UC President Napolitano visits campus, talks with students, staff, and faculty

UC President Janet Napolitano
UC President Janet Napolitano talks with members of the UCSC women's soccer team during visit to the Cowell College dining hall Thursday. (Photos by Carolyn Lagattuta)
UC President Janet Napolitano
Special Collections director Beth Remak-Honnef points out some student work on display during Napolitano's visit to McHenry Library as Chancellor Blumenthal looks on.
Napolitano talks with Mike Bolte, professor of astronomy and astrophysics, before attending a presentation at the Center for Adaptive Optics.

Janet Napolitano, the new University of California president, visited UC Santa Cruz for two days of talks with students, staff and faculty, and to participate in the public launch of UCSC's first comprehensive fundraising campaign.

It's the fourth UC campus visit for Napolitano, who assumed office September 30. She arrived Thursday afternoon and left Friday around 4 p.m. She toured the campus, talked with students at Cowell College, heard a presentation on adaptive optics on Science Hill, and visited the Grateful Dead Archive and Special Collections at McHenry Library.

Napolitano is the 20th president of the University of California and the first woman president in UC's 145 year-history. UC Regents appointed her July 18.

Thursday evening she attended the Ed Talks presentation in downtown Santa Cruz with Chancellor Blumenthal and stayed afterward for 45 minutes talking with Mayor Hilary Bryant and other guests from UCSC and Santa Cruz.  

Friday, she held back-to-back morning meetings with members of the Academic Senate, Staff Advisory Board, and student leaders with the Student Union Assembly and Graduate Students Association. She was scheduled to hold a private meeting Friday afternoon with approximately 20 California Dream Act students who aren't U.S. citizens and don't have immigration documents.

"My biggest impression is she really listens," said chemistry professor and Academic Senate chair Joe Konopelski. "She doesn't talk much; she listens, she's like a sponge. She made a very positive impression," he said.

Napolitano said she plans to visit all 10 UC campuses in her first months on the job to learn about each university and listen to its constituents.

Shaz Umer, chair of the Student Union Assembly, said Napolitano immediately asked what student life was on campus. "She's very willing to learn and listen," said Umer (Merrill, '14), a double major in Earth and Planetary sciences and politics.

Speaking at a luncheon Friday to launch UCSC's first comprehensive campaign, Napolitano praised the campus's location, facilities, and people. She described her visits Thursday including Bay Tree Bookstore to buy a chocolate slug and a visit to the Seymour Discovery Center Friday morning.

"They were going to let me pet a shark," she said. "But I just came from Washington; I chose a dolphin instead."

An earlier visit with the executive committee of the UCSC Staff Advisory Board "went really well," said chair Fiona Weigant. "She's down to earth and was sincere in listening to staff issues about salaries, workload, and retention." Napolitano also expressed interest in improving communication between the Office of the President and individual campuses and making UC a good place to work, Weigant said.
"She was very open minded and interested in our concerns," said Cameron Alston, a Ph.D. student in computer science who chairs the Graduate Student Assembly. "I'm excited about the new leadership."

In her remarks at lunch, Napolitano highlighted UCSC's tradition of interdisciplinary research and described "a most inspiring walk through McHenry Library" where she saw students working in teams and other students "actually studying." She also noted the power of philanthropy.

"I want to make that public case for our public university," she said.