My June newsletter

June 27, 2014

Dear Colleagues,

It’s hard to believe, but my first academic year at UC is already drawing to a close. Summer is upon us, and we’re saying goodbye to another class of graduates ready to go out into the world and make a difference. I hope you’ll join me in wishing them well.

Before talking about University business, I want to pause to mourn the tragic and senseless deaths last month of six UC Santa Barbara students, and the other victims who were injured. These young people, beloved members of the UC family whose lives were just beginning, will always be in our hearts. In the aftermath of the tragedy, UC has come together to reflect and, ultimately, to move forward deliberately and soberly with our mission of teaching, research and public service. By pushing on with our work and by reaffirming our commitment to the very values that drew these bright young people to UC, we honor them. 

Turning to other matters, I’d like to update you on several important initiatives.

The first is UC’s transfer initiative, which I mentioned in last month’s newsletter.  An important goal for me is to make sure California Community College students have a clear path to follow if they want to transfer to UC. Transfer students, nearly one in three UC undergraduates, are an important part of UC’s community and a key component of the University’s strength as an engine of social mobility for our state. By serving them well, we serve the state well.

I’m pleased to report the University took a big step last month toward meeting my goal. The Transfer Action Team, which I convened late last year, issued several important recommendations that I fully support and which I intend to see enacted as quickly as possible.

The team’s key recommendations include simplifying the information UC gives students about how to transfer, increasing UC’s presence at community colleges, improving the transfer preparation process and offering more support to transfers once they get to UC.

The team also called for UC, the California Community Colleges and the California State University system to join in a united front to ask state lawmakers to provide the resources needed to increase the capacity of all three of the state’s higher education segments.

You can read the team’s report here.

A second initiative focuses on commercial applications for UC research and innovations. Last month, I was lucky enough to attend the University’s annual Technology Commercialization Forum and get a glimpse of the amazing technological innovations created by our faculty, post-docs and graduate and undergraduate students.

The scale of UC’s innovation is impressive: more than 1,700 inventions reported, 395 patents issued and 71 startups formed in just the last year. This work generates tens of millions of dollars for the University each year, the bulk of which is used to support research and education at UC’s campuses.

These inventions — which include a safe, inexpensive way to remove arsenic from groundwater and an oxygen system to help people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, to name just two — are testament to the entrepreneurial spirit that thrives at UC. That spirit, and the innovation and businesses that grow from it, help make UC a powerhouse of economic growth for California.  

I want to do all I can to fuel innovation so that UC faculty and students know we back their creativity and entrepreneurial drive, which ultimately benefit the public. I’ve asked each campus to think about how it can do more to support our researchers and move their innovations out into the world, where they can do the most good.

Critical progress is already under way. First, I am convening an external advisory body, the UC Innovation Council, to support the University’s technology commercialization initiative. The Council — which will be comprised of a range of seasoned leaders in innovation and entrepreneurship — will advise me and my team on the direction of our efforts.

Second, we have rescinded the policy that prohibited the University from investing directly in companies commercializing technology based on UC research. The change was made following a recommendation from a systemwide working group tasked with updating the University’s intellectual property policies, after consultation with administrators and faculty throughout UC.

This change will allow us the future flexibility to take equity in companies for services that UC had supported (such as through campus incubators), or to invest capital in companies that originate from the University.

A third initiative I’m working on is deepening UC’s longstanding and productive relationship with Mexico and its universities. One way I hope to do that is by targeting a set of concrete, meaningful objectives to strengthen our ties such as increasing student exchanges, boosting shared research and pursuing joint solutions to critical, shared problems such as climate change and food security.

As a first step, while I was in Mexico City last month, I signed a memorandum of understanding with the Mexican National Council of Science and Technology to create a committee to explore how UC can collaborate more closely with Mexico’s education system. During the trip I, along with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and others, attended the launch of the Bilateral Forum for Higher Education, Research and Innovation, which I hope will be a platform for more and deeper collaboration between UC and Mexico’s universities. These are just the first of what I hope will be many mutually beneficial partnerships that I believe can strengthen our higher education systems and nurture the next generation of leaders in both countries. You can read more about my trip here.

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to share an idea or comment, please send me an email at janet@ucop.edu. And please pass this note on to friends and colleagues you think might be interested. If they like it, encourage them to sign up for future emails.

Yours very truly,

Janet Napolitano
President