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An Even Greater Good

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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THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST

“This isn’t about test tubes or wind tunnels. It’s about people and brilliant minds,” says Judy Olian, dean of the UCLA Anderson School of Management, about the Campaign. “We have to be in a position to attract the best of those minds.”

The Centennial Campaign’s financial goal of $4.2 billion includes $1.5 billion for student and faculty support, encompassing endowed scholarships, fellowships and faculty chairs. And that net will be cast wide. No matter what individual goals the various units of the campus may have in the Centennial Campaign, attracting and keeping the best undergrads, graduate students and faculty is a paramount objective for all of them.

“If you look at our founding documents, we were created with the goal of serving the poor boys and girls of Los Angeles, to keep the doors open to people from all walks of life,” notes UCLA Law School Dean Rachel Moran. “So scholarships are going to be front and centerin this Campaign. We look at our peer law schools, and we don’t have a comparable number of scholarships.”

Financial support from UCLA alumnae group Gold Shield helped convince third-year student Addison Yang to come to UCLA. Gold Shield has contributed more than $1.4 million to the UCLA Alumni Scholarship Program, providing support and mentoring to more than 700 scholars since 1939. [See related story: Taking Care of Our Own]

“It was an offer you couldn’t refuse,” Yang says, adding that “public universities often lack the intimacy of a private institution, especially [if the private school has] a smaller student body. I feel a lot more connected to the university, my peers and the alumni network because of Gold Shield.”

The optimists who are drawn to the university are the beating heart of its excellence, because it is they who make a difference. Five years from now, says A. Eugene Washington, dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, “goal is to be even better positioned to meaningfully improve the health of the communities we serve. And,” he continues, “that healthy position is defined by our ability to first maintain a community of the best and brightest people. That is the principal objective coming out of the Campaign: to have the right people in place, with the resources to fulfill their potential as we fulfill our shared vision.”

“Hiring and retaining top talent is the basis of everything that makes UCLA great,” adds Tony Pritzker, co-chair of the Executive Committee of The Centennial Campaign for UCLA. “But it is a competitive world out there. We have to be in a position to be creative in our offers to get the best minds here at UCLA.”

A NEW COURSE FOR CURRICULA

A major component of the Centennial Campaign is to give deans and faculty the ability to develop cutting-edge curricula for a world in which the only constants are endless change and blinding speed. The Campaign’s financial goal includes raising $1.65 billion for programs and research.

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“We need to create a model of teaching and training and collaboration that prepares students for a world that moves very, very fast,” says Alessandro Duranti, dean of the Social Sciences Division of the UCLA College. “We don’t know what the technology will be in five years. But we can teach them to be flexible and have an attitude that will allow them to adapt to change and be creative.”

Support from the university’s philanthropic partners will help power the creation of new areas of study in virtually every field of academic inquiry that arises out of transformations in society as a whole. At UCLA Anderson, for example, a new program in data analytics teaches students how big data is used in everything from agriculture to business. Donor support is also fueling the growth of the school’s undergraduate minor in entrepreneurship in a major partnership with the College.

And, bolstered by philanthropic support, the Social Sciences Division’s ongoing Dissertation Launchpad — one of the first programs of its kind — is teaching social science and psychology graduate students to present their research in a language that can be understood by a wider, nonacademic audience. The idea for the 10-week program came from watching students in the Startup UCLA Accelerator program, in which student entrepreneurs “pitch” their products. Launchpad participants learn storytelling techniques and get the type of training experts receive to give TED talks.

Meanwhile, in the College, a new medical humanities track will have merged the study of the humanities, social sciences and the arts with medical education and practice. In addition to premed, students in the program will take courses in English, religion, history, philosophy, sociology and psychology.

At UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television (TFT), there will be two new centers — the Center for Social Impact Entertainment and the Center for Storytelling, Technology, and Innovation. Each will serve as a premier hub for thought leaders, innovators, visiting artists, faculty and students to advance groundbreaking research in story, performance, technology, social responsibility and global diversity.

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Students participated in the show at Royce Hall.

THE SHAPE OF CAMPUS TO COME

Welton Becket’s original vision for the UCLA campus will have gotten a major upgrade by 2019, and part of the new look will come, fittingly, from his own family.

Alisa Becket’s husband is a principal of Marmol Radziner, the architectural firm that is renovating the UCLA Lab School campus and designing a new art building. When the architects reviewed the school’s original master plan, it bore the mark of none other than the campus architect at the time — Welton Becket.

So Becket’s husband “is working off my grandfather’s plan,” she notes. “We’ve come full circle.”

In all, the Centennial Campaign includes a goal of raising $800 million for capital improvements. They include a collection of new buildings and renovated spaces that are designed to increase the university’s ability to deliver on its mission, enable new forms of education and research, and provide the tangible assets essential to any world-class public university.

The shift to expand biological approaches in psychology, for instance, has created a critical need for state-of-the-art lab and education facilities. And the department’s building, Franz Hall, will require significant renovation and technology upgrades to support modern psychology teaching and research. In the Physical Sciences Division, updated labs and other upgrades will bring the research environment up to date. And in the Powell Library Building, the Campaign will support the creation of two innovative, multiuse classroom spaces designed especially for teaching with new digital technologies.

Up on North Campus, meanwhile, the School of Theater, Film and Television will have a series of dynamic new spaces designed by world-renowned architect Clive Wilkinson. These new resources, TFT Dean Teri Schwartz ’71 predicts, “will not only be a game-change in entertainment and performance arts education, but will serve as a grand invitation for the campus, the industry, the city and the world to be the home for premieres, screenings, conferences and live performances.”

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And on South Campus, the one-of-a-kind Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden will create an inviting welcome center to expand its campus impact and community outreach.

Other physical changes will give UCLA additional resources to further discovery, innovation and collaboration both within and outside campus.

The David Geffen School of Medicine’s six-level, 110,000-square-foot Teaching and Learning Center for Health Sciences will feature technology-enabled classrooms to facilitate active learning, a clinical skills training center, innovative and flexible teaching labs that promote collaboration and interaction, spaces in which students can relax, and room for student organizations to meet. There also will be offices for admissions, financial aid, student affairs and other student services.

The new structures and spaces will join other transformative physical resources already under construction. For example, the Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center will enable UCLA to compete with other universities for major academic conferences that connect faculty, researchers and students with scholars from around the world to exchange ideas and elevate debate on some of society’s greatest challenges. The state-of-the-art center will include 25,000 square feet of meeting space and 250 guest rooms.

FORECAST FOR TOMORROW: BRIGHT

At the end of the Centennial Campaign, much will have changed at UCLA. In 2019, UCLA will be well on its way to self-reliance, bolstered by partnerships with philanthropists, the community and the extraordinary Bruin community. And its impact? More powerful than ever.

“Nearly 72 percent of UCLA undergraduates stay in California [following graduation], higher than any other public university,” concludes Pritzker. “Investing in UCLA is investing in California.”

One thing will never change: the relentless optimism that runs like an electric current through everything the university does and everyone it touches. The unwavering commitment to service and making a difference. And the idea that at UCLA, anything is possible.