Letter from the chancellor: 2012-13 in review

The following letter was issued by UCLA Chancellor Gene Block on June 14:
 
Commencement ceremonies today in Pauley Pavilion and this weekend throughout the campus will bring to a close a monumentally successful academic year for UCLA. In ways both great and simple, our students, staff and faculty enhanced UCLA’s excellence in research and teaching, and they deepened the impact of our service to our society.
 
In October, we celebrated one of the signature moments of our recent history when Lloyd S. Shapley, professor emeritus of economics and mathematics, received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. Professor Shapley, who joined our faculty in 1981, was honored for his research on “matching theory,” which aims to improve the performance of markets by, for example, connecting prospective students with schools or aligning patients who need organ transplants with donors. He became the sixth UCLA professor to be named a Nobel laureate, and was one of dozens of UCLA faculty to receive major honors in the past year.
 
The breadth and impact of the research being conducted by our faculty is impressive. Their extraordinary scholarship is changing the world and will continue to do so. UCLA’s role as an engine of discovery continues to draw significant investment in the form of research grants and contracts. With two weeks remaining in the fiscal year, our faculty have received $783 million from funding agencies. This is a terrific achievement given the increasingly challenging environment for research funding.
 
Our faculty excel at applying knowledge from multiple disciplines to answer today’s most vexing questions. The recently introduced UCLA Grand Challenges initiative will further leverage this strength. In concept, the program will draw inspiration from the “grand challenges” campaign that has been launched by the White House. At UCLA, we will focus on areas in which our scholars are best poised to produce breakthrough innovations that will transform lives and industries. We plan to launch “mega-research” projects that bring together our exceptional intellectual resources from academic disciplines throughout campus to advance research for the benefit of society. Two of these projects will focus on the environment and sustainability, and mapping activity in the brain to help us better understand disorders such as depression, Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy. 
 
We also continue to transform our campus, providing our scholars and community with the very best resources and facilities. Among the latest noteworthy projects was the renovation of Pauley Pavilion, which reopened in October. The new Pauley retains its historic appeal and now features state-of-the-art amenities that will benefit our students, student-athletes and fans for many years to come—and it is now better equipped to host a wide range of sports, concerts, academic and community events throughout the year. 
 
Another recent initiative aimed at improving our collective health and well-being. In April, UCLA became the first UC campus to adopt a tobacco-free policy, banning the use of cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and all other tobacco products. Studies have shown that tobacco users are more likely to quit in tobacco-free environments, and the campus is offering assistance to those who want to give up tobacco products.
 
UCLA continued to be the most applied-to university in the U.S. For this fall’s incoming freshman class, we received a record 80,497 applications for approximately 5,700 spots. I want to emphasize that we remain strongly committed to providing opportunities for California students while enhancing the diversity of our student body by admitting outstanding students from outside the state and around the world. All of us are looking forward to welcoming what should be a spectacular group of new students in September. 
 
In addition to enrolling the best and brightest undergraduates, our campus leadership and faculty are committed to ensuring that students are able to easily complete their major requirements and graduate in a timely manner. I am pleased to report that UCLA’s graduation rates, which have long been among the best in the nation, are at historically high levels. More than 91 percent of entering freshmen are graduating from UCLA, and continuing this trend will remain a high priority.
 
Looking beyond our campus, last year marked the 150th year of the Morrill Act, which directed federal resources to the states to establish colleges. Ultimately, the action helped make the U.S. a superpower. Now the rapid decline in public funding for higher education is threatening to strip away much of what that legislation built. As immediate past chair of the board of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and through prominent panel discussions and published articles, I have advocated for greater support for public higher education and will continue to do so.
 
One way we are responding to the changing higher-education environment is by increasing and enhancing our use of technological tools such as online education. This is not new to UCLA—we already have an online master’s degree program in engineering, to name just one example—but by the fall, UCLA will offer approximately 40 online undergraduate courses, enrolling up to 4,000 students. With these classes, and with more to come in the future, we will maintain an intense focus on course quality and meeting the needs of our students. 
 
Relieving some of the financial pressure associated with education costs is another way we can meet student needs, and our donors have generously supported this endeavor. In December, we received a transformative gift of $100 million from entertainment industry executive David Geffen to establish the David Geffen Medical Scholarship Fund which, when combined with an earlier $200 million gift, made him the largest-ever donor to a single University of California campus. Starting this fall, the fund will provide four-year financial support—covering 100 percent of tuition, room and board, books and supplies, and other expenses—for our most highly qualified medical students.
 
Thousands of our alumni and friends also continue to step up to support UCLA and our scholars in remarkable ways. In total, we have already received nearly $397 million in gifts and pledges this year—a figure that will increase further by the end of the fiscal year on June 30. That depth of engagement with UCLA is as humbling as it is essential to our future. Our abilities to innovate and inspire, educate and cure, and lead and serve are all tied directly to your generosity and support. 
 
We already are looking forward to even greater achievements in 2013–14. For now, enjoy your summer and thank you for your vital engagement with UCLA.
 
Sincerely,
 
Gene D. Block
Chancellor

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