stressed families. And you understood the significant future impacts of our research enterprise on the economic prosperity of our region and state. On behalf of all who have and those who will continue to benefit from your foresight and actions, I thank you.
Thanks to your support and the creativity and drive of our faculty and staff, UC Merced has lent truth to the goals — the public purposes — for which it was established.
First, for the goal of expanding student access to the UC system consistent with the California Master Plan. Check.
UC Merced's current enrollment of 5,200 students is constrained only by its ability to grow physically and to hire additional faculty and staff. This year we received approximately 14,000 applications for just 400 net new seats. The word is out that the newest UC campus is a great place to get a quality UC education in a student-friendly, supportive environment.
Second, for the goal of increasing college-going rates in the San Joaquin Valley. Check.
Since 2004, the year before UC Merced opened its doors to students, applications to the University of California from Valley students have increased more than 50 percent. Many of these students — among the most diverse and economically disadvantaged in the state — would never have imagined a UC education in their future if it weren't for our growing presence and focused educational outreach programs.
Third, for the goal of helping to stimulate and diversify the regional economy. Check.
UC Merced has already injected more than $700 million in direct economic impact into the Valley, with much broader ripple effects throughout the region. According to the Milken Institute, which ranks U.S. metropolitan areas each year by how well they are creating and sustaining jobs and economic growth, the Merced community recorded the biggest gain of all 379 cities surveyed last year — up 105 places in one year. Our students have opened new businesses, and we are poised to soon bring several inventions to the marketplace.
So that's the story line for this vibrant young university thus far, with exciting new chapters yet to come.
For UC Merced to grow beyond its infancy to a mature research university, it must focus on building areas of research expertise where it enjoys a competitive advantage, and it must be disciplined in aligning its budget, capital plan and fundraising with this effort. It must find creative ways to build classrooms and laboratories without state help, and leverage the potential of academic and research partnerships inside and outside of the UC. Finally, it must nurture an entrepreneurial spirit of risk and initiative to take advantage of opportunities that emerge along the way.
Fortunately, creativity, drive and determination are in abundant supply on our campus. We have research programs that already are rising national stars in fields such as cognitive science, water resource management, solar energy and stem cell research. And we have a richly diverse tapestry of students who are hungry for the educational opportunities we provide.
That's the right mix of ingredients, but UC Merced will surely need your continued support as it grows its capacity to transform lives, enrich communities and spark economic growth. It is my privilege and honor to be a part of the University of California family and to lead UC Merced at this important time in its history.