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All-Campus Welcome to 2009-10

September 21, 2009

To the Campus Community:

As the fall quarter begins, I want to welcome students, faculty and staff to the start of UCLA’s 2009-10 academic year.  I also want to reflect upon some of the accomplishments of which we can be justifiably proud and some new initiatives we are taking.

This year will be challenging, but with UCLA’s great strengths—beginning with all of you—we will meet the challenges head-on and take this opportunity to re-examine our operations and the relevance of some of our programs.  I do believe we will emerge an even stronger institution.

First of all, I am pleased to welcome back those who are returning and to greet the newest members of our Bruin community, including nearly 8,000 freshmen and transfer students. My wife, Carol, and I had a chance to “help” students move into Hedrick Hall on Friday.  The smoothness of “move-in” was impressive.  The logistics of moving thousands of students into the residence halls over a few days are enormously complicated.  The fact that it goes so well confirms what we already know: UCLA staff are among the best and most dedicated to be found at any institution.

Our new students are a stellar and diverse group.  They include student body presidents, most valuable athletes in various sports, Eagle Scouts, National AP Scholars, Science Olympians and Model United Nations delegates.  They come from 45 states and territories and 36 countries.  More than 30 percent of them are in their families’ first generation to attend college.

These students reflect the diversity of our campus and region, which enriches the educational experience for all and prepares students to live and work in today’s global society.  We prize our diversity and the opportunity it provides to learn from one another and from the varied views and experiences it brings.  Whatever backgrounds and paths led us here, we must recognize that we are now members of one remarkable community.  Each of us deserves to be treated with respect.  Each of us must work to ensure that our community nurtures excellence and tolerance and embraces our unique perspectives.

Our students always bring creativity and vitality to UCLA.  They commit, not only to academics, but also to working energetically on critical issues such as campus sustainability and on civic engagement.  I look forward to their contributions this year to our campus and the larger Los Angeles community.

In addition to our new students, I am pleased to welcome four outstanding new deans this year.  Teri Schwartz, a UCLA alumna and the former dean of Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and Television, is the new dean of our School of Theater, Film and Television.  In the College of Letters and Science, Victoria Sork, former chair of the ecology and evolutionary biology department, is the new dean of the Division of Life Sciences; Alessandro Duranti, former chair of the anthropology department, is the new dean of the Division of Social Sciences; and Joseph Rudnick, who had served as acting dean, is the new dean of the Division of Physical Sciences.

As you well know, this year begins amid a budget crisis and a challenging economic climate that has affected everyone.  For that reason, this promises to be a difficult year.  I will be in frequent communication with you about the financial situation and our attempts to mitigate its impact on our campus.

On a more positive note, we have much to look forward to.  Our researchers continue to make groundbreaking discoveries that can change lives, with graduate and undergraduate students working alongside many of them.  Last year, our faculty generated more than $966 million in research funding through contracts and grants—a record for UCLA, which year after year ranks among the top five universities in the nation in this regard.  The faculty also submitted more than 1,300 proposals for funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  So far, we have received more than 150 awards for more than $65 million. 

One of our greatest research assets is the UCLA Library, with its 10 general and special-subject libraries and a collection that encompasses 8.2 million volumes.  Our library is consistently ranked among the top 10 university research libraries in the nation.

These are remarkable achievements that objectively place UCLA among the world’s leading research institutions.  There really is magic occurring in Westwood, cutting-edge scholarship that will help to rebuild our economy, improve our health and enrich our minds.

Civic engagement is another area in which UCLA shines.  This fall, we are beginning two important initiatives that will further strengthen our ties to our community.  Today marks the official launch of the UCLA Volunteer Center, an online resource that will connect our campus community with thousands of service opportunities in the Los Angeles area.  Our faculty, staff and students have always had a strong service ethic, and now they will have a convenient new source for determining how and where they can make the greatest difference in the community.

As part of that launch, tomorrow will be our first UCLA Volunteer Day, the largest one-day community participation event in the university’s history.  All new undergraduates will have the opportunity to participate in restoration and beautification projects at Griffith Park, Point Dume State Beach, the VA Hospital or one of five local schools.  We hope they will come away inspired to continue sharing their time and talents.

Across town, another exciting project is underway.  This month, we opened the UCLA Community School, an innovative pilot school on the former site of the Ambassador Hotel, in the state’s most densely populated neighborhood.  A partnership among UCLA, the Los Angeles Unified School District and community-based organizations, the school will eventually serve grades K-12.  It will help relieve overcrowding in other area schools and provide UCLA students and faculty a setting in which to develop real-world solutions that can be replicated elsewhere in the city and across the nation.

One of our strongest areas of community outreach is UCLA Extension, which offers timely, relevant instruction by industry professionals.  Recent developments include the establishment of a certificate program in global sustainability and courses in digital media.

Throughout the coming year, UCLA will again offer an incredibly broad range of world-class arts and cultural events across the campus.  UCLA Live’s new season is off to a sensational start with cutting-edge theater.  Annette Bening is appearing in a world premier of a new interpretation of “Medea” in the Freud Playhouse through October 18.  This production anchors UCLA Live’s Eighth International Theatre Festival. 

UCLA Intercollegiate Athletics always creates excitement, too.  We still hold the record for most NCAA team titles.  The women’s water polo team brought home its fifth consecutive title in May, bringing our total to 104.  And, in case you haven’t heard, Coach John Wooden has been named the greatest coach of all time by Sporting News.

I am excited about the opportunities that 2009-10 holds.  Working together, I am confident that we can excel in the fulfillment of our three-part mission of teaching, research and service.  As you recognize, UCLA is really in a class by itself.  A mega-university in a large and dynamic gateway city, it is arguably the most important academic institution on the Pacific Rim.

I welcome your comments and ideas throughout the year.  Please email me at  I deeply appreciate your dedication, especially under the strains of reduced resources, and I wish for all of us a successful and rewarding year.


Gene D. Block

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