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Spring 2003
The Challenge
Going After the Best
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Spring 2003
Going After the Best
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Success invariably brings new challenges, and so it is that UCLA faces one of its biggest tests in decades: How to maintain excellence during a nationwide economic slump that has broadened an already wide resource gap between itself and the wealthiest private universities. Over the past several decades, state support for the University of California has declined steadily and looks set to drop further, given the state’s continuing budget woes.

It was against this grim backdrop that Chancellor Albert Carnesale, determined to push this critically important issue forward, met with faculty leaders at a retreat in Ventura, Calif., last September to discuss ways of overcoming UCLA’s resource crunch. The following month, he appointed Executive Vice Chancellor Daniel Neuman as head of a 12-member Competitiveness Task Force aimed at maintaining UCLA’s prominence as a global research institution. The task force comprises six action groups, each responsible for formulating and implementing strategies in diverse areas ranging from faculty and graduate-student support to optimum utilization of campus space. The groups are scheduled to present their recommendations to the chancellor in the spring.

In a recent letter to campus leaders, Chancellor Carnesale outlined the task force’s mission. “Virtually since its inception, UCLA’s strategy for excellence has been based on growth of faculty and new programs,” he wrote. “Now we must achieve our goals and maintain our leadership position through different means.” THE MESSAGE WAS CLEAR: IN DECADES PAST, WITH SUFFICIENT LEVELS OF STATE FUNDING TO RELY ON, UCLA EXPANDED ENORMOUSLY, MIRRORING THE INSTITUTIONAL TREND OF THE TIMES AS WELL AS CALIFORNIA’S GALLOPING GROWTH RATE. IN THE 21ST CENTURY, THAT’S NO LONGER THE MODEL.

THE IMPORTANCE OF COMPETITIVENESS can hardly be overstated in today’s globalized world, where the discipline of the market is everywhere, including in higher education. But what does it mean for a campus to be competitive? “One form of competitiveness is how well we do in recruiting the best people,” says Tony Chan, dean of physical sciences, who heads a task force group on support for graduate students. “WE ARE A TOP RESEARCH UNIVERSITY, AND TO DO GOOD RESEARCH WE NEED THE BEST PEOPLE, THE BEST GRADUATE STUDENTS AND FACULTY. THAT’S WHERE WE HAVE TO BE COMPETITIVE — TO ATTRACT THE NEXT GENERATION OF NOBEL PRIZE WINNERS AND THE TOP FACULTY TO TRAIN THEM.”

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