I hope you’re having a successful quarter and enjoying our beautiful, green hills and blue skies. Jim and I are looking forward to the spring desert wild flower season which we hope will be spectacular given our recent rains. I always look forward to winter in Riverside, and even more so because this year we are hosting a Celebration of Books and their Authors on February 15th from 3:00-5:30 in the Center for Teaching and Learning in the Rivera Library. I hope you’ll join me in honoring our colleagues who have published books in 2018. Please RSVP here by February 1 indicating that you have a book to share with the campus, or like me, just want to join in the celebration of our colleagues’ success.
One of the things I enjoy most about being at a research university is the amazing diversity of the work of our faculty. I hope that this celebration will be one of many opportunities for us to come together to recognize the diverse and path-breaking scholarship of our faculty and to learn from each other. Diversity is something our campus is known for and that we take pride in. But genuine diversity also means striving to be inclusive, to be a welcoming campus where every student, staff and faculty member feels like they belong, are respected and treated fairly. A positive campus climate is critical to creating an inclusive environment. Like the weather, we experience microclimates in our day-to-day work lives at UCR. Therefore, creating a positive campus climate starts with the way each of us impacts our home unit. In our daily interactions we can make inclusivity a priority by demonstrating respect for others through kindness, promoting civility by stepping in when someone makes a comment that could be harmful to others, and promptly reporting issues before they escalate. There are numerous reporting avenues including our supervisors, department chairs, Deans, the Ombuds, UCR’s Locally Designated Official (whistleblower), and Title IX for sexual violence and sexual harassment issues. Thank you for doing your part to help make UCR a welcoming campus for everyone.
WASC Update and the Director of Evaluation and Assessment
As you know, we were visited by our WASC Senior College and University Commission review team in October. I want to thank you all for your help throughout the process as we prepared our reports and conducted the visit. It truly was a total campus effort. I was particularly proud of one commendation we received from the team: “We applaud UCR for its values and extensive work to advance the public good. It is clear that institutional commitments to social mobility and diversity are deep-seated and impactful across the institution.” I do not think there is any higher praise. In late February, the Commission will provide our official feedback, including recommendations for improvement, and we will share those outcomes with the campus.
The process of preparing for the WASC visit taught us a great deal about how best to align our resources for institutional success. WASC’s focus has broadened and now includes assessment of graduate programs and all non-academic functions on campus. For these reasons, the Office of Evaluation and Assessment has moved from Undergraduate Education to the Provost’s Office. I am also happy to announce that we have hired a new Director of Evaluation and Assessment, Dr. Omar Safie, who will help us as we work toward developing a broader culture of assessment that is focused on continuous improvement of courses, programs, and outcomes for our students, not just checking boxes for WASC.
This fall, our four-year graduation rates for first-time, full-time freshman improved from 56% to 62.4%. This 6% jump reflects the work of so many folks on campus, especially our amazing advisors, faculty, and instructional support staff. This is a great improvement, but we might not be able to hang on to it as we’ve noticed a concerning trend: UCR students (both those who enter as freshmen and transfer students) aren’t averaging 15 units per quarter. To graduate on time, students must take at least 15 units per quarter or take a significant course load in summer session to compensate. But for the past three academic years the average unit load for students has steadily decreased and is now well-below 15. That means that our future graduation rates will likely drop, but more importantly, our students won’t earn their degrees in a timely manner and will be forced to pay for extra quarters. One thing that many students do not recognize is that their quarterly fees do not depend on whether they take 12, 15, 16 units or more – the cost is all the same. But enrolling in one or two extra quarters because a student failed to enroll in sufficient units can be a significant added expense and financial burden. It’s crucial that everyone involved in giving advice to students recognizes that we must support success with good information and encourage students to take 15 units per quarter.
Student Success Center
Progress on the Student Success Center continues and we are officially in the Design Build competition phase of the process. Currently, three Design Builder teams (combined architectural and general contractor teams) are creating design proposals based on the design criteria developed over the past year in a collaborative process between the campus community and a consulting architectural firm. In spring, the Student Success Center Working Group, comprised of students, staff, and faculty members, will participate in the selection of the Design Build team who will take the project forward through design and construction.
Fall Quarter Time Shift Reminder
Last fall, I updated you on our Course Scheduling Committee that is working to ensure our students can enroll in the courses they need to graduate on time. Improvements to course scheduling help us align our resources and policies, which is increasingly important as we grow as a campus. As part of these efforts, starting in Fall 2019, courses will begin on the hour or half-hour. This will align class schedules with event scheduling conventions that are widely used on and off campus.
Great news! The Office of the President plans to make available to the campuses an extra $50M in lottery funds, and UCR’s share is $5,459,213. These one-time funds are restricted in their use and we are waiting for approval of our plan from OP. Our plan allocates the funds over four years to achieve impact across several areas including bolstering the library budget, helping to support equity advisors in the schools and colleges, purchasing instructional equipment for laboratories, studios and classrooms, and supporting the development of online and hybrid undergraduate and graduate courses. In anticipation of formal approval of our plan, we are preparing proposal solicitations for instructional equipment and online and hybrid courses, which we plan to release in February in anticipation of year-one funding. I hope that you will begin now to think about ways these funds can impact your department.
Provost Town Hall March 6th
Finally, I hope you’ll join me for the annual Provost Town Hall meeting on March 6 from 12:00-1:00 in HUB 302. Town Hall meetings are such a valuable time to come together around those significant issues that we share, particularly with respect to student success, our culture as a community, and the future of our campus.
Cynthia K. Larive
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
4148 Hinderaker Hall
University of California - Riverside
Riverside, CA 92621