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The Challenge
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Spring 2003
The Challenge
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UCLA is also concentrating on interdisciplinary activities, which are of increasing importance in higher education and are a strong comparative advantage of ours. Most of the challenges and problems we face as a society are so complex that they cannot be solved by just one academic discipline or one profession. By crossing academic boundaries, universities can transform learning, prepare the future workforce and create applicable research through the development of new technologies and new industries.

In recent years, I have launched several initiatives that will assure UCLA’s place at the forefront of discovery. UCLA, for example, is the lead partner in the California NanoSystems Institute, an endeavor that promises to create new technologies that will transform health care, national defense, the environment and, indeed, our future. UCLA has also become our nation’s academic center for space research and exploration. In partnership with NASA, we are creating and leading scientific programs for spacecraft missions that will provide a fundamental understanding of our Earth, our solar system and even the origins of the universe itself.

UCLA is at the forefront of scholarly exploration in genetics; at least 16 departments and more than 20 organized research units with expertise ranging from molecular biology to biocomputing are engaged in this endeavor. I have characterized the Human Genome Project as the Manhattan Project of biology. UCLA is committed to addressing the impact of genetics research on our culture and daily lives. The recently established UCLA Center for Society, the Individual and Genetics will be a unique intellectual resource, with the broadest disciplinary approach of any university program devoted to genetics.

Society reaps the benefits of UCLA’s entrepreneurial work through our multidisciplinary expertise, and through the thoughtful dialogue, economic advances and scientific breakthroughs that are fostered here. And UCLA’s faculty, students and staff reap the benefits because all of this activity takes place on a single campus. Undergraduates take advantage of our interdisciplinary activities, for example, through the General Education Clusters, the result of a massive effort to fundamentally rethink and improve undergraduate education. Students in cluster classes have the opportunity to engage with our faculty in yearlong, team-taught, interdisciplinary explorations of themes like globalization, interracial dynamics in America and the history of modern thought.

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