Q&A: Campus Provost Kliger discusses emerging academic plan

David Kliger

Earlier this quarter, Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor David Kliger completed his second full year on the job. During that time he has served Chancellors Denton and Blumenthal and provided important transitional support between their two administrations. With the current year approaching its final month, the campus provost discusses one priority that has remained constant during his two years in his current position.

What do you consider to be the most important work you have done as campus provost?

I think the most important work on my desk during these two years has been the task of overseeing the development of a campus academic plan. The campus has been engaged in ongoing planning efforts for a number of years. However, we have been challenged in our ability to integrate those plans into an overall vision for the campus--one that builds on our strengths, identifies our distinctions, establishes priorities, and considers the regional programs that have been initiated in the Silicon Valley and Monterey.

In the period of rapid enrollment growth experienced during the past decade, we often had the luxury of new money coming to the campus to support new programs and interests. As we prepare for more measured growth in the coming decade, careful consideration of how we use our resources will be necessary to achieve our most critical goals.

Can you describe the plan and the new directions it identifies for the campus?

In brief, the academic plan reflects the interests of the faculty and their scholarship priorities. In preparing the draft plan, we examined the current academic strengths across the campus, the plans of departments and divisions for future faculty hires, the prospects for new programs, and the needs of the state. From that process, we identified six broad areas around which the campus interests coalesce. These are: a) technology and its impact on society; b) public documentation and communication; c) science and policy of evolving environments; d) human health; e) cross-cultural initiatives; and 6) transnationalism and globalization. This approach enables us to support our traditional programs but build new programs in a way that maximizes the impact we can have in these areas. This approach also plays to one of the campus's true strengths: our legacy of collaborative work in research and instruction, performed across disciplinary boundaries.

How close to final is this plan?

An academic plan is never finished because the nature of the academic enterprise is dynamic-always changing as new areas of knowledge emerge, economies fluctuate, societal needs change, and student interest moves us in new directions.

The planning process has been iterative over the last two years. It started with the faculty, the Deans then worked to unite departmental plans into divisional plans. Vice Provost Alison Galloway has taken the lead on consulting with the Deans, the Academic Senate, and other campus constituents to develop the campus plan. Vice Provost Galloway is now working on an implementation component to the plan, which should be finalized for campus review sometime in fall quarter.

Will there be opportunities for other members of the campus community to provide input?

I welcome broad review of the Academic Plan; please encourage others to view the current draft. Members of the campus community can e-mail comments to me at: cpevc@ucsc.edu.

There have been periods when the campus functioned without an academic plan. It may seem obvious, but why do you think it matters so much?

It's not always obvious, but the academic plan helps us to understand where we want to go, and will help guide our actions to ensure we get there. The academic plan is important because it lays out the choices we face, the options we should consider, the costs in financial and academic terms, and which options appear to best serve the campus community. We need to build a collective understanding that we may need to forgo some of the things we want in order to support those things that are more important. The academic plan helps us understand the tradeoffs that will be inherent in the decisions we make. But more importantly it helps us identify opportunities to work across traditional boundaries and leverage existing resources so that the resulting academic program will be more than the sum of its parts.

Another reason to care about our academic plan is that we are about to launch our first comprehensive fundraising campaign. We train students to be good stewards of the environment, to utilize technology in exploring the universe, to understand how globalization affects our lives, to appreciate how creativity and artistic expression enriches our lives, and to understand ourselves, our health, and our societies. We want people outside of our immediate community to understand the impact of our work so they will want to contribute financially to support that work.

After two years in this position, what do you like most about your current job?

When I was interviewing for faculty positions early in my career, I was persuaded to come to Santa Cruz because I believed that it offered an opportunity to be part of a community that shared my values, where I could engage in work I found interesting, where I found colleagues I respected, and students who were engaged and committed. After 35 years, the things that brought me here are the same things that energize me in my current position.