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UCLA: 2014–15 in Review

In a message to the campus community, Chancellor Block highlights UCLA’s achievements of the 2014-15 academic year.

As commencement ceremonies conclude across campus this weekend and our graduates embark on new chapters in their lives, it’s important to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re headed as an institution. We can point to many sources of pride this academic year, and we will continue to innovate and improve. Although difficult and essential work remains, I am confident that the shared purpose and commitment of our outstanding students, faculty, staff, alumni and supporters will ensure further progress. Your creativity and resolve are vital to UCLA’s success.

It is my privilege to share highlights of some of our accomplishments and key activities from this academic year.

UCLA remains an exceptionally strong catalyst for discoveries that serve the greater good of our state, the nation and the world, despite the long-term downward trend in government support of public higher education. To date, UCLA has received more than $874 million in competitively awarded research funding this fiscal year — marking the ninth consecutive year of at least that amount, which annually places us among the top universities in the country. That’s a credit to faculty from all disciplines, who use their intellectual prowess to collaborate not only in generating funding but also in producing real-world benefits.

Our faculty continue to publish important research in leading academic journals, and many of their discoveries have led to the creation of important intellectual property. We anticipate that by the end of this fiscal year, UCLA researchers will have disclosed about 450 new inventions and received about 100 new patents. UCLA is a national leader in fostering startup companies; there are now more than 140 working to translate the campus’ scientific discoveries into practical uses. Last October, we launched Westwood Technology Transfer, a not-for-profit company that will help us accelerate the process of converting research into useful applications.

Also in service to the public, we debuted UCLA Blueprint, a magazine examining policy challenges confronting California and Los Angeles and highlighting UCLA research relevant to those challenges. Edited by veteran journalist and author Jim Newton — now a senior fellow at the Luskin School of Public Affairs and a lecturer in communication studies — Blueprint is an exciting new component of our wide-ranging effort to deepen ties to the region’s civic life. We aim to be an invaluable resource for policymakers, and I was delighted that Mayor Eric Garcetti and other government leaders joined us for a conversation about public safety, criminal justice and other topics at the magazine’s launch event.

In patient care, UCLA Health received a $15.7 million grant that will expand our groundbreaking Operation Mend program, which provides surgical and medical treatment as well as psychological support to service members, veterans and their families. The grant funds new treatment programs for those with mild traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder and integrates behavioral health care, rehabilitation medicine and family support. Operation Mend’s efforts to heal the visible and invisible wounds of service members, veterans and their families draw on the expertise of faculty members from numerous departments and represent the best of UCLA.

We also continue to upgrade our infrastructure in support of faculty research and patient care. In October, we dedicated the state-of-the-art Edie and Lew Wasserman Building, which completes the Stein Eye Institute’s trio of buildings and also houses the UCLA Global Neurosurgery Center and the Institute for Urologic Oncology. In March, we completed the first phase of Engineering VI, which ultimately will include labs for research into renewable energy resources, nanotechnology and semiconductors, as well as our computer science department. The Evelyn and Mo Ostin Music Center opened during the fall quarter, providing new spaces for rehearsals and teaching, an Internet-based music production center and other modern features.

On The Hill, the renovated Hitch Suites opened last fall and the modernization of Saxon Suites continues, adding to our upgrades of student housing. The expanded and upgraded Campbell Hall, home to the Academic Advancement Program, was dedicated this month. These and many other construction projects underway or recently completed — including teaching and lab spaces, athletics facilities and others — will help ensure UCLA’s excellence well into our second century.

I want to emphasize my enormous pride in how our campus community pulled together following the rupture of a city water main beneath Sunset Boulevard in July. The flooding damaged several non-academic buildings, forced the cancellation of events, and trapped almost 1,000 vehicles in underground garages for several days. Teams across campus worked as quickly as possible to repair damage, reopen buildings, reunite drivers with their vehicles and support each other through a difficult period. Pauley Pavilion, which had just completed an extensive renovation in 2012, was restored to its dazzling glory. Our swift recovery from the flood was made possible in large part by the steady hand of Administrative Vice Chancellor Jack Powazek. Jack will retire at the end of June after more than 40 years in various roles on campus, and although we will miss his leadership and commitment, I’m confident we will find a well-qualified successor.

Meanwhile, we are gaining new leadership in other key areas. Jerry Kang, a longtime professor of law and Asian American studies, starts July 1 as our first vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion. An influential scholar in implicit bias and other topics, Jerry has expertise to advance our efforts to ensure fundamental fairness and a welcoming environment for all. Working with Jerry will be two new discrimination prevention officers, who arrived in November and are focused on policies and procedures involving faculty concerns about bias and discrimination. Dialogue about how we view and treat each other can be difficult, but it is crucial work. These developments are closely aligned with the intent of the new diversity course requirement for the UCLA College that the Academic Senate approved in April.

Sexual assault on college campuses is a topic of increasing national concern. Under Jerry’s administration, we will continue our Title IX program to prevent gender discrimination and sexual harassment and safeguard equal access to education. Sexual assault is intolerable, and we seek nothing less ambitious than its elimination. But we must ensure a sexual misconduct adjudication process that affords rights to all involved.

Among academic leadership, we made several key appointments this year. In March, Dr. John Mazziotta took over as vice chancellor of UCLA Health Sciences and dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. A world-renowned brain imaging expert and longtime faculty member, John was previously the associate vice chancellor for health sciences and executive vice dean of the Geffen School of Medicine. We also appointed two new deans who will begin their service during the upcoming academic year. At the School of Law, Jennifer Mnookin, a brilliant evidence law scholar who has been on faculty for 10 years, will begin August 1. She succeeds Rachel Moran, who will remain on faculty. And the new dean of the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science will be Jayathi Murthy, a distinguished faculty member in and chair of the department of mechanical engineering at the University of Texas. Jayathi takes over as dean on January 1, 2016, succeeding Vijay Dhir, who will remain on faculty.

We are in various stages of searches to succeed deans of other professional schools. Frank Gilliam is leaving the Luskin School of Public Affairs to become chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro; Chris Waterman of the School of the Arts and Architecture and Courtney Lyder of the School of Nursing are leaving their administrative posts but remaining on our faculty. We are fortunate to have deep pools of talent to draw from where interim deans are needed before a successor is selected.

These transitions, while challenging, present new opportunities, and I am confident that UCLA will continue to draw extraordinary leaders who share our commitment to transformative research, inspiring teaching and meaningful service.

On the state funding front, after months of negotiations, University of California President Janet Napolitano and Gov. Jerry Brown reached an agreement that freezes tuition through 2016–17 and provides a 4 percent budget increase in each of the next four years, subject to legislative approval. The agreement — which will also help fund deferred maintenance backlogs, reduce course bottlenecks and expand academic support services, among other things — offers important stability to students, parents and campus planners. However, per-student state support remains far below pre-recession levels, and state funding comprises only about 7 percent of UCLA’s total revenues.

In partnership with our many generous donors, we are working toward greater financial self-reliance for UCLA, which is essential to our providing a transformative education to the world’s future leaders and conducting groundbreaking research. The Centennial Campaign for UCLA to date has raised $2 billion, and we are well on our way toward our goal of $4.2 billion by 2019, UCLA’s 100th birthday. We are immensely grateful for the steadfast commitment of our donors. While we appreciate every gift large and small, the $100 million donation made by Marion Anderson to the Anderson School of Management in honor of her late husband and school namesake, John Anderson, is an extraordinary gesture of faith in our future, and I know her generosity will inspire others.

A major focus of the campaign is financial support for our students. Demand to attend UCLA has never been higher, and competition among universities for the best students has never been stronger. To ensure that top students enroll at UCLA, regardless of their economic wherewithal, it is imperative that we generate funding for scholarships and fellowships. Last month, we announced a special scholarship endowment to aid students in science, technology, engineering and math fields, funded by $4 million in gifts from the producers, cast and crew of “The Big Bang Theory.” The endowment will support 20 students next fiscal year and an additional five students each subsequent year. We also are creating scholarships for students in humanities, social sciences and many other academic areas. Especially significant are the partnerships forged with alumni, parents and friends to generate scholarships for students from specific regions of California, across the country and around the world. In addition, we are creating many more endowed professorships to attract and retain the world’s best researchers and teachers.

Finally, I want to congratulate UCLA’s student-athletes for their stellar performance in competition and in the classroom. Our men’s water polo team captured another NCAA championship in December — UCLA’s 112th team title, more than any other university in the country — and there were heart-wrenching near-misses in other sports. UCLA also defeated our rival in the all-sport BMW Crosstown Cup competition, and our teams scored highly in the NCAA’s report card on academic performance, including perfect scores by our men’s water polo and women’s golf squads.

In the past year, we built on our many strengths and made important progress in key areas. As we continue on our path toward even greater accomplishment, I am grateful for the commitment to our future shown by our Bruin family.

Have a safe and enjoyable summer.


Gene D. Block

June 12, 2015

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