Remarks to the Board of Regents

May 14, 2014

UC President Janet Napolitano's remarks to the Board of Regents at its May 2014 meeting in Sacramento, CA, as prepared for delivery:

Thank you, Chair Varner.

Before I begin today, I want to introduce the new face in the crowd. Her name is Dr. Kimberly Budil.

Dr. Budil is the University’s new Vice President for Laboratory Management. But she is not new to the University. Dr. Budil is an exceptionally regarded scientist and administrator who has worked at Lawrence Livermore for almost thirty years—in programs ranging from the National Ignition Facility to Global Security. She first joined the UC family as a Ph.D. student in applied science and engineering at UC Davis.

Kim, welcome aboard.

Dr. Budil replaces Dr. Glenn Mara, who served UC with commendable dedication and foresight for forty years. And we thank Glenn for his tremendous service to UC. We will have a resolution that honors Glenn later in the meeting.

I would now like to address a couple of items of business that arose since we last met in San Francisco.

The first concerns our ongoing efforts to foster an ethos of respect, inclusion, and civility at the University of California.

Recently, President Obama rightfully raised the issue of sexual assault on college campuses. His is a concern I share, and a commitment to action that I fully support.

Last month, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault released a significant report that included six key recommendations for universities. I want to be clear that UC was already implementing these recommendations at the time of the report’s release.

The report recommends ongoing training for victim advocates. UC does this, and will do more. It recommends strict confidentiality protocols. UC does this, and will do more. It recommends holding offenders accountable. UC does this, and will do more.

Now, this is not to say that our work on this front is complete. Curbing sexual assault on college campuses is a challenge that requires all hands on deck—from students to staff to faculty to leadership. Our students in particular already are playing a key role in educating us, and one another, on this issue.

It is in that spirit that I am pleased to announce that the first recipient of the 2014 President’s Award for Outstanding Student Leadership is the “Student Wellness Commission – 7000 in Solidarity Campaign” at UCLA. Representing the “7000 in Solidarity Campaign” is Savannah Badalich, who is a 3rd year undergraduate at UCLA majoring in International Development Studies.

Chancellor Block, would you please escort Savannah to the speakers’ table?

One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is the opportunity to recognize UC students for their hard work, their creative thinking, and their public service. It is for this purpose that the President’s Award for Outstanding Leadership was created.

The “7000 in Solidarity Campaign” is a relatively new student organization at UCLA. Its aim is commendable: to create a campus culture in which sexual assault is not tolerated. These students have worked to do so through educating members of the UCLA community; through expanding support resources for survivors of sexual assault; and through partnerships with other student organizations on campus. In a testament to the power of their efforts, other colleges and universities across the country have adopted this campaign.

Please join me in congratulating the UCLA “Student Wellness Commission – 7000 in Solidarity Campaign”.

I’d now like to invite Savannah to say a few words.

Thank you.

In the period since our last meeting, a criticism was levied at California’s Master Plan for Higher Education. It came from some researchers at the University of Pennsylvania.

With regard to UC specifically, the report suggests the notion that research displaces education.

This tells me that we have a lot more educating to do about what this University does, and what it is all about. Many people still do not understand UC’s research mission and the impact it has on the education of our students, not to mention its contribution to California and the world. Research isn’t a luxury our faculty pursue after the lecture lets out. It’s fundamental to the synergy between our researchers, graduate students, and undergraduates—and to the outstanding ideas and discoveries that in turn shape the education of our students.

Research doesn’t just benefit undergraduate education, however. It also benefits all of us. Because of the innovation and new knowledge UC has created, California is considered a cutting edge state.

At the same time, this report fails to grasp the beauty of the Master Plan itself. UC flourishes as a great research university because of the clear delineation of duties between UC, CSU, and the Community Colleges. It is thanks to this Plan that California is served by multiple routes into higher education, and into training and expanding the workforce.

Now, the Master Plan is a wonderful plan—but like all plans, it must evolve. And so Chancellors White and Harris and I are working to fine-tune the relationship between our institutions. Doing so will ensure that California continues to move forward as one of the great societies in the world.

Today, you will hear about one piece of that fine-tuning effort—enhancing the experience, and expanding the numbers, of community college transfers to UC. The Transfer Action Team I appointed in November will share its report and recommendations with you this afternoon. They will discuss how we can improve the transfer experience for those students at UC. And they will discuss how we can make it easier for all students, especially underserved ones, to gain access to the University.

This is a major priority for me. Almost one in three UC undergraduates entered higher education as a community college student. These students are an important part of UC’s strength as an engine of social mobility for our state. Put simply, if we are serving transfers well, then we are serving the state well.

Of course, transfer numbers are challenging to discuss in the abstract. But when you put a name and a face to the transfer experience, you begin to understand why making sure we get the community college transfer issue right is so important.

It is in that spirit that I am pleased to announce the second recipient of the 2014 President’s Award for Outstanding Student Leadership. Her name is Axana Rodriguez-Torres. She is an undergraduate double-major in Psychology and Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior at UC Davis.

Chancellor Katehi, would you please escort Axana to the speakers’ table?

Axana played a key role as a coordinator of the UC Davis Pre-Medical and Pre-Health Professional National Conference—the largest of its kind in the United States. She has also developed a prevention-focused Diabetes Education Program in Spanish. It is offered at free clinics, churches, and community centers in Sacramento. Axana even secured a $10,000 foundation grant to make this program broadly available online.

I want to pause here for a moment and tell you a little bit more about Axana.

You see, her story is incredible.

Axana completed three years of medical school in Colombia before immigrating to the United States as a political asylee. She cleaned houses, served fast food, and provided childcare while she learned English. As her English proficiency grew, she worked as an immigration consultant and a tax preparer for those whose English was limited.

A serious illness re-clarified Axana’s desire to become a doctor. But her medical school credits from Colombia were not transferable. So Axana enrolled at American River College, a community college not far from here. She then transferred to UC Davis—where she is thriving.

Her next goal? An M.D.-Ph.D. program.

Axana, I know I speak for everyone when I say that we are all rooting for you.

Please join me in congratulating Axana Rodriguez-Torres.

I’d now like to invite Axana to say a few words.

Thank you, and congratulations.

In closing, I would like to look ahead for a moment. Next week, I travel to Mexico on my first visit in support of the UC-Mexico initiative. I will be meeting with education and government leaders, and exploring and building upon relationships with our partner institutions in higher education. The goal is to see where our mutual interests converge, to see where we can help one another, and to identify the shared issues we face.

The world our students will lead is one that will be more closely integrated, more seamless, than the one we inhabit today. This initiative aims to help expose them to the cultural experiences and resources they will need to lead that world well. At the same time, it aims to enrich further the relationship between California and Mexico.

These are objectives I fully support.

Chair Varner, there is much more I could say about all of the activity underway at the University of California, so I am happy to answer any questions. For the time being, however, this concludes my remarks to the Regents.