A biweekly publication for faculty and staff

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Tom Peterson

May 13, 2013

My first six months at UC Merced have been a time of listening and learning, and most of all, a time of developing a deep appreciation for all that has been accomplished by this institution in a very short time. I have had the opportunity to meet with most of the faculty, many of the staff, and a number of undergraduate and graduate students — both in groups and individually. 

Our biggest challenges in the next phase of UC Merced's growth are twofold: We must define a clear trajectory, through strategic planning, for the growth and maturity of UC Merced over the next five to seven years. And we must shape the important university processes and practices that will move this startup institution into parity with regard to the support provided to faculty and students at more established universities. 

While strategic planning is our most important endeavor, transitioning many of the university's operational aspects is equally critical. It is only through confidence in the broad range of support activities on campus that we can attract and retain the best faculty, staff and students.

For the first time, the process followed to develop the university’s budget for Fiscal Year 2013-14 simultaneously considered all elements of the university’s activities. The financial needs within every unit of the university — from facilities management and police to parking and admissions, and all aspects of the academic enterprise — were developed and presented to the entire campus in a complete and transparent way.

The budget hearings gave the entire campus an opportunity to fully appreciate the many contributions made to the overall success of the university and the budgetary needs of those units that make those contributions.

Achievement of our institutional strategic objectives can only be realized when every unit of the campus community is devoted to moving in the same direction and toward the same goals.

A strategic plan will define those goals and objectives.

The last campus strategic plan was developed in 2009. Much has changed in the past four years.  While predicting the future is always difficult, the opportunities envisioned  for UC Merced present themselves quite differently than they did in 2009. The financial model for growing the university might be less reliant on continued, increasing state support, and therefore creative means for financing our growth through public-private partnerships must be developed.

We must consider, in an integrated way, how the student population (graduate and undergraduate), faculty size, staff support and physical plant must grow simultaneously. We cannot recruit the best faculty and students without adequate laboratories, classrooms and campus amenities, and we cannot develop labs, classrooms and amenities without strong growth in student enrollment, faculty research and philanthropy. 

As critical as the start-up period of UC Merced was, so, too, is this period of transition to a 10,000-student institution. We have to establish a clear identity for UC Merced that distinguishes us within the prestigious UC system.

This summer, small groups from the administration, staff and Academic Senate will work together to lay the foundation for this planning process. We will first ensure that we understand our current environment (i.e., our current situation with respect to resource utilization, demographics, etc.). By doing so, our planning for the future is realistically anchored to the present. We will also pose key questions to guide our planning. And then in the fall, the entire campus community will be asked to contribute to the process.

As we celebrate UC Merced’s eighth commencement, conferring more than 1,000 undergraduate and graduate degrees on our soon-to-be alumni, the future is bright and very much in our own hands. 

No other campus in the country has the growth potential (students, faculty, staff and institutional visibility) we have. I have complete confidence that collectively, we will ‘seize the day.’ 

It is truly an honor for me to be part of this wonderful team.