President announces initiatives to aid students, researchers

Proclaiming that the University of California teaches for California and researches for the world, UC President Janet Napolitano today (Oct. 30) announced three initiatives aimed at supporting undocumented students, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students across the 10-campus university.

In her first major speech since becoming UC's 20th president a month ago, Napolitano told members of San Francisco's Commonwealth Club that she would immediately allocate $15 million in non-state funds — $5 million for each of the three groups — toward easing the unique challenges affecting these students and researchers at UC.

The announcement follows a series of "listening and learning" sessions Napolitano has held on campuses and at her Oakland office as part of an on-the-job orientation about the complex system of 10 campuses, five medical centers, three national laboratories and numerous research and agricultural stations that make up the University of California.

“In two weeks, I'm going to be coming to the UC Board of Regents with some big ideas for consideration,” Napolitano told an audience of several hundred at San Francisco's Mark Hopkins Hotel. “In the meantime, however, I've heard enough to know that if we are to remain a premier research university, we must increase our support for postdoctoral fellows and graduate students.”

Napolitano said she would draw upon discretionary non-state funds to add $5 million to the President's Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, which directly supports recently graduated Ph.Ds who teach and conduct research at UC before beginning their careers in academia or industry.

To allow UC to more effectively compete for the world's most promising graduate students — and to help fill the "post doc" pipeline — Napolitano said an additional $5 million would be earmarked for graduate student recruitment.

“Graduate students and post docs are the essential links between teaching for California and researching for the world,” she said. “They are our future faculty members. They are our future innovators. They are our future Nobel laureates. They merit our additional support right now.”

Napolitano also singled out undocumented students at UC as deserving of special help.

"These Dreamers, as they are often called, are students who would have benefited from a federal DREAM Act," Napolitano said. "They are students who deserve the opportunity to succeed and to thrive at UC."

There are an estimated 900 undocumented students currently enrolled on UC campuses, about 95 percent of them as undergraduates. Because they face many bureaucratic and economic issues that other students do not — and often need help navigating the system — Napolitano said she would set aside $5 million for resources such as trained advisers, student service centers and financial assistance.

“Consider this a down payment — one more piece of evidence of our commitment to all Californians,” Napolitano said. “UC will continue to be a vehicle for social mobility. We teach for California; we research for the world.”

The initiatives will be funded through one-time reserves that the president may allocate at her discretion. No tuition dollars or state funds will be used. “Some of my ideas are even larger in their reach, and will take more time in the greenhouse,” Napolitano said near the end of her remarks. “You'll hear more about them at the regents meeting in November, and in the months after that.”