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UC Davis Magazine

Volume 29 · Number 2 · Winter 2012

News & Notes

UC Davis growth plan: Defining our future

A major campus initiative unveiled by Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi this fall aims to increase the number of deserving students who would benefit from a UC education, while boosting regional economic opportunity and creating new jobs.

Specifically, the campus is studying whether it can add 5,000 more qualified undergraduate students in the next five years — with an appropriate and responsible mix of California, out-of-state and international students — and support 300 new tenure-track faculty positions. The campus currently has 24,700 undergraduates (nearly 32,300 total students) and about 1,500 faculty.

"The goal is to continue creating a university that can sustain its rising trajectory through its own best efforts, leveraging support from the state but rising above the fiscal limitations we now face," said Katehi, who announced the 2020 Initiative in September during her annual convocation address, which traditionally launches the beginning of the new academic year. She emphasized that the 2020 Initiative "is being developed in broad strokes. Nothing is set in stone. Nothing will be decreed from on high."

State budget: 'dire'

Given the reality of shrinking state support for higher education, UC Davis will develop new strategies and budget models rather than succumb to permanent reductions. Preliminary analyses indicate that by adding a combined 5,000 more in-state, out-of-state and international undergraduate students in the next five years, the university can achieve the following goals:

  • Deliver the benefits of a UC education to a greater number of deserving students.
  • Become financially stable.
  • Make UC Davis more international and create a more diverse educational climate to prepare future global leaders.
  • Provide sufficient additional revenue by 2020 to support all the new tenure-track faculty positions.
  • Improve infrastructure and make investments needed to grow excellence across the campus.
  • Boost regional economic opportunity and create new jobs on and off campus.

The effort is called the 2020 Initiative because estimates indicate that it will take until that year to reach student enrollment goals, hire the new tenure-track faculty and make the necessary infrastructure investments, all aimed at accomplishing the university's goals of excellence and boosting its standing as one of the nation's top public research universities.

More online: The campus has published an email address for those who want to send comments on the 2020 Initiative: For a video and transcript of prepared remarks from Katehi's growth plan speech, visit

New genomics center established

UC Davis and BGI, the world's largest genomic institute, based in China, have signed a historic agreement that will change the landscape of genomic sciences in California and the Western states, and foster critical breakthroughs in the areas of food security and human, animal and environmental health. The new partnership will establish a state-of-the-art BGI sequencing facility for immediate use on the UC Davis Health System campus in Sacramento, and initiate planning for a permanent BGI Davis Joint Genome Center.

The new sequencing facility will be used to support research initiatives and collaborations and leverage existing strengths across the Davis and Sacramento campuses in human and animal health and medicine, food safety and security, biology, and the environment. When complete, the permanent center will occupy about 10,000 square feet on the health system campus in Sacramento, initially adding approximately 20 high-skilled jobs. It will increase UC Davis' DNA sequencing capability approximately tenfold and generate an estimated 200 new jobs in the Sacramento region.

"UC Davis brings to this partnership phenomenal faculty conducting cutting-edge research on food, health, energy and the environment, while BGI is a world leader in genome sequencing and analysis," said Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi.

As envisioned under the agreement, UC Davis faculty and students will gain access to the capabilities and expertise of one of the world's premier genomics and bioinformatics institutes, while BGI researchers will be able to access the university's diverse resources and expertise in education and research.

Hailing the new partnership, BGI's Jun Wang stated, "UC Davis is among the top research universities in the U.S., especially in the areas of agricultural, environmental and biological research."


Change in the Middle East

As uprisings continue in the Middle East, a UC Davis professor plans to travel to the region to train young Middle Eastern graduate students in how to advocate for change through research and public policy.

Suad Joseph, a professor of anthropology and women and gender studies (left), will lead a team of international scholars from six countries to train approximately 25 students a year during a two-year period to write proposals and learn scientific research methods. The course includes intensive workshops lasting four to five days. The training will draw students from Egypt, Lebanon and Palestine and will take place in Cairo and Beirut.

"It's very important, especially at this time in world events, to train these young people how to identify researchable questions, thoroughly formulate the plan for data gathering, then carry out the research and data analysis and finally to publish, disseminate and engage in policymaking," said Joseph, who also is founding director of the UC Davis Middle East/South Asia Studies Program.

She added, "We need to bring these scholar-activists together to help them develop the skills for evidence-based analysis, which can inform public policy and change."

Each student will be assigned a mentor from among the international group of faculty to guide them in their studies.

Joseph said teaching research skills to future Arab leaders is critical now, as 60–70 percent of the population in Arab countries is 29 or younger.

Managing innovation

University scientists and engineers are more likely to produce inventions and patents if they work in an environment where management supports and encourages interdisciplinary collaboration and commercialization, according to a UC Davis study.

"Contrary to the stereotype of the individual innovator, our study showed evidence that the spark of innovation often happens when diverse groups of researchers are organized to collaborate across their disciplinary boundaries," said Steven Currall, dean and professor at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management and the principal investigator on the study (pictured).

Currall noted that if research organizations want more innovation productivity, their leaders must use an "organizational formula that emphasizes cross-boundary exchange and support for commercialization."

The study concluded that it isn't just the presence of faculty with a track record of innovation that determines success, but rather organization and management. The authors defined a "productive" center or university based on patented discoveries and inventions.

Center for poverty research

The university has received $4 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish a Center for Poverty Research — one of only three such centers nationwide designated to study the causes and effects of, and policies aimed at addressing, poverty in the United States.

The interdisciplinary center, led by economics professors Ann Huff Stevens and Marianne Page, will promote research and education on poverty, with an emphasis on labor markets and poverty; health and education programs; the transmission of poverty from one generation to another; and immigration's role in poverty.

The grant, administered through the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, is for five years.

Revitalizing African crops

UC Davis will take part in a visionary $40 million effort to boost Africa's health and economic vitality by genetically sequencing and breeding some of the continent's most important, but neglected, native crops. The African Orphan Crops consortium was announced this fall during the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York City.

The international consortium will work with African scientists to identify at least two dozen African food crops and tree species that have been neglected by science because they are not economically important on the global market.

An integral part of the new initiative will be the African Plant Breeding Academy, developed in Ghana by UC Davis researchers to train African scientists to incorporate the latest technologies for breeding these orphaned crops in Africa. The academy will be established in 2012 in Accra, Ghana's capital and largest city.

Overestimating Bin Laden's 9/11 role

The United States — in a rush to hold someone accountable — oversimplified its views of Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaida terrorist organization, based in part on misleading court records, poor translations and an inadequate understanding of al-Qaida's history, according to a UC Davis professor who has listened to audiocassettes from bin Laden's personal library.

Professor Flagg Miller casts doubt on the common belief that the 9/11 attacks resulted from a two-decade-long conspiracy against the U.S. by bin Laden and the organization he led. According to Miller, an associate professor of religious studies, bin Laden maneuvered himself into becoming the leader of al-Qaida more through self-marketing than as a recognized militant leader, particularly after 9/11.

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