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Features May 2004: Volume 1, Number 2
   

Meet the Chancellor

 
     

M: Why UCSD?
C: Firstly because of its reputation, and then because it is one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. I have had the chance to visit the chemistry department as a seminar speaker a couple of times, and the
quality of that department is absolutely first class. I have also had a lot of contact with UCSD faculty through the National Academy of Sciences and they are first class people: mathematicians, environmentalists, geophysicists, in fact all across the board in science and engineering. The thing that I found most impressive when I visited campus was the interplay between the disciplines, addressing problems that don’t fit neatly into one disciplinary box. I am particularly pleased to see that the arts and humanities have increasingly become participants in this kind of interdisciplinary
scholarship—more so than any place I know. When you have such a great faculty and also a cooperative community and a place where there are resources available to bring them all together, that is the best kind of option a chancellor could have.

M: We often hear from alumni and the student body that UCSD lacks a sense of community when compared to other universities. Have you dealt with this problem before on other campuses?
C: Yes. I have come from two big campuses. UT had over 50,000 students and NC State is a little bit smaller, at about 30,000, which is where UCSD hopes to be by 2020. I’ve found that the most important thing is to develop ways in which a student can participate in a group, a way in which his or her presence really makes a difference. It doesn’t so much
matter what that activity is, just so there is somewhere that the student, as an individual, can have growth and recognition. So, in a school like UCSD, one would imagine participating in arts or humanities, undergraduate research, student government or playing intramural sports or even intercollegiate athletics. There are a lot of ways that students can participate. That is the way friendships are built, and identification and loyalties to an institution nurtured.

M: How important is athletics in giving the University a national profile?
C: It was very helpful here at NC State in developing that kind of brand name. In a football season there are certain events that occur naturally, but I think it is possible to achieve the same things without a football team. At UCSD, we have to make more of an effort to have events that play to our strengths. In particular, involvement in the arts is a good substitute. When our alumni participate in the active intellectual life on campus, that can help take the place of a game.

M: UCSD has been designated a growth university. How can we manage growth so that there is a balance between the projected student population of 30,000 and a personalized educational and social experience?
C: Firstly, we have to maintain the emphasis on academic studies, teaching and research. We have to support our faculty and make sure that the student/faculty ratio is expressed in a way that student learning is enhanced. However, any great university also needs to have the amenities that build a campus community. We are going to have to worry about housing on campus. We need recreational facilities. We need access to the arts. We need parking. If a student can’t come back safely at night and park to participate in activities, he or she is going to find something else off campus, and it is going to be that much harder to pull them back into the campus community.

M: UCSD is perceived nationally as a science and engineering campus yet it also has high profile in the arts and humanities. How can we adjust that perception so that UCSD is seen to provide a truly rounded education?
C: It is a little bit about the brand and a little bit about the self-image. It is recognizing that those who participate in the sciences and engineering are not really well educated unless they do have a familiarity with the arts and humanities. It is recognizing how vital the humanities are to the education of every one of our students—history, communication, writing, speaking. So, this academic consilience, as E.O.Wilson called it, is going to be very important in bringing together and bridging the gulf between the sciences and the arts and the humanities and that will improve the quality of education. It will give us a focus around which the community can gel, and it will improve the quality of life for all members of the community. You ask how we are perceived nationally—one thing we can do is to recognize what an incredible achievement has taken place at UCSD since its founding, both in the quality of work done and in its reputation. We need to find a brand that captures that. We need to work on that brand name recognition. This is a terrific community of scholars in one of the world’s most beautiful places. It is idyllic. It’s a world-class university that attracts students and faculty from all over the world. So, how can we fail?

M: You have been very proactive in the creation of links between academic research and industry. What changes do you think the next decade will bring in this relationship between industry and the University?
C: That is one of the things that I am proudest of here at NC State, and I see it already happening in San Diego, where UCSD is surrounded by an incredible array of partners in biotechnology, telecommunications and the environmental sciences. The question is how to make sure that we continue to build those relationships and make sure that the University doesn’t construct barriers that would inhibit those interactions.

M: Do you think there are any negative aspects to these interactions?
C: I know there are concerns that commercialization will distract or create conflicts of interest with faculty, but I am a firm believer that it is possible to have these collaborations in such a way that the academic mission of the University and the commitment to improving the human condition can still be matched effectively. The academic mission can be expressed in internships for students, cooperative experiences and volunteer options. These help round out a student’s background so that he or she is very well prepared to be entrepreneurial upon leaving the University. The thing I love about it is that we have these incredibly talented people that are an expression of Richard Florida’s idea of the creative class, where the three Ts are brought together: technology, talent and tolerance.

M: In many of the great research universities there is tension between the role of teaching and research. How does a university ensure that undergraduate teaching remains a priority for its faculty?
C: That has been one of my interests for a long time. I do think there is a rather disturbing urban myth that great researchers can’t be good teachers. That is wrong. It is true, of course, that major research efforts are very time intensive and there is the temptation to shift time demands away from other things to focus on research. It is here that the University can help by providing the infrastructure, whether that is teaching assistants or having a center that provides helpful information or just in supporting the faculty’s commitment toward classroom and laboratory instruction so that it is parallel with their research. It is very important in a large university with substantial undergraduate enrollment to pay attention to undergraduate instruction and learning. I also want to encourage our great researchers to become involved in teaching even lower division courses, to the extent they feel it appropriate. It is also important to recognize that the act of conducting research with students or postdoctoral fellows is itself teaching in its finest manifestation. It is a form of master-apprentice teaching for graduate students in particular and it is very effective.

M: As a woman, especially a woman with children, you have been in a minority as a scientist, and as an administrator. What changes could be made in academia to ensure that other women have the opportunity to carve a successful career and still have a family?
C: I have always said, “If you can raise five boys to maturity, you could probably do almost everything.” I often comment that at one time we had seven cars and two motorcycles in front of our house because of all the kids. It is a combined family, so their ages overlapped and they all got driver’s licenses while they were all still at home. But, more seriously, any active career is time intensive. Not only academics face this question of balance between what they want to do in their profession and what they want to do in their home life. While it is true that I have been in a discipline that is dominated by males, and I have been on boards where I am the only woman, I think that the expertise of the individual is more relevant than the gender. But we need to be responsive to conditions as they take place in people’s lives—to provide support, to make sure that there is parental leave available for women and men and that their tenure clock is not impacted negatively by a family crisis.

M: What is your idea of diversity?
C: It is important that you have a plan to develop a critical mass of those who are under-represented. That isn’t only racial minorities. That includes women in engineering and men in nursing. It is African-Americans and Latinos in almost every discipline. We have to have a structure that looks broadly and recruits deeply, building on what Bob Dynes and Marsha Chandler have done so effectively in the last several years. I think Bob called himself the Chief Diversity Officer. I am certainly going to do the same thing, which is assume responsibility for overseeing that we take diversity very seriously. It is important that that is a top-level commitment at the University.

M: Are you saying there are many ways to define diversity?
C: Yes, I think that is true. One of the first things that we did when I came to NC State six years ago was to have a retreat. I have similar parallel retreats scheduled with the academic leadership in San Diego the last week of August because we need to define a small number of goals on which we need to focus. One of these is diversity. Diversity is really inclusiveness—including lots of individuals that have different characteristics. Those are not only racial, but they involve groups and individuals who have different backgrounds—urban, rural—and have different interests. It also includes those with different life viewpoints, sexual orientations and religious beliefs. In my opinion the whole idea of diversity is to provide an environment that allows those different characteristics to enrich the lives of everyone. So it is not an environment of conflict, but one of growth together. That means mutual respect and personal growth.

M: California is a unique political beast with a distinctive culture. Give me a sense of how it differs from the states in which you have worked.
C: There are probably more similarities than differences. The focus on initiatives in California is something we don’t have elsewhere. There is also incredible diversity in the state. Also, California seems to be more liberal and more conservative simultaneously. Most places have moved to the center where Californians have kept sort of socially responsive. They have such beautiful natural resources that the environment does become a much more significant question than elsewhere.

M: How do you envision you will interact with state government in California?
C: I suspect that the routine kind of interactions that I ended up doing here in Raleigh, because of the university’s proximity to the state government, will be done by the UC system. I will of course be involved when there is an issue of particular relevance to UCSD. I expect there will be other major issues—stem cell research, the support for major state
initiatives such as Cal-(IT)2, and of course the environment when there are political issues about preserving coastal lands.

M: UCSD alumni have been historically disengaged from the University. How do you see the role of alumni during your tenure?
C: We want alumni to help improve our programs, and that means getting them to serve on boards and provide critiques. We need to ask them—what would bring you back to the campus to participate, to be a continuing member of this community? That’s a dialog that really needs to happen. We want them to provide feedback on the quality of their education and advice on how that education can be improved in the future. They also can be very instrumental in making the case for higher education, to help us make clear to local legislators, state legislators or federal legislators just how important higher education is. And of course we also hope that as our alumni become more and more involved and understand our programs more clearly and align themselves with the mission of the University, they will become active donors. We hope they will not only provide moral support, but also provide financial support. I regard that as one of my major responsibilities, to engage alumni.

M: Do you know what a Triton is?
C: I do. In fact, it is the demigod who carries the three-pointed trident. It is interesting that UCSD has a demigod and a Sun God because of the connection to the sea and the connection to balance. The Triton is a great mascot. And the Sun God is wonderful. I am looking forward to one of those Sun God festivals. That’s an event that can bring alumni back.

M: You have five sons; what have you learned from living in a house full of men?
C: There’s a country and western song called “The Truth About Men.” It goes “they ain’t wrong, they ain’t sorry, and they’re probably going to do it again.” That’s flippant, but having five sons has taught me that there is more than one way of looking at almost every question and that has served me well professionally. My sons range all the way from hardcore engineers to chefs. Being a mother is a part of my life that I would not have given up. I always encourage women to not defer their family life decisions. If they want to have children, they should have them whether they’re 28 or 35 or 40.

M: Have your sons kept you up to date with contemporary culture?
C: They do, although I must say I don’t share their tastes. They also kept me up to date with language, terms they use that I wouldn’t otherwise hear.

M: What are your favorite foods?
C: I like anything that I’ve not cooked. Remember I have one son who is a chef. My husband is a very good cook. I did my years of cooking and they are over.

M: How do you relax?
C: I have a very highly scheduled day, so just having free time is wonderful. My idea of an idyllic afternoon is being able to sit in an armchair and lean back and read a book that has nothing to do with what I do all week. I used to swim a mile a day when I was in Austin. I also golf, rather poorly, and I like walking. I must say I am not sufficiently athletic that I would be a major competitor in the Chancellor’s 5K Run, although that is certainly an event in which I want to participate. Maybe they’ll have a fun-run part that is basically walking. I can do that.

M: Is it true that you are going to drive out to California?
C: Yes. I’ve wanted to drive across the United States since I was 18. But when I was 18 I had time and no money; now I have money and no time. However, we’ve decided to do it. I told my husband that we ought to go down to the Atlantic so that we could drive from sea to shining sea. But he said, “That is the wrong direction.” Of course, that is correct; you have to go east from Raleigh. Anyway, we were at a scientific meeting together in Washington, D.C., and we figured that crossing a river that goes into the Atlantic Ocean would count. Right? So, we crossed the James River in Richmond. We crossed the Noose River here. And when we crossed the rivers we sang “America The Beautiful.”

M: So you have already started the trip.
C: We have. Crossing the James and the Noose. We are going to keep a diary of how many times we sing “America The Beautiful” as we drive to the West and wind up at Black’s Beach.

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"We need to ask (alumni) what would bring you back tot he campus to participate, to be a continuing member of this community?"