Dear Colleagues,

 

Welcome back! Serving as Interim Provost has opened my eyes to all of the great things faculty, staff, and students do at UCR. I am thrilled to be serving the campus in this role and am looking forward to what we can accomplish in the coming year.  A few updates to keep you in the loop:

Enrollment. Although we won’t have the official numbers until week 3, UCR’s popularity with students continues to rise. Last fall, we enrolled more than 20,500 undergraduates and more than 3,300 graduate students. Last year, we received more than 49,200 applications for a coveted spot in this year’s freshman class. Our campus offered admission to more than 15,600 first-generation students and more than 14,400 low-income students—the highest numbers in the UC system. We enroll more Pell students than the entire Ivy League! These accomplishments are the result of everyone’s hard work that has helped to establish UCR as a world-class research university. And, in case you didn’t hear, it’s getting noticed!  Of course, a high demand for a UCR degree creates new challenges for us as a community. Teaching space is tight, the staff is working at capacity, and the lines to get lunch between 12pm and 1pm in the HUB can be pretty rough. One aspect of the Long Range Development Plan is to ensure that our campus has the human and physical resources needed to achieve our goals. Many thanks to all of you who participated in the LRDP process.

Budget. Our enrollment has a large impact on our budget, so it is also good financial news that the demand for a UCR degree is so strong. We also are grateful to the state legislature for increasing the state-funded component of our budget for the current fiscal year, and to the Office of the President for helping to get a $2 billion General Obligation bond on the March ballot. However, the net effect of changes in state and tuition revenues and mandated fixed cost increases is an $11 million reduction to our core budget. We can weather this shortfall in 2019-20 but it is not sustainable in the longer term. This year I will be working closely with Vice Chancellor Bomotti and other campus leaders to grow support for our operations and ensure we use our available resources efficiently.

Faculty Hiring. Despite our current budget challenges, prudent financial planning has allowed us to continue hiring more outstanding faculty. I recently approved 56 faculty searches and $14 million in central start-up funding for 2019-20. Additional funding for salaries, benefits, and start-up funds will be provided by the deans. We have made noteworthy progress in diversifying our faculty over the past several years. This year I plan to have conversations with the deans and other campus leaders about how we can institutionalize what works and ensure we continue to make progress in the future.

Strategic Planning. Our strategic planning efforts will shift into a new gear this fall, as the campus-wide committees begin their work in earnest. We have selected a consultant with extensive higher education experience to assist us with our planning efforts, and look forward to welcoming their team to campus for the first Steering Committee meeting on October 16. As always, for the latest updates and information on strategic planning, please visit the UCR Strategic Plan website or send an email to strategicplan@ucr.edu.

North District Groundbreaking. On Friday, we officially broke ground for the North District redevelopment! This project will transform the former Canyon Crest Family Housing site into a modern mixed-use living-learning community with 4000 to 6000 new student housing beds when the last phase is complete. The project has placed an emphasis on enhancing the academic experience for UCR students so I’m very excited to watch this significant new addition to our campus begin to take shape. Of course, there will be some dust and construction traffic to contend with, so I thank everyone in advance for your patience during this time. If you ever experience or observe something that you think merits the attention of the project manager, please send an email to Drew Hecht.

Student Success Center. Did I mention we’re under construction? A contract to build the 57,000 square foot Student Success Center was recently awarded to Swinerton/Gensler. This new student-focused facility will be located at the corner of the Arts Mall and Carillon Mall and will provide 1100 much-needed classroom seats, student affairs space, study/collaboration space and food to fuel all of that intellectual activity when complete in 2021. The central location means this building will be a prominent addition to our campus, and also that we will all have to detour around the west end of Carillon Mall during construction. Again, thank you for your patience, and please email Mihai Gavan if you see or experience anything out of the ordinary associated with this project.

Online/Hybrid Courses. Last year, each UC campus received one-time “lottery funds” from the UC Office of the President. Our expenditure plan for our allocation includes support for instructional equipment, instructional support, library support, and diversity programs. The instructional support component includes $1.5 million over four years to build and support additional online and hybrid courses at UCR. This effort will be informed by the recommendations of the online/hybrid education taskforce and related discussions with the Academic Senate on topics in need of a shared-governance approach. Later this fall we anticipate another request for proposals from UCOP’s ILTI initiative, and we will be working with the deans to coordinate our local efforts with this RFP to ensure we make the most of the available resources. If you have questions about the ILTI initiative or support for online courses at UCR, please email Associate Provost Ken Baerenklau.

Non-academic Program Reviews. Many of us are familiar with the academic program review process that is run by our Academic Senate. The Senate conducts periodic external reviews of our degree programs to help ensure quality and promote continuous improvement. This year, at the request of and in consultation with other campus leaders, my office will initiate periodic reviews of non-academic (non-degree granting) programs/units. The first of these will be the University Library, which is scheduled for an external team visit on December 5-6. We have borrowed heavily from the Academic Senate’s procedures for these reviews, and have been working with Senate leadership to ensure the reviews are sufficiently broad and consultative.

As we move forward this year, the Provost's office will be working on how to best support the research and teaching missions of the university. If you have ideas, please send them our way. We look forward to your participation in Strategic Planning and are proud to be working with such outstanding faculty and staff.

Tom

Thomas M Smith, Ph.D.

Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor

Professor of Education