Wrapping up the year

To: UC Santa Cruz Community

From: Chancellor George Blumenthal

Campus is once again deep in preparation for commencement, meaning another school year is rapidly drawing to a close. I want to thank you all for another noteworthy year. It hasn't been one without its share of challenges, but there is much to celebrate.

First, though, I have some sad news to share. A student passed away at the start of finals week. Zackory Myers was a mathematics major who loved to ride his bike. He is remembered by friends and family as someone exceedingly sweet and polite who touched the lives of many through his humor and an ability to share his understanding of math. We mourn his loss. We encourage students who wish to speak with someone to contact Counseling and Psychological Services at 831-459-2628. Faculty and staff may call the Employee Assistance Program at 866-808-6205.

Campus accomplishments

At the end of this month, we are ending the largest fundraising campaign we have ever undertaken, and it can only be described as an overwhelming success! Drawing support from more than 57,000 donors, the Campaign for UC Santa Cruz has surpassed its fundraising target, reaching $320 million. It's done so well we're wrapping it up six months early. Important work all across campus is benefiting from the generosity of our friends and alumni.

Our campus's diverse strengths were on display over the past year for the world to see.

We were ranked fourth worldwide for research influence, landing us in the company of UC Berkeley, Stanford University, MIT and St. George's University of London. Showing our range, we also were chosen as one of the country's best colleges for undergraduate film majors, and the campus's graduate and undergraduate programs in computer game design were rated among the nation's best.

Our faculty, meanwhile, continue to be recognized for paradigm-changing work. This year saw faculty bestowed with some of the highest honors in their fields. Among them:

Harry Noller, Sinsheimer Professor of Molecular Biology, won the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences. His discoveries surrounding ribosomes have shed light on fundamental questions about the origins of life.

Sandra Faber, professor emerita of astronomy and astrophysics, was awarded the Gruber Cosmology Prize in recognition of a body of work that has helped establish foundational principles underlying our understanding of the universe.

Julie Guthman, a leading scholar on the history and geography of California agriculture, had a fantastic year, earning both Guggenheim and Radcliffe Institute fellowships.

John Thompson, Jean H. Langenheim Professor of Plant Ecology and Evolution, took home the Darwin-Wallace Medal, one of the top international prizes in evolutionary biology, for research that has shaped our grasp of evolutionary processes.

Climate scientist Jim Zachos was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors a U.S. scientist can receive.

Politics professor Sikina Jinnah's 2017 Carnegie Fellowship was fantastic news, and especially great in that it followed professor Mark Massoud's in 2016, also in politics. The department has become a powerhouse.

We as a campus can take great pride in these tremendous honors.

Great faculty is only part of a vital equation, though. Our educators strive to instill in students a passion for learning and for creating a better world—and our alumni are the ultimate barometers of our success. That's why it's extremely gratifying to see what alumni like Natalie Batalha and Carmen Perez are accomplishing.

Natalie, lead scientist for NASA's Kepler Mission, was named one of Time Magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World 2017." She is leading the search for Earth-size planets beyond our solar system.

Carmen was co-organizer of January's Women's March, the largest social-justice demonstration on U.S. soil in decades. The themes of the march included equity, inclusion and empowering marginalized communities—all tenets of our campus!

Student accomplishment

Our students are also leading through innovation.

John Felts, a grad student in electrical engineering, took second place in this year's UC-wide Grad Slam competition with his presentation on Cruz Foam. His Earth-friendly alternative to the environmentally toxic foam used to make surfboards is made from shrimp shells!

Edmundo Perez, a bioengineering major from Salinas, won this year's Steck Award, which recognizes the most outstanding senior research project.

Meanwhile, hundreds of our undergraduates, under the guidance of faculty members, are working in coordination with local community organizations—on the affordable housing crisis in Santa Cruz County, on Pajaro Valley's water problems, on boosting educational access in low-income communities.

Our staff continues to be some of the best, most dedicated in higher education, constantly looking for innovative ways to aid students and faculty, and to promote the university. Irena Polić, our Institute for Humanities Research managing director, was the very deserving winner of this year's Outstanding Staff Award for her work advancing the humanities.

And we've kicked off our Staff Mentorship Program, a volunteer effort that pairs experienced UC Santa Cruz staff from all campus units with newer staff seeking to develop themselves professionally.

UC Santa Cruz faculty, staff, alumni, and students are making significant contributions locally, nationally and on the global stage, and I couldn't be more proud.

We've made progress on so many fronts. A new campus provost and executive vice chancellor, Marlene Tromp, has joined us. We're close to completing an overhaul of our historic Quarry Amphitheater. This past fall we opened our Silicon Valley Campus, and we established a new center in Scotts Valley for 300 staffers. We've made great progress on our Student Housing West project, which will net us 3,000 new beds over the next few years. And we're looking well into the future — 2040 — with the start of our new Long-Range Development Plan. I can't remember a time with so much unfolding simultaneously.

Student interest in campus, meanwhile, continues to skyrocket. Undergraduate applications for fall 2017 again reached an all-time high, and we saw a good jump in diversity numbers, too, with increases in African-American; Asian-American and Pacific Islander; and Latino applicants. More than a third of our applicants come from low-socioeconomic backgrounds. These are gratifying numbers, proof that UC Santa Cruz continues to be about access and opportunity for a diverse group of Californians.

Great news for intercollegiate athletics

Finally, I am elated that students overwhelmingly supported the recent campus measure to put our intercollegiate athletics program on a sustainable path forward. Intercollegiate athletics at UC Santa Cruz now have a bright future. I commend the campus community, the student athletes, EOP leadership, the Senate special committee, our alumni, and our foundation board members for all their hard work in supporting athletics. What a wonderful capstone to the year.

In closing, I offer congratulations to our graduates and urge you to keep in touch. You're leaving campus but joining a powerful network of more than 100,000 alumni, many of whom are eager to help new graduates. Check out the Career Advice Network; follow UC Santa Cruz on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; email your professors and let them know what you're up to! Graduation isn't the end—it's the beginning of a new phase of your relationship with UC Santa Cruz.

Fiat Slug!