2001 Convocation: Chancellor's Address

FALL 2001 CONVOCATION ADDRESS
UC Davis Chancellor Larry N. Vanderhoef

“Smart Growth: Building for Excellence”

Wednesday, September 26, 2001
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon

Freeborn Hall

Thank you very much, Provost Hinshaw.  And, Professor Sue, I want to especially recognize your speech.  It was poignant – and certainly relevant for these days on campus, not only for us here at UC Davis but for the country.  Again, thank you. 

Welcome to all of you.  You are our students, our staff, our faculty, our friends.  You are -- our family, and we are happy that you are here this morning. 

It is the beginning of another year at UC Davis.   A lot has changed since I arrived on campus 17 years ago, but lots, as well — many good things about UC Davis — has stayed the same.  Every day at one point or another it occurs to me that we surely do have much for which to be grateful. 

This morning I will be talking almost entirely about the future of UC Davis, with only occasional reference to its history, for it is the future that is so very exciting and offers so much promise.  And, true to the title of this speech, I will discuss that future in terms of our anticipated growth.  It is growth that will enable us to literally and figuratively build community — socially, intellectually and physically.

The Tragic Events of September 11

But first....It's clear that our optimism for the future has been tested.  It’s been tested by the tragic events of September 11.  Those horrific acts reached around the world — an assault not just upon the United States but an assault upon humanity.  And certainly there is none among us who hasn't been affected.  We will, each of us, carry the indelible images of the last two weeks in our memories for the rest of our lives, I am sure.  Our hearts will ache.  And we will continue to mourn.

And so it is that we must support one another with understanding and with compassion.   We must resolve to continue our course and not allow terrorism to keep us from fulfilling our promise as a university community — a community that places the highest of value upon freedom of expression, but freedom of expression within the highest standards of civility and decency.

It troubles me — as I'm sure it must trouble you — to hear scattered, nationwide reports of hate crimes against people who appear to be Middle Eastern.  One such verbal assault – only one, fortunately, but one is too many -- was reported here on the campus shortly after the World Trade Center collapsed.  We must not permit these acts to turn us against one another, for if we do then the terrorists will have won again.  We must, instead, recognize that this terrorism is the work of a few.  It cannot and should not be associated with an ethnicity or a country, or a part of the world and certainly not with a religion that preaches non-violence.

Now, I know that it has become very unpopular to express statements like these, and know I’ll get angry mail, as I did after the campus gatherings the week of September 11, but the diversity of our community is one of the great and wonderful things about UC Davis.  With such diversity comes greater knowledge and understanding — and hope.  I was reminded of that community and that hope yesterday as I rode in a taxi to Dulles airport in Washington, D.C.  The driver was from Nigeria.  He had a strong accent.  But he was now an American citizen, and he was moved to tears as he described his experiences near the Pentagon on September 11.  He said “I still cannot believe anyone would do this to my country.”  My country.  Community.

Principles of Community

In the late 1980s, former Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Tom Dutton and Assistant Vice Chancellor Yvonne Marsh led an effort to affirm core values to guide our interactions as a diverse campus community.  Those values, called our Principles of Community, have recently been reaffirmed.  They call upon each of us to interact responsibly and with respect. 

In fact, teaching and learning — the core of our mission as a university — require mutual respect and behavior that recognizes each person’s rights to individual beliefs, and to free speech in all its forms.  But if we are going to do our best job of teaching and learning, then we must practice those privileges of free expression with unmistakable respect for each other.  Does that mean we cannot disagree?  Of course not.  But it does mean a clear recognition of the individual’s rights and privileges, as well as the individual’s responsibility. 

The Principles of Community have served us well time over time on this campus. And so for very practical reasons, they constitute a credo that all of us should embrace and value.  I invite you to take a copy with you this morning and to join the provost and me and the leaders of our faculty, student and staff organizations — including our newly arrived Associate Executive Vice Chancellor for Campus Community Relations Rahim Reed — in pledging your support of these basic precepts.

Mondavi Gift

While the last two weeks have brought great sadness, they have also brought a good measure of joy.

You may have seen recent news reports of a wonderfully generous gift to the campus  — $35 million, the largest gift we have ever received.  This gift, from legendary winemaker Robert Mondavi and his wife, Margrit, will create and name a world-class Institute for Wine and Food Science, an Institute that will allow our faculty to engage in the best of cutting-edge research and teaching. 

And it will name the Center for the Performing Arts, a state-of-the-art performance hall that is already under construction.  It will expand opportunities in the arts for Northern Californian patrons, young people in our K-12 schools, area arts organizations and for our own students, faculty and staff.

It is especially meaningful that Robert Mondavi — known worldwide for innovation and uncompromising pursuit of excellence — has chosen UC Davis as the beneficiary of his generosity because this commitment to the absolute highest quality is a commitment toward which we strive at UC Davis.

And there couldn’t be a more perfect blending of the academic areas that will benefit from their gift — agriculture and the arts — areas of great distinction that, now, hold even greater promise for our campus.

With this gift, the Mondavis gave us a message that we needed, a message to each and every one of us associated with this university.  That message is:  "You, UC Davis -- you have a wonderful history.  You have always cared about the well-being of the people of California. You have been masterful teachers to me and my children.  You have great students and staff, and a solid base of traditional strengths.  You are adding remarkable breadth out to the furthest reaches of the arts and humanities.  Of all the universities I have come to know in our world travels, you, your people and your aspirations characterize our ideal of what universities should and can be.  Let us help you stay on track.  Will $35 million do?"

“It surely will,” say I.

New Initiatives

These wonderful Mondavi-funded initiatives are but two of many that will be realized in the coming years.  Our road map is the new academic plan that builds on existing campus strengths.  It includes new schools of the environment and education and exciting new initiatives in genomics, the arts, the social sciences and more.  Priority has been given to areas that transcend individual colleges, schools and programs, and that were judged to have the potential to move into national pre-eminence.

These new academic initiatives, and the faculty and staff to implement them, are largely made possible by the anticipated growth in our student body.  Over the next 10 years, we expect an additional 5,000 students.  That’s our share of the 60,000 new UC-eligible students who will have earned a place within the University of California.

In one sense, one could view this growth as a burden.  That, though, is not the way we perceive it.  Rather, we see it as an opportunity – an opportunity to get better, but an opportunity that could have been lost had we decided to simply grow across the board.

With additional students will come new faculty, new staff, new facilities.  Our current and our future campus community members will be critically important to our success, and I’d like now to focus briefly on special issues related to each.

Undergraduate education

Absolutely equal in importance at UC Davis, equal to research and graduate education, is the ongoing care and attention we must, without compromise, give to undergraduate education. 

I spoke with our Annual Fund telephone callers about two months ago. They are the folks who interrupt dinner hours across the country to ask for donations to UC Davis.  One student pointed out that he occasionally talks to people who believe that many of our faculty don’t teach -- they just do research.  After assuring him that that was not true, I told him and now remind you that undergraduate education remains primary at UC Davis, and that the fact we are a research university does not affect that.  We must ensure that we provide our students the kind of education they have a right to expect — an education that, while providing the features of general education, also introduces them to inquiry-based learning.

Each year we have a Chancellor's Fall Conference that is focused on a topic we believe will improve us as an institution.  This year’s Fall Conference was entitled “Undergraduate Education at UC Davis:  Meeting the Challenge, Renewing the Tradition.”  We spent our time developing strategies to enable us to sustain and enhance our campus's strong reputation for delivering a rigorous and meaningful undergraduate education.  The challenge has both internal and external elements. 

Like our sister UC campuses, we must accept hundreds more undergraduates each fall for the next several years and incorporate them into facilities and academic programs that are already near or at capacity.  In addition, there is an increasing pressure and need to regularly assess and evaluate all aspects of our undergraduate curriculum. 

Like all universities, we are accredited regularly, and this emphasis on assessment of teaching and learning is foremost in the minds of all accreditation agencies across the country.  These are challenges, though, that we welcome.  Our point person is Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Pat Turner.  She will work with faculty and with Student Affairs staff to implement recommendations from the Fall Conference, ensuring that we meet our pledge to our undergraduates.

Research

As to research, UC Davis is a research university, and we are very proud of it.  The responsibility that we have for research is beneficial both to the instruction that our undergraduates receive and to the reputation of the university, which benefits our students, when you think about it, for all the years they are in the job market.  Our students have the opportunity to be taught by people who are at the cutting edge of research in their fields.  Also -- they have the opportunity, and they are taking it in increasing numbers, to do research themselves. 

But the benefits of research extend beyond those that come to our undergraduates.  New knowledge is put to use in this country in so many different ways, not the least of which is to fuel a healthy economy, or heal a sick one.

And so we highly value our faculty researchers.  Just this last year, we created an award that pays special attention to our young faculty, those who have shown themselves to be everything this university wants and needs in a faculty member.  These Chancellor's Fellows, who are within their first decade or so of their time here at UC Davis, receive $25,000 awards to be used in whatever way they desire to support their faculty work.

Researchers on campus have been incredibly productive again this year, garnering a record amount in research awards, close to $300 million.  This is a 70 percent increase over just five years ago.  But over the last decade the research enterprise has become more and more complex -- from new federal regulations, to new protections for human subjects, to intellectual property issues.  Under the new leadership of Vice Chancellor Barry Klein, the Office of Research has committed to finding ways to simplify and streamline its processes, to better serve researchers, to building new collaborations across disciplines, and to catalyzing exciting new research initiatives.

Graduate education

Closely related to research, graduate education has become increasingly important as the need for a highly educated workforce has increased in our knowledge–based global economy. 

The Office of the President and The Regents have participated in a systemwide commission on the growth and support of graduate education. We will be hearing about this report soon.

As a campus, we continue to make substantial new investments in graduate fellowships and other funds for graduate students.  We must, more than ever before, enhance the national and international competitiveness of our graduate programs.  It is a top priority of our faculty, and I am determined to help meet those needs.

I am especially concerned about the fact that the University of California has a smaller percentage of international students than our comparable institutions, this because of the lack of automatic tuition and fee waivers for those students who receive research or teaching assistantships.  I am worried about this because this funding inequity means we are not fully considering all segments of the potential population of graduate students, and that in turn means that it is impossible to have a quality level equal to that of our peer institutions.  This problem has to be solved, and we continue to work on it.

Internationalization of research and education

Related to all of this, research and teaching, we at UC Davis have a very special interest in how we internationalize our research and education as we rapidly become a connected world community.  Our university is taking several steps in that regard. 

Among those 80,000 students who took University Extension courses last year, there were people from more than two dozen countries other than the U.S.  To make things easier in these days and times, over 40 of those courses were offered on-line.

As well, we hosted over 1,250 leading scientists and scholars from other countries.  That puts us in the top ten or so institutions in the U.S.  We had 1,000 international undergraduate and graduate students; that is low in terms of our peers, as I said before, but not in terms of UC.  In fact, that number puts us third among our UC campuses. 

Education Abroad, Summer Session Abroad and University Research Expeditions are ways in which our students and other members of our family can become more acquainted with the greater world in which we live.

Finally, it is our long-term goal to give every student an opportunity for an international experience.  I know that it will enrich their lives, it will enhance their career choices, it will expand their participation in the global community.  As a means to coordinate our pursuit of these many goals, we now have a relatively new office on campus, called University Outreach and International Programs, headed by Vice Provost Bill Lacy.  As a new addition within that office, our campus is reaching out to our thousands of international alumni to build stronger research and educational collaboration under Bob Kerr, Director of the International Alumni & Visitors Program.

Student services

The academic component of growth is, of course, essential to everything else that happens on campus.  But it is important to point out, as well, that it is primarily staff members who are responsible for basic action when it comes to growth and students.The four or five years that undergraduate students spend on this campus will be arguably among the most influential years of their lives.  A lot of social and intellectual maturation occurs during these years as an undergraduate, and what better place for that to happen than on a university campus?  I have often said, with no data whatsoever, I might add, that 50 percent of the learning occurs outside the classroom.  I have no doubt that it is a large and important part of the undergraduate’s education.

With regard to the staff who will facilitate and help make all of this happen.... salaries are important, and increases are certainly appropriate and deserved, but the University of California must also work hard to provide a superior benefits program in comparison to other employers.  It is, in fact, our strongest suit.

But, even more fundamental, I believe, is the need for us all to recognize the contributions of staff and the workload they shoulder, and to offer the respect that staff members are certainly due, and to show appreciation for staff service whenever the opportunity presents itself.  The quality and commitment of the UC Davis staff will continue to play a major role in the development of the Davis campus.  We, in turn, must continue to make progress in addressing issues of workload, compensation, communication and respect.

Facilities

The number of new faculty hired at UC Davis over the next eight years amounts to something near 500.  That brings facilities immediately to mind.  This takes money and resources, and so we are planning carefully for what has to be built on this campus, the timing of that construction and securing the necessary dollars to fund it.

We know that, over the next ten years, more than one billion dollars in new buildings will come out of the ground.  The construction activity will be hard to miss.  As the most startling example, we know that in the health sciences district of the campus, where we will add 321,000 square feet and spend $238,000,000 dollars, there will be a period of time when there will be about 1,500 construction workers on that site.

About one-third of this one billion dollars in new buildings will be provided by the state — and several million will be paid for directly by students, a product of the FACE initiative.  Finding the money for the rest is a challenge that will take thousands of people hours in a less-than-encouraging environment as we ride the edge of a national and state recession.  Our plans may be delayed and perhaps we will decide to scale back our ambitions.

In fact, if we are not successful in securing these needed funds for facilities and for students, and for the recruitment of the best faculty and staff, we will not grow.  We are the University of California.  If we do not have the facilities we will not be able to recruit the best.  If we cannot recruit the best, then we will not hire.

Life/career balance

The bottom line, though, is that for all of the talk one can make about space, our success or lack of success, in the final analysis, will come down to our employees.  Employees in any situation in today’s world are fighting a new and unusual battle in their lives.  And the battle is life/career balance.

We live in a state about which so many wonderful things can be said, but among them one cannot include “easily affordable housing.”  As a result, neither can we say, “easily attained life/career balance.” 

What can be done about this?  Well, in our view there are possibilities.  Last spring, a small group of faculty deliberated over this issue, and they made an excellent start.  There are actions that we can take regarding maternity and paternity leave; regarding childcare; regarding stopping the tenure clock for elder care, that newly recognized phenomenon in our lives in recent years.  There are other measures, as well, that can return balance to what has become, for many faculty, an almost impossible situation. That work on life/career balance will continue during this coming year.

We are also working on life/career balance for staff, and we will expand those deliberations as well.  It is a new world in which we live, and we must have new work circumstances to accommodate these pressures.  Efforts to date can be tracked on the campus's worklifebalance.ucdavis.edu Web site.

Affordable housing

Especially with regard to housing, it is no longer reasonable to believe that our new employees, staff or beginning faculty, can afford a home in Davis.  It is still true that there are some affordable homes within a 20-minute commute of Davis, but is that the best circumstance? 

The University sees great value, both practically and environmentally, in people being able to live within easy bicycling or commuting distance of the campus.  And the City sees great value in people who work in Davis being able to live in Davis.  What can be done about this?

We are in the process of deliberating upon this difficulty in the long-range development plan.  There certainly are possible solutions.  We learned, for example, with our first experiment in this area, the homes of Aggie Village, that one can control the cost of houses for the short-term and for the long-term.  Also, we can restrict their purchase and their resale to only our own employees.

We are studying two housing scenarios.  One would continue our historic practice of housing first-year students on campus.  Another would provide additional campus housing for upper-division students and enough homes to keep 75 percent of faculty and 40 percent of staff living in or near the Davis community.  This expanded scenario would require approximately 300 acres of campus land.  One possible site might be near the I‑80/Highway 113 interchange.

Whatever we do, though, must and will recognize that the character of the City of Davis is important to us, as well.  Its school system and its “college town” feel are attractive to our current and potential employees.  Our plans must retain, even improve upon, those characteristics.

Community

Which leads me to this:  the importance of community.  This university, UC Davis, has a longstanding reputation for paying attention to all of our constituencies on this campus and associated with this campus, our students, our faculty, our staff and our friends and neighbors.  The lesson we have learned over the years is that if we guide the University with a strong sense of the importance of community, working together to satisfy all of our needs, we come out best in the long run.  Sometimes our advancements may seem to come more slowly than in the faster-paced segments of our society and even in some of the nation’s other university communities.  But when the day is done, we always seem to have moved the marker forward in a positive way. 

You know the push-pull of university decision-making:  It takes more time upfront if the entire community is to have an opportunity for input, but when decisions are made, those decisions are likely to stay made.  People who feel they are part of the campus and are involved in its evolution are usually people who feel better about their job and about their day-to-day existence, whether or not a particular decision goes their way. 

There are always exceptions to this general rule, but all in all, we are still the same UC Davis that we were many years ago.  We care for each other.  We appreciate the fact that we are, all of us, part of one community.  I believe this so very strongly.  It is an ethos that will, I know, give us confidence to meet the challenges that surely await us.

I am committed to this campus, but I recognize that no matter what the level of my commitment, nothing could happen without all of us working together, without that sense of community that we are so fortunate to have.

So is there reason and room for optimism, even amidst tragedy in our country, amidst rapid change in our university, in the middle of a struggling economy?  You bet...because the community we will build together -- rests upon the strongest of foundations — all of you.

Thank you very much.