The end of a great academic year

To: UC Santa Cruz Community

From: Chancellor George Blumenthal

Commencements are nearly upon us, and we will soon be graduating a record number of students. All told, 5,100 Slugs will earn UC Santa Cruz undergraduate and graduate degrees this academic year!

It’s wonderful to welcome so many students into the ranks of our alumni network, especially during this Year of Alumni, when we are celebrating the accomplishments of the 110,000 people who already own the distinguished Banana Slug title.

Congratulations to all new graduates. As alumni, you earn automatic membership in the UC Santa Cruz Alumni network. This is a vibrant collection of graduates, many of whom are actively looking to help fellow Slugs. Check out the professional and career services you now have access to, as well as other benefits. Graduation represents the beginning of a new phase in your relationship with UC Santa Cruz.

University and faculty honors

This campus has a well-deserved reputation as a top research university with a liberal-arts soul, where trailblazing faculty collaborate across disciplines. The honors we received this year reflect this.

We were named among the top 50 global universities, recognized for both impactful research and quality instruction. We were ranked third worldwide for research influence and fifth in the world for space sciences. At the same time, our game-design programs were named among the top in the country. The university itself was recognized as one of the best spots in the U.S. to earn a film, video or photographic-arts degree. That’s academic breadth.

Our faculty, meanwhile, captured numerous accolades. Beth Shapiro, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, was chosen as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, an honor bestowed on some of the most creative, interdisciplinary scientists working in human health today. Alexie Leauthaud, assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics, landed two fellowships that honor early-career achievement. Marc Mangel, distinguished research professor of applied mathematics, was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation's oldest and most prestigious honorary societies. Two engineers in our Baskin School of Engineering—David Haussler, distinguished professor of biomolecular engineering, and Martín Abadi, professor emeritus of computer science—were elected to the National Academy of Engineering, which is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. And there were many others.

Important work

Across the divisions, we’re making our mark.

Rebecca London, assistant professor of sociology, is leading a team of campus social and data scientists on the Silicon Valley Regional Data Trust, a three-county data-sharing partnership that will level the educational playing field for more than 400,000 public-school students in Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Santa Cruz counties.

Our Center for Public Philosophy recently held an Ethics Bowl, a non-confrontational alternative to traditional competitive debate, at San Quentin Prison between a handful of our undergraduates and a team of prison inmates, part of an effort to move philosophy away from tired stereotypes so it can be applied to the crucial problems of today.

Our Institute of the Arts and Sciences, in collaboration with the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, is right now presenting a work of sonic storytelling, “FOREST (for a thousand years…),” showcasing what you might hear in a forest over hundreds of years.

It’s bold, creative initiatives like these that are cementing our reputation as one of the top public universities in the country.

Plaudits for staff and students

Our staff and students also collected wide praise this year.

Maria Rocha-Ruiz, executive director of our Educational Partnership Center, took home this year’s UC systemwide Dr. Winston Doby Impact Award. Judy Scarborough, our Undergraduate Education academic personnel manager, won this year’s UC Santa Cruz Outstanding Staff Award.

Valeria Jacqueline Alonso Blanco, a psychology major graduating this month, was honored with the prestigious UC President’s Award for Outstanding Student Leadership for her efforts helping first-generation and undocumented students overcome obstacles to transfer to UC Santa Cruz. Josh Gu, a bioengineering major from Los Altos, won this year’s Steck Award, which recognizes campus’ most outstanding senior research project.

Looking ahead

As the academic year wraps up, we are looking to the future, working diligently to create a campus that helps students, faculty, and staff not only succeed but prosper.

I remain excited by the promise of Student Housing West. It will allow us to aid our students who struggle to find affordable housing in a decidedly unaffordable region, with up to 3,000 beds slated to be built on campus. The child-care facility portion of the project will help more of our employees juggle the difficult tasks of working and parenting.

We continue to craft a new Long Range Development Plan, which is giving us the opportunity to sketch out what our campus might look like in the year 2040.

Our Strategic Academic Plan, meanwhile, an exciting initiative being led by Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Marlene Tromp, is moving closer to fruition. It will enable us not only to accentuate what we currently do best, highlighting our work across higher education, but to foster emerging fields.

We are a university going places. Congratulations to all on a great academic year!