Chancellor's Friday Letters

Concerned Students

Concerned Students

January 13, 2012

Dear Friends,


I visited with a group of students on Monday evening.  My assistant, Jessica, thought correctly to bring pizza and pop.

The conversation with these ten students, who reflected many majors and levels in our undergraduate student body, came at their request.  Indeed, they spent time in fall quarter organizing their thoughts and the points for our discussion.

In a word – actually three – I found the discussion thoughtful, sobering and inspiring.  Their views reflected a deep-seated interest in the health of the UC and UCR, and what they might do to help themselves and others in these tough economic times.

They asked questions and offered advice on what we could do better to improve their educational experience, as well as asking how they could be more helpful.

But mostly I heard a group of men and women, at this formative moment in their lives, expressing excitement, concern and commitment to UCR now, and for those yet to come.

I was so impressed with their thoughts and ideas, and moved by the depth and sophistication of their worries, that I invited them to a special meeting of my Cabinet.  There they will have safe haven to express their feelings and ideas directly to the senior UCR leadership, including the deans from each school and college, as well as faculty leadership.

There were questions about budget and finances, and the increasing contribution by students and their families to compensate for the decreasing state investment.  We spoke about the importance of advocacy in Sacramento, and they queried the mechanics and funding sources for need-based and merit-based financial aid.

They sought to learn more about the revenue streams that support the direct and indirect costs of education and research, as well as the costs of student activities and campus capital development.  They were curious about how we hire faculty and staff, and what efforts we make to retain and recruit world-class excellence and diversity among our employees.

We talked about the increasing debt burden students often have upon graduation, and how that negatively affects their decision making process about career choices that are based on finances more than interest and passion, and impairs their ability to put down roots in a community.

We discussed the many first-generation students at UCR (e.g., last fall 59% of our freshman were first in their families to go beyond high school) who don’t have “lifelines” in their family to advise on navigating the complexities of our university.  So we in this community need to help compensate.

Our students sought better access to sage advice about courses and majors, etc., and suggested that we use more social media and technology, rather than just adding people (they clearly understand the resource constraints).  They spoke passionately about how one missed piece of information from an adviser can lead to an extra quarter or year of attendance, and commented on the unfairness of the extreme cost involved.  They raised concerns about the disproportionate migration of students from the sciences and engineering to the humanities and social sciences, and felt strongly this imbalance needed institutional attention.

They queried why we couldn’t make a complex place simpler to understand, so that they could focus their efforts on succeeding in meeting UCR’s exacting academic expectations.

They sought more forthcoming advice on summer bridge programs, so students who come here from a weaker high school can get the necessary shoring up they need as they launch into their major of choice, ambition and passion.

Students expressed interest in learning earlier in their undergraduate years about how to enter graduate and professional schools, and asked for suggestions on how students might band together as cohorts to get through some of the most demanding majors on campus.

They spoke about how they have organized peer mentors for other students, to give beyond self by helping members of our community succeed at UCR.

A tip of my hat to Berhan Tizazu Bayeh, a 4th year physics major who orchestrated the event and reached out to me to meet.

In addition to the substance of our conversation, I was intrigued and curious about the different behaviors among the ten students.  During our 90 minutes together, some students were more reserved, and spoke about only one or two issues.  Others were outgoing and engaged in all parts of our wide ranging conversation.  All were thoughtful and engaged.

One student kept offering “Hey, I have a short question…”, and then asked about 15 ‘short’ questions – enough to get a good-natured reaction from me about how I liked her technique to get heard more often.

Students…can’t live with them (joke), can’t live without them (reality and wouldn’t want to), and pizza is a necessary ingredient for a productive discussion at the dinner hour.

Best wishes,


Tim White, Chancellor

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A Chameleon Food Truck
Our creative campus chefs have acquired a colorful food truck dubbed The Culinary Chameleon, which will be introduced this month to our campus community. They are jumping on the bandwagon, as it were, of a trend in mobile food trucks with their own social media following.

Citrus-frosted Cake
Now that we have arrived at the height of the season of citrus deliciousness, Tracy Kahn is busy planning a citrus day on campus, Jan. 26. She talked with the Milwaukee Journal about the one thousand citrus in UCR’s Citrus Variety Collection. The story offers news you can use, including a Clementine cake.

Sounds of Sitar
Experience the Eastern influence of sitar music tonight at a concert by Kartik Seshadri, a force in the field of Indian classical music. Come early for the performance that starts at 8 p.m. at the Culver Center for the Arts. The concert is free and sponsored by UC Riverside Presents.

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

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