UC San Diego’s Strategic Plan

Defining the Future of the Public Research University

Goal 3

Nick Spitzer, Ralph Greenspan, and Terry Sejnowski of UC San Diego’s Center for Brain Activity Mapping.

Nurturing and supporting a collaborative and interdisciplinary research culture that advances the frontiers of knowledge, shapes new fields, and disseminates discoveries that transform lives

Strategy 6

Identify emerging and future trends and strategic thrusts to increase our impact and enrich society.

Despite all attempts to systematically predict the most compelling problems and research areas to invest in at any given time, there will always be surprises and opportunities that spring up on short notice. In order to be ready to jump in and capitalize on the ones that inspire our university community, we have initially allocated $1.5 million over two years to seed research opportunities, like our brain activity mapping research. Identifying emerging and future trends must come from introspection, debate, and dialogue among academics, staff, and students.

At UC San Diego, multidisciplinary efforts exist harmoniously with individual, discipline-specific research and creativity, and both tracks will continue to be driving forces for future scholarly activities.

Professors, scientists, postdoctoral scholars, graduate students, and undergraduates at UC San Diego will define and shape specific projects related to our grand research themes outlined below.

Four grand research themes: Focus on four multidisciplinary areas where our campus has deep and broad expertise and that are rich with possibility for creation and innovation, education, and training.

At recent university-wide workshops on the natural world, human life and health, human knowledge, and social disparities, it became clear that the complexity of each theme requires multidisciplinary, collaborative, and innovative solutions, while also providing exceptional educational and training opportunities across the campus.

  1. 1. Understanding and Protecting the Planet

    Explaining and effectively communicating environmental change, engineering economically viable solutions that will enhance the resilience of society, and recommending necessary policy changes and assessing their economic impact

    Current strengths: Pioneering research in the science of climate change that remains at the forefront of this field through interdisciplinary research among physicists, engineers, medical researchers, business experts, social scientists and others

    Future growth: Providing innovations in areas such as technology for renewable-fuel energy strategies and sustainability of dwindling natural resources, and creating solutions to predict and respond to natural disasters (e.g., earthquakes, fires, extreme climates, sea-level rise and acidity, drought, famine)

  2. 2. Enriching Human Life and Society

    Improving health and alleviating ailments, and mitigating social disparities through education, resources, historic perspectives, technologies, and communication

    Current strengths: Leading research and education about how experiments in governance and social institutions can change our lives, and understanding how the arts and humanities contribute to individual and social well-being

    Future growth: Inventing new health-care technologies and “smart” materials (e.g., sensors, cheaper diagnostics, better nutrition, wireless health, use of stem cells or personalized medicines) and advanced manufacturing methods accessible to all the world’s populations

  3. 3. Exploring the Basis of Human Knowledge, Learning, and Creativity

    Probing the structure and workings of the human brain to discover the relationship between the brain and behavior; the impact of genetics, history, and culture on how we think and act; the surging and ebbing movements of nations and populations; and the nature of knowledge itself

    Current strengths: Synergy among pioneering advances in neurosciences, cognitive sciences, and neurobiology

    Future growth: Partnering neuroscientists with philosophers and engineers, nanoengineers with visual artists, and computer scientists with musicians to collaborate in mapping and understanding the brain to reveal deeper insights into learning, cognition, creativity, and diseases

  4. 4. Understanding Cultures and Addressing Disparities in Society

    Revealing the full richness and breadth of human experience: build an appreciation of diverse cultures, perspectives, value systems, historical contexts, governance, and organizational structures; and foster the creation of new means of expression, analyses, and social organizations that will be important intellectual tools for the next generation

    Current strengths: Students and faculty of diverse backgrounds and viewpoints

    Future growth: Improving literacy and empowerment, developing new modes of global communication, creating “humanistic resources” encouraging our students to be emissaries, generating foundational knowledge about human cultures and behavior through in-depth local studies and broad comparative analyses, formulating new public policy and ethical guidelines, and understanding and imagining possible new worlds

Strategy 7

Attract, retain, and grow our top-quality and diverse faculty body.

The faculty are the foundation of our campus and the reason we have achieved such a high level of distinction. UC San Diego must continue to attract and retain a diverse, top-quality faculty body of scholars and researchers in order to meaningfully address present and future grand research themes and challenges.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion: Increase the diversity of our faculty to enhance our intellectual, ethnic, and cultural diversity.

Over the last three years, our faculty recruitment efforts have begun to yield positive results. We have increased the number of underrepresented minorities and women in our applicant pools, and our selection processes have dramatically increased the yield of these candidates. Our improved practices are also providing a cadre of scholars who, regardless of discipline, are committed to issues of diversity and equity, and to creating a climate of inclusion. These practices include efforts to improve outreach, recruitment, and selection of diverse faculty; writing broader position descriptions; creating Excellence positions that include a candidate’s contributions to diversity, scholarly excellence, and future potential as essential criteria; requiring diversity statements from all candidates; establishing regular training for chairs and search committees on how to evaluate candidate portfolios and avoid unconscious bias; and creating a website that lists opportunities for faculty to find and participate in diversity activities.

Though these results are encouraging, we must do more to improve retention and tenure success rates. Faculty diversity needs to reach a critical mass at all levels of our university, from research to teaching and administration, and equity needs to be regularly reviewed in a data-driven process.

To reinforce recruitment successes, events that target underrepresented minorities; women; lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender people; and other traditionally marginalized groups will be important tools to ensure that we are aware of and address the particular needs.

A vibrant intellectual community that focuses on issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion will fuel the study of different cultures and efforts to understand and address the causes of social injustice, including disparities in education, health, and employment. To increase our campus’s understanding of equity and diversity and to extend the dialogue, we will invite distinguished scholars for short-term and long-term appointments.

Investment: Increase investment in mentoring and leadership development for our faculty.

We will continue to monitor our evaluation processes, support systems, and practices, and identify opportunities to ameliorate them. We have a new mentoring program for assistant professors to focus on how to manage time, work with mentors, and navigate the academic personnel process. All departments are required to assign a mentor to each incoming faculty member at all levels.

We also launched a partnership with the UC San Diego Rady School of Management called the Associate Professor Leadership Development Program. The goals are to empower associate professors by providing them the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to effectively and confidently fulfill their many roles and responsibilities beyond performing research—as leaders, teachers, mentors, advisers, colleagues, supervisors, and more; ensure associate professors understand the organization of UC San Diego, how information flows, and how decisions are made in order to enable professors to better achieve their individual goals; provide a forum in which to build relationships and a support network among associate professors across the campus; provide coaching and mentoring by senior faculty and campus leaders to participants throughout the program and after the program is finished; develop a diverse group of potential campus leaders; and create and sustain an inspired and motivated faculty who feel invested in the success of the campus and supported by the university.

Strategic growth: Define critical areas of future need and areas of strategic growth, and actively recruit and retain faculty who visibly lead the national conversation in research, technology, and higher education policy and strategy.

It will be essential for us to expand in growth areas and fill vacancies due to faculty retirement by actively recruiting and retaining key people. To this end, we have created a multiyear growth plan for faculty. The goal is to add eighty-nine net new faculty, including nine within Scripps Institution of Oceanography and at least twenty joint faculty appointments. We are providing $14 million for ongoing base salaries and benefit support, plus $22 million to assist with start-up packages. In addition, we are addressing faculty compensation compression and adding $6.5 million per year in packages for faculty renewal, which are not growth-related. We are also expanding investments in marine sciences and health sciences to expand their role in undergraduate teaching.

Strategy 8

Grow a high-quality, cost-effective, and diverse graduate program.

Graduate students are the next generation of researchers, scholars, artists, and faculty who will carry forward our mission to transform lives, shape new fields, and push the frontiers of knowledge. During their training, they also provide research support; teach, mentor, and inspire undergraduates; and are essential for meeting the university’s teaching obligations under the California Master Plan.

Numbers: Increase the graduate student population and further protect and enhance the quality of the student body.

UC San Diego has a relatively small proportion of graduate students compared to its peer institutions. Increasing the number of these talented and dedicated scholars and supporting them throughout their education is integral to our campus’s vision and will also help us attract and retain outstanding faculty and expand our research enterprise—currently a billion-dollar-a-year concern. Through our Graduate Student Growth and Excellence Initiative, we are allocating more than $10 million to help level out the cost associated with recruiting nonresident graduate students. This will enable us to focus on growing our PhD population and the overall quality of our graduate students. We will also launch the Masters Growth Program, which will provide new opportunities for students and an avenue to increase revenue for the campus.

Investment and diversity: Invest in competitive offers for top graduate students. Ensure the recruitment, retention, and success of a diverse population of graduate students by increasing the number and quality of our fellowships and stipends.

We will make significant investments that enhance the diversity and success of our graduate student population. In addition, we will invest in the development and renewal of state-of–the-art facilities. At an institutional level, we will continue to identify, develop, and implement new programs that target diverse populations of undergraduates and their institutions and forge new relationships with them. Fundraising for scholarships and fellowships will be a focus of our upcoming capital campaign. We will also broaden our training for graduate students with the goal of widening their experiences for the evolving workforce.

Career advising: Develop and enhance our graduate student career advising programs to support the exploration of career paths, including those outside academia.

We will develop new advising programs to provide students with information about the varied career options and pathways that are available to them. In addition, we will assist students in understanding their transferrable skills and identifying the soft skills that are critical to their success.

Community integration: Improve the transition to graduate study.

We are committed to developing introductory programs, supporting graduate student interaction across departments/disciplines, and delivering creative options to address graduate student needs.

To improve the graduate student experience and enhance the sense of community, a new graduate student housing complex will be constructed to foster relationships and encourage interaction among the diverse graduate student/professional/family residents.

Strategy 9

Evolve structures and processes to identify trends for investment, and foster innovation, risk-taking, and collaboration.

To ensure that the university does not lose its competitive edge and entrepreneurial spirit, our leaders and administrators must be innovative in finding and providing financial support, offering wise counsel, and fostering collaborative governance. While maintaining our excellence in traditional university departments and other units, we must also create opportunities and structures that encourage the nimble entry of our faculty into new, high-impact, strategic areas of scholarship and research that imagine and establish new frontiers.

Investment: Increase investment in faculty and student collaboration in pursuit of the four grand research themes.

The campus will need to find multiple ways to encourage, incentivize, evaluate, and prioritize the novel ideas that surface. Towards this end, a multipronged approach to investment in faculty full-time equivalents (FTEs), joint hires, graduate and undergraduate challenge grants, seed grants for joint collaborative work, core facilities, and conferences will be necessary. We have already begun our investment through the faculty growth plan and Frontiers of Innovation Scholars Program, as well as funding new academic initiatives such as the Advanced Energy Initiative, the Maker Lab, and the Design Lab. Faculty will leverage these assets through grants, philanthropy, industry, and global partnerships. Robust technology commercialization and entrepreneurship opportunities will also be necessary to achieve the highest possible societal impact.

Improved coordination: Assess and improve our organizational structures and processes to remain at the forefront of interdisciplinary research.

In recent years we have encountered significant challenges, including state and federal budget cuts and higher costs related to new governmental regulations and programs. Increased governmental compliance and reporting burdens, higher mandatory costs, and less fiscal flexibility are unfortunate facts of recent institutional life. Traditionally, institutions react by cutting services and capacity, but we have opted for a more strategic approach.

To remain at the forefront of interdisciplinary research, we are improving coordination across the campus, and implementing new models for collaboration, interdisciplinary research, and education. Specifically, we are reviewing and cultivating our relationships with local industry, nongovernmental organizations, and other community institutions that share our vision.

Finally, we will make sure we have flexible and agile organizational structures supported by new allocation models with enhanced incentive and reward structures. These new models will establish the appropriate balance between investing in new strategic areas and continuing to nurture and support unit-specific research needs and individual expression.

New models: Review the tools and the foundational expertise necessary to successfully implement initiatives related to emerging and future trends.

We are assessing the capacity, capability, interest, and flexibility required of all critical resources to adequately support any initiative associated with a thematic area or with our traditional research and scholarship ventures. This includes identifying and pursuing the appropriate tools to handle the intersection of big data, complex analytics, and visualization as they relate to modeling policy, social interventions, and social networking scenarios. To respond to emerging and future trends in a timely fashion, we will make sure we have flexible and agile organizational structures that are supported by new allocation models with enhanced incentives and rewards.