By Will Carless
UCSD’s new chancellor, Marye Anne Fox, left big shoes to fill at her previous job at North Carolina State University. On one of her last days there, a crowd of 400 students appeared in the middle of the night on her front lawn and cheered when she turned on the light. She also received a standing ovation from the school’s board of trustees at her last meeting with them.
School directors have high hopes for Fox, a scientist known for her firm leadership and deep commitment to her goals. Having spent one month on the campus at UCSD, Fox is still feeling out what are the most important issues to students, faculty and the broader La Jolla community.
At a retreat with senior faculty members earlier this month, she identified two main areas on which she hopes to concentrate: diversity and improving the quality of life for her students.
Fox intends to focus on addressing issues such as gender equity and equal representation for minorities, so that “each student will be able to flourish to their full potential.”
Recent changes to the admissions policy for UCSD - the board of directors recently voted to raise the admission rate from 2.8 percent to 3 percent - means to Fox that, in these times of increased pressure on funding by the government, quality education must remain a priority. However, she pointed out that the changes that have been introduced will not jeopardize the school’s culture of diversity.
“We do know how important it is to be inclusive,” said Fox, “and to ensure students have access to the very top-quality education. But public higher education is being challenged, and we therefore need to make sure that our quality is not relaxed.”
Fox was blunt in expressing her views on tuition costs.
“We want to make sure that students are only limited by their talents,” she said, “not by their finances.”
Regarding improving students’ lives, Fox touched upon issues such as parking and on-campus amenities. She said she faces an uphill battle - in terms of housing prices - in attracting students to La Jolla but that doing so is a component of a recently completed long term plan for UCSD, and that the university indeed intends to increase the amount of student housing in La Jolla and University City.
Fox said she is keen to improve community involvement in on-campus activities, and talked with obvious pride about the La Jolla Playhouse and other site attractions for which she hopes to round up community support. Tied in to these hopes was an acknowledgment that parking and access must be improved alongside any other initiatives. However, she said that she thought the parking situation was exaggerated, noting that she had recently attended a play at the Playhouse and noticed a large amount of parking available.
Fox comes to La Jolla from North Carolina State University, where she served as chancellor for five years. Before that, she was at the University of Texas at Austin for 22 years. North Carolina State is a school that has been very active in its efforts to attract philanthropic contributions from its alumni and the surrounding community.
Like UCSD, North Carolina State is in the midst of a $1 billion fund-raising drive, a drive that has been put on hold with Fox’s departure.
While recognizing the generosity of UCSD alumni and private donations to the university, Fox pointed out that UCSD, as a “young” school, must try especially hard to raise capital from other sources. In particular, she plans to increase the amount of joint private/public initiatives, drawing upon La Jolla’s high-tech business community to forge links with faculty for the greater good of both parties.
Fox said such partnerships will involve bringing down barriers between the university and the businesses that surround it on the Torrey Pines Mesa. According to Fox, the brand-new Rady School of Management, which recently opened its inaugural class of MBA students, and the forthcoming School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, will have the forging of such links as one of their primary objectives.
Asked how she is enjoying La Jolla so far, Fox laughed.
“I love La Jolla. Every day I wake up, look out of the window and I can’t believe we’re here.”