- The campus’s strategic plan focuses on deepening and enhancing UCLA’s local and global engagement, research and creative activities, educational instruction, and institutional effectiveness.
- The timeline covers the next five years of UCLA’s development, from 2023 to 2028.
- By centering the concept of inclusive excellence, the plan ensures that equity and justice will be at the forefront of UCLA’s efforts.
This summer, UCLA’s Latin American Institute brought 18 Los Angeles teachers to Oaxaca, Mexico, to learn about Indigenous culture and bring that knowledge back to their classrooms. A month prior, a UCLA Engineering professor was awarded a campus grant to develop a course connecting undergraduates with local community groups to partner on environmental justice projects. And just a week ago, UCLA Law inaugurated its new Promise Institute Europe in The Hague to help extend its expertise, advocacy and teaching on human rights in the international arena.
What do these projects have in common? They’re representative of the ways in which UCLA, as a world-class public research university in one of the world’s most diverse and dynamic megacities, is effecting positive change on campus, in local communities and around the globe. And they’re emblematic of where UCLA is heading.
With the launch today of Creating the Future: UCLA’s 2023–28 Strategic Plan, the campus has made a commitment to deepening and expanding that impact. The plan, developed in consultation with faculty, students, staff, alumni, community members and other stakeholders, outlines five primary goals and provides a blueprint for reaching them over the next five years.
Those areas of focus are: deepening UCLA’s engagement with the global city in which it is located; expanding the university’s global influence; developing key structures and initiatives to help UCLA advance cutting-edge research and creative activities for the greater good; capitalizing on new teaching approaches and technology to elevate instruction; and adjusting UCLA processes, culture and infrastructure to help the university meet these other aims.
Tying together all of these goals is the concept of inclusive excellence, which recognizes that ‘the excellence UCLA has achieved thus far has not been shared in equal measure by people of all backgrounds and identities. But in the years ahead, by centering inclusivity, we can more meaningfully serve our communities and more fully meet our university’s public mandate,” Chancellor Gene Block and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Darnell Hunt wrote in a message to the campus community.
“We are fortunate to be a public university in a place like Los Angeles, where there is no racial or ethnic majority. It is driven by people from all over the world,” Hunt said. “We are both a local and a global city, and we are taking advantage of these unique characteristics.”
Here’s a deeper dive into a few of the goals of the plan:
UCLA and L.A.: Scholarship and service that improve lives
Engagement in the local community, especially with underserved and vulnerable populations, has long been a hallmark of UCLA. Through projects and programs like the Homeless Healthcare Collaborative, UCLA’s Community Schools in South Los Angeles and Koreatown, the James Lawson Jr. Worker Justice Center, the UCLA Volunteer Center, the Center for Community Engagement and scores of other service and research initiatives, UCLA faculty, students and staff have brought the university’s resources, expertise and energy to bear on some society’s most difficult problems.
At the same time, partnerships with community groups and campus-centered efforts such as activist-in-residence programs that have brought the community into the academy have provided Bruins with a deeper, grassroots perspective on issues as varied as racial and social justice, climate change, immigration, education, poverty, health inequities and homelessness.
“We’re already doing work that is clearly connected to the issues of the day, that has policy implications, that is solving problems in the real world that people feel are important,” Hunt said.
Continuing that work — and expanding it — by increasing the connection points between the campus and community is crucial to UCLA’s plan. “We want to create conditions at the university that facilitate this kind of community-engaged work more broadly,” said Shalom Staub, director of UCLA’s Center for Community Engagement.
In that regard, the university’s expansion into the South Bay and downtown Los Angeles has already started the ball rolling, says Staub, who called UCLA’s purchase of the downtown Trust Building “a game-changer. It literally makes space available in the heart of L.A. to create opportunities for connection, a hub for community interaction. Having it as a nexus point is a perfect example of extending this work to a university level.”
While plans for UCLA Downtown are still in the making — the UCLA Downtown Programming Board recently announced that it is now accepting proposals for use of space in the newly acquired building — Staub foresees potential opportunities like an immersive “Quarter in L.A.” that would help mold students into local leaders by heightening their understanding of Los Angeles’ civic environment and the challenges the city faces now and in the future. The location might also host social impact labs, he said, in which students and faculty would work alongside community partners to research and develop recommendations on particularly “wicked” problems affecting local communities.
Roger Wakimoto, vice chancellor for research and creative activities, said establishing a downtown presence had been the highest priority for his research-oriented strategic plan working group. “UCLA Downtown will be great for research and community engagement. We are now part of that community, not just figuratively but literally.”
Importantly, in 2027, the planned expansion of the Purple (D) Line will link UCLA Downtown directly to Westwood, making accessing these types of service and learning opportunities easier for Bruins while further engaging the community by opening up UCLA’s educational offerings to the rest of the city.
In the coming years, this mutually beneficial endeavor — UCLA helping to shape the city while being shaped by it in return — will only continue to blossom, with the university even more committed to driving positive change and creating demonstrative improvements in the lives of Angelenos and their communities.
“In five years’ time you will see us more physically present across the entire city,” Hunt said. “We want people in Los Angeles to think of us as their public university.”
Going ‘glocal’: Connecting the campus, the city and the world
UCLA’s engagement with Los Angeles is, in many ways, part and parcel of engagement on a global scale, said Cindy Fan, vice provost for international studies and global engagement. A truly global metropolis, the city is a rich tapestry of racial, ethnic and religious communities and cultures and home to some of the largest diasporic populations in the world.
“Being in the city of Los Angeles, our impact as a university can be defined both locally and globally — or ‘glocally’ — and this is central to the goal of expanding our reach,” Fan said. “All the global connections that UCLA has and develops have local impacts, and vice versa.”
Fan points in particular to the efforts like the Oaxaca teachers’ workshop, which helps introduce local schoolchildren to the Indigenous culture of the Zapotecs, whose population numbers 200,000 in Los Angeles County, and to the work of UCLA’s Promise Armenian Institute, which forges connections between Armenia, the large Armenian community in Los Angeles and other Armenian diasporas through humanitarian projects and research on culture, history and politics. Cultivating these types of connections, she says, results in tangible benefits not only for members of these communities but for society at large.
Meanwhile, UCLA has continued to build bridges to universities and research institutions throughout the Pacific Rim and beyond, and faculty are addressing a wide range of pressing global challenges — from newly-minted MacArthur Fellow E. Tendayi Achiume’s legal work with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers and the Congo Basin Institute’s work on disease, food security and biodiversity, to research on earthquakes, deforestation, climate change and COVID-19.
A key approach to expanding our global reach, Fan says, is infusing global perspectives into research, teaching and learning across all disciplines and majors, as well as encouraging faculty to “globalize” their research, create more courses that address key global issues and collaborate with international partners. As with local community engagement, the university hopes to ultimately incentivize such efforts through awards, grants and other means.
And while UCLA’s growing connection to the dynamic global landscape will benefit the greater good, it pays dividends in other ways, by enhancing UCLA’s academic excellence, helping to attract top-quality scholars from around the world, strengthening the university’s ties to international alumni, attracting donors with global interests and, perhaps most importantly, preparing students with a global mindset who are poised to succeed in an increasingly interconnected, intercultural world.
Equipping students with global tools also involves expanding the range of international activities in which they can participate, including study-abroad, said Fan, who stressed the need to make such programs available to students from all backgrounds.
“It’s really important to find opportunities for more of our students to study abroad but also to diversify the background of those students,” Fan said, alluding to the inclusive excellence thread that crosses all of the strategic plan’s goals. “It can be expensive. Some students might not have thought about it, might not have a passport. They might be first-gen students or have parents who have never traveled overseas or even left the state. We need to give these opportunities to as many students as possible across the socioeconomic spectrum — and also diversify the locations. It’s nice to go to Europe, but there are many other parts of the world worth exploring.”
Meeting new challenges in teaching and learning
Inclusivity will also figure prominently into the campus’s efforts to elevate teaching, a goal of the strategic plan co-led by Adriana Galván, dean of undergraduate education, and Erin Sanders O’Leary, inaugural vice provost for teaching and learning. By capitalizing on new teaching approaches and technologies, Galván has said she hopes “to help enrich our students with a transformative environment where they all have the tools and resources they need to thrive, grow and become engaged members of society.”
Those tools and resources have become particularly relevant in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the proliferation of virtual learning technologies, and with the quick rise of ChatGPT and other generative artificial intelligence platforms. It’s a pivotal moment for both teaching and learning, presenting extraordinary opportunities but great responsibilities as well.
“We’ve seen in just one year how important and widespread AI has become,” Wakimoto said. “Data science affects every aspect of education. It will be a core competency and will become part of our core curriculum.”
As the campus moves into its second century and approaches several major milestone events — including hosting the Olympic Village for the 2028 Games and celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Westwood campus in 2029 — the new strategic plan aims to preserve UCLA’s core values while setting a course that is even more impactful, inclusive, engaged, global and forward-looking.
“It’s really important to go through the arduous process of forming a strategic plan,” said Wakimoto. “It makes you look inward and ask the tough questions: Why are we here? What are we doing? The mission statement says we are here to serve the public good.
“We will continue to step on the accelerator and take it to a new plane.”