Chancellor's Friday Letters

Peeping under the covers

Peeping under the covers

May 13, 2011

Dear Friends,

Story telling.

It is a lot of what I do as Chancellor…to tell the story of the impacts of our faculty, students, staff and alumni of this campus, and what it means to the broader society.

And whether I am telling a story about us in Sacramento, Washington DC, or in the home of university friends, I pay attention to their thoughts and reactions.  To do so makes us better.

Recently, I had the opportunity to tell a piece of our story to, according to the Nielson Company ratings, more than 8.3 million people across Canada and the United States.

And below are just a few of the several hundred unsolicited reactions about the UCR episode of Undercover Boss.

About 2% of the input was negative …individuals who thought my missteps and mumblings at times were below that expected of a university leader.

About 2% were looking for a job.

And the balance of the inputs was positive with respect to the importance of higher education, and the humanization or personalization, if you will, of the experience of our students, faculty and staff.  In other words, their stories.

Let me first acknowledge that accepting an opportunity to use a popular television series, and seeking to use it to deliver a serious message, was unconventional at best, and not without risk.

One point of view is the old adage, when you are in front of a television camera – and lack editorial control over the final product – three things can happen, and two are not good.  The prevailing point of view was to go ahead and use an unconventional means to tell our story because of our confidence in our people, place, purpose, and accomplishments.

This “tension” is nicely summarized by our very own James Grant, head of strategic communications, who wrote a piece for a national electronic publication entitled “My Chancellor is Crazy and I Love It”: http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2011/05/05/grant_on_the_chancellor_who_became_an_undercover_boss

Now, some reactions to our story:

“I’m an educator … in Toronto …You and your donors have made such a tremendous impact on those students lives and sometimes just that one act of caring can mean a door opening to an amazing opportunity that would have otherwise remained shut.”

“That was the most awesome thing in the entire history of higher education administration EVER!… you really made your institution look good… I work at University of Memphis… I just gave UCR $50.00.  I’m sorry it’s not more.  I don’t have much to give… I have $110,000 in student loan debt.”

“I actually shed a tear as I watch you waive the debt for two very deserving students and provide scholarships to allow them the opportunity to complete their undergraduate studies. You and the University supporters have influenced two amazing lives who will in turn impact generations to come. If I had children, even though I am a UNC Tarheel at heart, I would be happy to send them off to UC-Riverside.”

“You have the distinction of being one of the few who was pre-empted by Bin Laden and lived.  Congratulations!”

“I thought it was absolutely fantastic and it made me very proud to be associated with UCR.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been back to campus now I want to plan a visit to see it all again.”

“Hope the public gets the message – higher education is hurting. As a society we are not investing adequately in our most important resource  – our human capital.”

“I believe you raised the visibility of our campus and of the outstanding students, staff and faculty. I can’t help but think that is what is needed for the legislature to value the UC education and for those seeking places to donate that really support the next generation. I was incredibly impressed by the poise, accomplishments and kindness of the featured students, staff and junior faculty.“

“Tim, it was an endearing message you projected.  It came across as genuine and heart-felt.  However, between us, I do know that you can pronounce ‘acid catalyzed hydrolysis of tert-butyl acetate.’ Also, I do think that you are better walking backwards than projected, but your problem with hurdles was, and remains, genuine.”

“Just finished watching Undercover Boss this evening in Hilo, Hawai’i.  Boy, that was also a 15 hanky episode.  Nicely done.”

“Thank you for boldly stepping out into the public eye and lifting the needs of our students to public attention. These students are our future. It is our role as educators and administrators to advocate for their needs so they may successfully realize their academic goals, and, go forth and positively impact our communities, society and our world.”

“In the current budget crunch, an intelligent, warm, and concerned message like this about higher education in California is just what the voters need to hear.”

“There are so many reasons why I am proud of my affiliation and history with the campus – you have reminded me of the most important reason – the people (students, staff, faculty, etc.)!”

“So, I am scrolling through the television channels and what do I see?  a mustachioed old friend!  I yelled into the other room for my wife and she came running because she thought I was having a heart attack!…Congratulations, my friend.  A great story!!”

“As for the Undercover Boss, best stick to your day job. BUT it is great what you did and it showed your great degree of caring.”

Best wishes,


Tim White, Chancellor

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Turning biomass into fuel
Thai researchers are installing a UCR process that converts biomass and agricultural wastes into fuel in their new research laboratory. The collaboration with the Thailand Institute of Scientific and Technological Research involves a thermal chemical process that turns carbon-based materials – everything from grass clippings to food waste or wood – into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

Lunch with a side of poems
Poet and Professor Juan Felipe Herrera will read his own poetry during the lunch hour on Wednesday, May 18 at the Orbach Science Library. You will never regret spending an hour listening to the delicious words of Juan Felipe.

Find out what else is going on at UC Riverside: http://www.ucr.edu/happenings/

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