This story originally appeared in UCLA Today, a discontinued publication.

Letter from the chancellor: academic year in review

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Dear Bruins and Bruin Families,
 
At the end of the academic year at UCLA, we can look back on many extraordinary accomplishments from all corners of our institution, even as the university faced a deepening challenge due to the troubling California financial climate.
 
I am pleased to share with you some highlights of the past 12 months.
 
Academic and research excellence
 
Over the past year, I have been invited to conferences and other events across the nation and around the world. Wherever I go, the accomplishments of our UCLA faculty, students and alumni are spoken of with great admiration and respect. UCLA, long one of the best universities in California, is now one of the best universities in the world.
 
We are proud of the numerous UCLA faculty who were recognized for outstanding scholarly achievement. Among their many prestigious honors, three faculty were elected to the National Academy of Sciences and three were elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, four received Guggenheim Fellowships and one earned a Sloan Research Fellowship. In addition, at least 10 faculty members have been appointed by the Obama administration to presidential commissions, boards, advisory groups and other key positions.
 
As of this week, UCLA had received more than $1 billion in competitively awarded research grants and contracts for the second consecutive year — an outstanding feat. Multimillion-dollar grants were awarded to create state-of-the-art labs to study sustainable energy and environmental engineering; to develop medical responses in case of radiological or nuclear attacks; and to fund a multidisciplinary partnership — which also includes the Los Angeles Unified School District—that will improve and advance computer science instruction in high schools.
 
In another stirring example of the advances taking shape here, in March, the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center became the first facility in the West — and only the fourth in the U.S. — to perform a hand transplant. The patient, a 26-year-old mom from Northern California, was adapting well to her new hand several weeks after the landmark surgery.
 
Campus milestones
 
We enjoyed another record-breaking year in admissions, with a total of more than 81,200 applications. More than 19,700 prospective transfer students applied, and we admitted about 5,400 for about 3,200 places. From the more than 61,500 high school seniors who applied, we admitted 15,700 for about 5,900 places in a freshman class that we expect to be the largest ever at UCLA.
 
Our 2011 freshman class will include more students from outside of California than any previous class, a sign of UCLA’s strong international reputation. This geographic diversity enlivens our campus community and provides much-needed resources. At the same time, we also will enroll a greater number of California students than in any previous year. Even during this time of constrained budgets and shrinking state resources, we determined that it was critical to provide opportunities for as many state residents as possible to have access to the world-class education that UCLA offers.
 
I have worked closely with the provost and deans to ensure that all undergraduates will have access to the courses they need for general education requirements, and to ensure they will be able to graduate on time, despite the larger incoming class. To that end, we have created a special fund that allows us to quickly deploy our teaching resources where they are most needed, to introduce exciting innovations in teaching methods and curricula, and to safeguard the quality of undergraduate education for which UCLA is so widely recognized. At the same time, we are expanding on-campus housing: An additional 1,500 beds will be ready in residence halls on the Hill during 2012 and 2013.
 
Highlighting the year in athletics, our women’s golf team earned its third national championship and UCLA’s 107th NCAA title overall. The victory continued an astounding streak during which we have won at least one national championship in a team sport each year since 1995. Bruin student-athletes excelled across the board again in 2010-11, with several teams concluding their seasons ranked among the best in the NCAA.
 
The face of our campus continued to evolve, with the opening in October of the Terasaki Life Sciences Building and the groundbreaking the same month of the Edie & Lew Wasserman Building, which is scheduled to open in 2014 at the Jules Stein Eye Institute. The renovation of Pauley Pavilion continues, and we look forward to its reopening in 2012.
 
In early March, the campus community came together to mark the Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary and recognize UCLA’s role as one of the original training sites for the Corps. The program featured Peace Corps director Aaron S. Williams—who returned this month to speak at Commencement and receive The UCLA Medal — and four accomplished UCLA alumni who served in the Peace Corps. The four-day celebration connected elegantly with our ongoing public service activities, which this year included our second annual UCLA Volunteer Day — the largest one-day service event for new university students—and the Westwood Organized Mega Project, in which hundreds of Bruins pitched in to restore and clean up Westwood Village.
 
Diversity and campus values
 
We continued to build on programs that offer opportunities for engaged dialogue on the values of respect, tolerance, diversity and inclusion. In early 2011, I joined some of our students and faculty in filming a video for the It Gets Better Project, a movement to provide emotional support for young gay and lesbian men and women who are facing bullying. I learned a great deal from their stories, and the experience again reinforced the notion that on a campus as dynamic and diverse as ours, we can always heighten our efforts to ensure that no student, and no community, feels marginalized at UCLA.
 
I also have continued to support state and federal Dream Act legislation, which would remove barriers to higher education for undocumented students. At the state level, legislation was recently passed by the State Assembly and is awaiting consideration by the Senate; in Congress, U.S. Rep. Howard Berman, a UCLA alumnus, recently reintroduced the federal DREAM Act. The undocumented students who attend UCLA enrich our campus community. We must ensure that they, and future highly motivated students, have a fair opportunity to succeed and to contribute to our nation’s economic success.
 
Student and alumni honors
 
Three students were chosen to receive this year’s Charles E. Young Humanitarian Awards for their outstanding service to the community. Jonathan Ditty, with the help of UCLA medical students and local podiatrists, organized clinics to provide foot care for homeless people; Gabriel Gomez worked with the Senior Buddies program of Pilipinos for Community Health at UCLA, organizing visits to senior citizens; and Andrew Kaddis was recognized for his efforts with Bruin Guardian Scholars Program, a student-run organization that brings foster youth to UCLA to teach them about college preparedness.
 
Last month, we presented UCLA Awards to five distinguished alumni for their service to UCLA, their professions, our communities, California and society. The honorees were Madelyn Alfano ’80; Stephen Arditti ’64, J.D. ’67; Rita Rothman ’70; Art Spander ’60; and Vinton Cerf M.S. ’70, Ph.D. ’72, who received the Edward A. Dickson Alumnus of the Year Award.
 
Financial security
 
Our confidence in UCLA’s future is strengthened by the generosity of our alumni, friends and community. Through mid-June, private giving to UCLA totaled more than $428 million, far surpassing the $379 million we received all of last year. As well, the number of individual gifts and pledges we have received increased this year to more than 78,000, reflecting broader participation by our supporters.
 
We are fortunate to be the beneficiaries of such wonderful and widespread support, but a quartet of landmark gifts bear special mention. The Lincy Foundation transferred approximately $200 million to UCLA to create the Dream Fund, which is being used to establish $20 million in new, merit-based scholarships for undergraduates with demonstrated financial need, as well as research and academic programs, and initiatives beyond our campus.
 
A transformative gift of $100 million from alumni Meyer and Renee Luskin endowed the Luskin School of Public Affairs, and will help construct an academic conference center and provide support for UCLA sponsored conferences and a range of other programs. John and Marion Anderson enhanced their longtime support of the UCLA Anderson School of Management with an additional $25 million gift; and music executive Morris "Mo" Ostin donated $10 million through the Ostin Family Foundation toward a state-of-the-art music facility.
 
We also are pleased that student giving is on the rise, reflecting a growing culture of giving back. To date, more than 2,000 current students have participated in this year’s Student Giving Initiative, an increase of 42 percent over the same period last year.
 
Buoyed by the support of parents, alumni and friends in Los Angeles and around the world, our faculty and students added immeasurably to the UCLA legacy this year through their scholarship and citizenship. With your continued engagement, I look forward to all that we will accomplish together in the year ahead.
 
I remain grateful for your commitment to UCLA. Have a safe and enjoyable summer. Go Bruins!
 
Sincerely,
Gene D. Block
Chancellor
Media Contact