Spring 2021 Update

This time last year, we were getting accustomed to teaching, learning and working remotely, not knowing how long it would be our new normal. Today, as COVID-19 vaccines become more widely available and cases continue to decline in Los Angeles, we can begin to embrace a feeling of renewal and expectation for brighter days ahead. UCLA is now expanding some on-campus activities and services as public health guidelines allow, and planning is underway in earnest for what will hopefully be a return to a more traditional campus experience this fall. 

My Spring 2021 Update details how UCLA is tackling major challenges facing our communities, excelling in athletics despite the obstacles and launching new lifelong learning opportunities for our graduates so we can build a better future with Bruins at the helm.

In this issue

01. Fighting COVID-19 and Fighting Hate

02. UCLA Athletics Raises the Bar

03. An Opportunity for Innovation and Reinvention

Fighting COVID-19 and Fighting Hate

For more than 50 years, UCLA’s celebrated Asian American Studies Center has brought together scholars, students and civic organizations to produce knowledge and spread understanding of the history, cultures and experiences of our nation’s diverse Asian American communities. This past year, the center’s work took on an added level of urgency — and its community stepped up in remarkable ways. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread, the center’s faculty and researchers recognized that making accurate information available to communities of all kinds would be key in the fight to save lives and promote public health. The center collaborated with professors in UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health to create the COVID-19 Multilingual Resource Hub, which offers 1,000 life-saving informational resources in more than 50 languages. The center also produced videos on mask wearing, social distancing and handwashing in multiple languages. Additionally, center researchers co-published several policy reports and a special issue of AAPI Nexus on the impact of the pandemic on Asian Americans and other communities of color.

UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center is also taking a leadership role in confronting  this past year’s terrible rise in ethnic hostility towards Asians and Asian Americans. The center has produced public programming to explore the roots of this hatred, and its work has been featured on the Stop AAPI Hate coalition’s website. Additionally, the coalition and the center were recently jointly awarded $1.4 million in funding from the state of California to support community programs and ongoing research addressing the impact of COVID-19. The funding will help support research into subjects like housing and employment, building off of the work of center-affiliated faculty who have examined how the pandemic has impacted Asian American businesses, homeowners and renters. The center is also launching an ambitious study of hate crimes in L.A. County with data from the county’s Human Relations Commission spanning the past 17 years.

UCLA Athletics Raises the Bar

There are few things that bring the UCLA community together like donning blue and gold and cheering on our Bruins from the stands at iconic venues like the Rose Bowl, Pauley Pavilion and the Spieker Aquatics Center. While the pandemic changed these and other aspects of the UCLA Athletics experience, our fans stuck with us and — under the skilled leadership of Alice and Nahum Lainer Family Director of Athletics Martin Jarmond — our student-athletes, coaches and staff excelled. 

With a focus on taking all necessary public health precautions to keep teams and staff healthy, UCLA Athletics began a rigorous COVID-19 testing program in June. Since then, more than 34,000 tests have been administered with a positivity rate of just 0.26%. Bruins were able to begin competing again in November and UCLA Athletics has successfully hosted more than 115 home athletic events since then. 

Our campus community and Bruin fans around the world are proud of our teams’ many accomplishments this past year. To highlight just a few: Men’s water polo won UCLA’s 119th NCAA championship, men’s basketball captivated the nation by making it to the Final Four, women’s basketball consistently ranked in the top 10 all season and advanced to the Pac-12 Championship title game, and gymnastics enthralled the world with trailblazing floor routines that went viral on the internet. Beyond the impressive accolades in competition, UCLA Athletics partnered with ASUCLA to formalize the celebrated Nike/Jumpman partnership and raised more than $4.3 million in philanthropic support for student-athletes through the Bruin Support Program. 

We look forward to celebrating and honoring all of our student-athletes’ phenomenal successes when we are once again on campus. We are also optimistic that, as vaccines become more widely distributed, many sports will welcome more spectators back next season. We hope to see you in the stands for an eight-clap.

An Opportunity for Innovation and Reinvention

While UCLA’s transition to remote work and instruction undoubtedly has been challenging, a silver lining is that it has also stirred up some new ideas about what our university can be. One idea I’m particularly interested in is how we can better serve and become a regular part of the lives of our alumni.

Led by our Alumni Affairs office and UCLA Extension, a new initiative we’re calling the Bruin Promise aims to make lifelong learning a core part of a UCLA education by offering our graduates free or affordable virtual job skills workshops, continuing education courses, and certificate and specialization programs to aid them in their careers.

This past year, we saw remote instruction become a widespread and effective tool for many learners. We also saw major societal and economic upheaval that is creating new classes of jobs and fundamentally changing existing ones. Thus, we have both the opportunity and the obligation to help our alumni adapt to this changing economic landscape — whether they are recent graduates or decades out of college, and whether they live in California or the other side of the world.

You can see some of the Bruin Promise pilot offerings on the UCLA Alumni website, but we also want to hear what members of our community think would be most useful to provide through this program. I encourage you to send your thoughts and ideas to bruinpromise@alumni.ucla.edu

Today, UCLA is deeply loved as a place for students to spend their formative college years. But I think it should also be a place to call upon when our graduates want to strengthen particular skills or pivot to something new. The Bruin Promise represents an exciting reframing of how UCLA can serve students throughout their entire lives, and I am eager to share more about this initiative in the months ahead.