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UCLA

An Even Greater Good

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By Jack Feuer, Photos by Michal Czerwonka

Published Jul 1, 2014 8:00 AM


Sweeping advances in how knowledge is acquired, taught and applied — plus shrinking state support —demand fresh thinking and innovative approaches at public universities. The Centennial Campaign for UCLA will create a higher education model for a new century.

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"Reflections and Projections": a spectacular light and sound show launched the Centennial Campaign at UCLA.

Photo by Michal Czerwonka

Alisa Becket never attended a class at UCLA. Yet she is part of a family connection to the campus that stretches back 70 years.

Her grandfather, famed Los Angeles architect Welton Becket, who designed such local landmarks as the Capitol Records Building, the Cinerama Dome and Los Angeles Music Center, was named the university’s master planner in 1948 and was supervising architect for the campus until 1968. The UCLA we know today was largely shaped by Becket, who designed the original Pauley Pavilion, the original UCLA Medical Center and Ackerman Union, among others.

But in 2005, Alisa Becket’s relationship to UCLA became even more personal. She developed heart disease and sought treatment at UCLA. Under the care of a team of Bruin doctors, she recovered and regained good health. And she used her experience as a launching pad to help others.

In 2011, Becket co-founded WomenHeart West Los Angeles, a local chapter of WomenHeart, the national coalition for women with heart disease. About 20 women now meet once a month at UCLA’s cardiac rehabilitation center to support one another and share experiences.

And now add another generation to this enduring connection: Becket’s daughter is a student at the Lab School, UCLA’s innovative school for children aged 4-12, and her son will start there in the fall.

There is no shortage of stories that illustrate the breadth and depth of UCLA’s impact on people’s lives, many just as vividly as Alisa Becket’s. The university’s far-ranging impact on people from all walks of life is often striking. Now that impact is getting a powerful boost.

To maintain and expand on its role as a force for positive change in the lives of Angelenos and people everywhere, the university has launched The Centennial Campaign for UCLA, which will continue through 2019, the institution’s 100th anniversary. The Campaign’s goal: to raise $4.2 billion. Its vision: to prepare UCLA to overcome new challenges and pursue new opportunities.

With state budgets declining — currently, only 7 percent of the institution’s revenues come from the state — plus competition from better-resourced private institutions, UCLA’s ability to continue to attract the best students and faculty, invest in world-changing research, and make our communities healthier, safer and stronger requires a new operational model. When the Centennial Campaign concludes, it will leave a UCLA that has been transformed to meet these challenges, a new kind of public university in an exponentially changing world.

The changes will include new degrees and new areas of study across disciplines. Greater strength in the competition for world-class students, researchers and faculty. And a campus reshaped by new physical resources and infrastructure. Welcome to UCLA, circa 2019.

BUILDING A NEW MODEL

Visionary philanthropists have always been crucial to UCLA’s success. One of them, in fact, was Welton Becket, who donated $95,000 in 1967 to underwrite a prestigious fellowship fund in architecture that now is more than $1 million. But today these relationships are even more vital. [See related story: A Proud Past, A Bright Future]

“Our first century was predominantly powered by a partnership with the state,” explains UCLA External Affairs Vice Chancellor Rhea Turteltaub. “In our second century, that partnership will be expanded to include many more members of the UCLA family — alumni, fans, patrons, parents, patients and community leaders.”

“UCLA is considered among the very top public universities in the country and, by many standards, one of the top 10 universities in the world. I want to see UCLA stay at the top,” says Shirley Wang ’90, a member of The Centennial Campaign for UCLA Executive Committee. “It’s extremely important that the high school student who works hard, no matter what his or her socioeconomic background or race may be, has the opportunity to attend a phenomenal school. It’s important that we preserve UCLA’s quality and reputation as a school full of opportunity and resources and the power to open doors that rival even the best private universities.”

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Crew members from Mirada Studios prepare for the show, which used Royce Hall as a gigantic screen.

Moreover, a public university that doesn’t keep up with the public cannot be effective.

“The world has changed not simply because of how public universities are funded, but because students and the public expect us to be much more engaged with the world,” notes Frank Gilliam, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. “Our students come here with a great deal of experience with extracurricular activities — experiential learning, so to speak. And the public expects that we weigh in on the problems of the broader society. We can’t do that if everybody on campus sits in their office and thinks great thoughts. The business model as well as the intellectual model has to change. And we pride ourselves at UCLA in leading the way.”

EXCELLENCE IS A MOVING TARGET

Donors, deans and administrative leaders stress that a major objective in the fundraising effort is to take what already works and make it even better, at both the institutional and unit levels.

The Centennial Campaign “is going to enhance the impact of our research [and] help maintain our current status as educators in life sciences,” notes Victoria Sork, dean of the UCLA College Division of Life Sciences. “My main concern is that we make sure we are attracting and educating everyone who is qualified to be at UCLA, not because they can afford it, but because they are admitted on the basis of their excellence.”

“This is one of the great research universities in the world in what will be the most important city in the world in the next 50 years,” adds Casey Wasserman ’96, also a Centennial Campaign Executive Committee member. “That’s a unique combination no other institution can claim, and when you combine it with the caliber of UCLA faculty, administration and students, it can have a pretty dynamic result. ... It’s about elevating what is already great and enhancing those opportunities.”

In addition, the Campaign will result in new unions with the community itself. In the crucial area of K-12 education, for example, UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies (GSE&IS) Dean Marcelo Suárez-Orozco says, “We are going to develop more muscular partnerships, authentic partnerships, with schools in the community that will create the kind of excellence that needs to be nourished to rescue public education from a reign of failure and an empire of mediocrity.”

Critically, the Campaign will help narrow the endowment gap between UCLA and its peer institutions. Academically, the university ranks among the best in the world, but in terms of endowment size — and especially, endowment per student — the university lags behind both public and private top-tier institutions. UCLA’s endowment is growing, but the current total of $2.6 billion is less than the endowments of public competitors such as Michigan, with an endowment of more than $8.3 billion, and of private universities such as Stanford, with an endowment of $18.7 billion.

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