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Advancing Student-Centered Initiatives

September 24, 2015

Message from Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla –
Letter Series: 1 of 3

Welcome, new and returning students, faculty and staff. We begin a new academic year with a lot of momentum toward our Strategic Plan goals. It was a year and a half ago that we collectively developed our framework for excellence, and you are the reason we are making so much progress. We are reporting our advances on the Strategic Plan website and, for this letter series, I’d like to focus on our plans and investments to improve our campus and our impact. There is much to report, so I will focus on our student-centered initiatives in this letter, and will cover our research-focused and service-oriented efforts in subsequent letters during the fall quarter.

I extend a wholehearted thank you to our campus community for our recent accomplishments. UC San Diego once again ranks as the number one university in the nation for our positive impact, six years running, by Washington Monthly. Our campus also ranks in the top 10 best public universities in the world by U.S. News & World Report, and 14th best university in the world by the 2015 Academic Ranking of World Universities. Another extraordinary achievement, UC San Diego made history last year with our highest fundraising year ever – reaching more than $177 million and surpassing our $150 million fundraising goal. These achievements reflect the talent of our campus members, the quality of our education and research, and the support of our generous donors, who join us in our mission and believe in the significance of our work.

Geisel Renovation

Private giving is vital to our ability to achieve our strategic initiatives. To encourage continued support, UC San Diego has eliminated the 6% gift fee. This change demonstrates our commitment to our donors and their desire to directly support the work of the campus, and recognizes the importance of philanthropy and its impact to the campus. With the waiver of the gift fee, charitable funds will go directly to the various purposes for which they are given. This policy change – instituted July 1, 2015 – will be in effect through 2020.

Looking ahead, we are investing $8 million to create a new physical space for the Teaching and Learning Commons as part of the Geisel Library Revitalization Initiative. The Commons will receive $1 million this year for programming and services for undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral scholars and faculty to enhance teaching and learning at UC San Diego. Also, as part of the Library transformation, Audrey Geisel has donated $3 million toward the renovation of the entry level, which will help ensure that we meet the evolving needs of our community. We are extremely grateful to Audrey for her ongoing support of the Library and UC San Diego.

Students in Lab

We continue our efforts to improve graduation rates, making it easier for students to graduate in four years. These initiatives include streamlining curricular requirements and creating a Four-Year Plan tool that allows students to plan and monitor their graduation path in all 130 majors. We also made significant investments to renovate four teaching laboratories in York Hall to help with the demand for laboratory science courses – specifically undergraduate biology and chemistry courses. Because of the renovations and expansions, we can now provide an additional 1,300 annual enrollments in three of the most impacted courses. In addition, the renovation of a fourth laboratory enabled us to launch a new lower-division laboratory course in biology that accommodates 1,440 students annually. This is the first time lower-division students have been able to take a biology lab, giving them early hands-on experience. The course has been offered for four quarters now and, when students were surveyed about their experiences, 100 percent said they recommend the course and the instructor. We are also investing more than $2 million towards various initiatives supporting student recruitment, health and well-being.

Through our Graduate Student Growth and Excellence Initiative, we are expanding our Ph.D. population, enhancing opportunities for our principal investigators to recruit the best graduate students and increasing average net stipends paid across all divisions. Our total number of doctoral students is up 5 percent over the last two years, which is quite significant after a period of stagnation. To provide incentive for the growth of master’s level students and boost opportunities for revenue growth, we created the Masters Growth Plan as part of the initiative. It essentially provides a budget structure that supports the growth of students seeking master’s degrees by returning some of the tuition back to departments. Last year, the number of applications, admissions and students accepting offers of admission in state-supported programs went up, resulting in 1,186 master’s student acceptances for fall 2015, a 40 percent increase over the prior year. This is significant because UC San Diego has a relatively small proportion of graduate students compared with our peer institutions, and we need to recruit and support more of these next-generation leaders, scholars and mentors who will advance knowledge through teaching and research, and serve as mentors to undergraduate students. To further support graduate students, this fall we are launching a new online mentorship tool for faculty that outlines their roles as advisors. We also worked with graduate students and industry leaders to create Gradvantage, which offers a variety of professional development resources to prepare students for a range of careers outside of academia.

Trolley, San Diego

As part of our Long Range Development Plan (LRDP), many of our future construction projects support our vision as a student-centered university, including reaching our goal of providing on-campus housing for 50 percent of our student population. We currently have a strong demand for student housing, and we’re creating a new housing planning advisory committee to identify the best opportunities to expand the campus’ housing capacity. We are looking at immediate, mid-term and longer-term housing projects. One immediate example is our $208 million Graduate and Professional Student Housing project, which will provide reasonably priced rental units with supporting amenities on the east side of the UC San Diego campus. Nearly 2,000 people are currently on the waitlist for existing graduate and professional units. This new project will provide housing for approximately 1,350 graduate and professional students, and will feature central gathering areas and activities to promote community and collaboration. Longer-term housing goals include adding more units for single undergraduates. We also are looking to add new student-centered facilities and open spaces, as well as enhance our University Center downtown neighborhood, in conjunction with the Mid-Coast Corridor Light Rail Transit Project, which will bring the trolley line to UC San Diego in 2021. A new pedestrian and bicycle bridge will be built from the Pepper Canyon trolley station to our University Center, and the new trolley station at Voigt Drive on the east side of campus will enhance access to our medical and research facilities. Both of these projects will serve as gateways on our campus, making our facilities more accessible to both the broader community and campus members. Overall, these planned improvements contribute to our goal of creating an enhanced living-learning environment at UC San Diego.

Our university remains a leader in addressing the national concern of college access and affordability. When I created the Chancellor’s Associates Scholars Program in 2013, my goal was to provide local admitted, high-achieving students from low-income families with the opportunity to attend UC San Diego tuition-free and debt-free. We continue to expand the program with support from our Chancellor’s Associates who give annual leadership gifts to be used at the Chancellor’s discretion to fund the university’s greatest needs. As a student-centered university, UC San Diego’s highest priority is our students, and I am proud to designate these funds to scholarships. This fall, we will double the number of scholars on campus as we welcome over 100 incoming students to the program, bringing the total number of scholars on campus to 215. Our goal is to expand the program until 600 students are receiving the scholarship, which will require $6 million a year in private support for the program.

student members of the Chancellor’s Associates Scholars Program

Enhancing UC San Diego’s campus climate remains a priority. In addition to adding new equity, diversity and inclusion programs and training this past year, we will increase our student recruitment and retention efforts this year, as well as complete the EDI Dashboard, which will provide a real-time, web-based user interface that shows graphical presentations of the current status and historical trends of UC San Diego’s performance indicators. I am confident in the acceleration of these initiatives under the leadership of our Vice Chancellor – Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Becky Petitt.

These are just a few of the student-centered initiatives underway. I thank you for everything you do to support our students, who are our next-generation leaders. Universities exist because of our students, and we will continue to work together to fulfill our vision as a student-centered, research-focused, service-oriented public university.

With kind regards,


Pradeep K. Khosla