On Tuesday night at the Davis City Council meeting, Steven Currall, the Chancellor’s Senior Advisor for Strategic Projects and Initiatives and Co-Chair of the University of the 21st Century Committee, introduced and provided a brief overview of the university’s initiative to lead the way for higher education in the 21st century and beyond.
Councilmember Rochelle Swanson, in introducing Mr. Currall, said that she was very interested in a community dialogue on this effort. The hope is that in the Fall there will be a larger effort, but Tuesday’s presentation was a preview of the effort and her hope was that the council would see ways to work together with the university, going into the fall and beyond.
“To further our mission (to educate young people) we are dreaming and aspiring about the future of the university,” Mr. Currall told council during his presentation on Tuesday. “We are thinking about what we’d like the UC Davis university to be in the next fifty years.”
They are thinking not out five or ten years, but rather 50 years, and “important to that is how it relates to the city of Davis and our region.”
He said this is a “Strategic Visioning Process,” not a “Strategic Planning Process. “Planning in our minds usually refers to thinking about goals and objectives five years out, ten years out. This is really visioning much further out into the future.”
They are imagining what UC Davis looks like in 2065, considering issues like the university’s “positive impact on solving global challenges such as food, health, environment, energy, water,” creating an academic health care system of the future, ensuring student success based on new educational delivery techniques and technologies, sustaining the university’s financial stability and integrating the university’s physical locations and facilities.
“The Chancellor has launched a visioning process that will result in a strategic framework for the long-term future of UC Davis,” he said. Deliberations will focus on things like organizational efficiency, financial sustainability, enhancing student success, diversity and inclusion, among other things.
He envisions five phases of the visioning process:
- Develop a framework for consultation with UC Davis stakeholder groups,
- Broad consultation and a listening tour (including the presentation on Tuesday) with members of the UC Davis campus community;
- Draft a vision for how to position UC Davis as the University of the 21st Century;
- Invite public comment on the draft vision; and
- Finalize the vision by the end of the year for UC Davis as the University of the 21st Century.
So far, meetings have been attended by over 1600 people who have given feedback about the future of UC Davis.
Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis asked, “Are the trends in globalization in the perspective of what you’re hearing just a one-way street or are we moving toward a time when the 21st century vision really needs to be about moving back to roots of regionalization, localism, solving things at home… Is there space in a broad vision like this to say, we want to really be about solving problems here?”
The mayor pro tem noted, “In one sense we’re a host city, but in another sense, we’re twin cities… is there a place in this vision to say what we expect from our host city?”
He noted that the discussion focused around economic development and moving innovation from the university out. Mr. Davis said, “It’s always useful to hear what people have in their minds in terms of expectations.”
Mr. Currall responded, “On the global versus regional idea, we’re deeply committed to being both more relevant regionally and more globally impactful and visible.” He said that what pulls those two elements together is “this idea of community.” Mr. Currall said, “We’ve been talking a lot on the committee about community – by that we mean the extent of connectivity that students feel with each other, that students feel with faculty members, staff members, alumni – we think that that’s an important part of our future vision.”
While they are looking global, it is important that they maintain the core concentration on this conception of community. Steven Currall said, “We think that deepening those (global bonds) actually enhances the strength of our regional community – even in the city of Davis – to the extent that our international students are coming into Davis, that increases diversity, that increases different perspectives that we get.”
Diversity, he said, is not just about ethnicity and race, but is also geographical. He said they think this is healthy for both the city and the university, as “part of our mission is to serve as a magnet to bring human talent, human capital into the region and hopefully they stay” and have productive careers in the area.
Steven Currall also addressed the mayor pro tem’s second point about the expectations between the university and the city. He said, “I like to think of this as a compact between the city and the university and there is both a formal and an informal aspect to that.”
He said the chancellor and other university leaders would welcome an additional dialogue about what that compact between the university and city should be. He said we need to address the responsibilities and obligations that both sides would fulfill in this. “I think that should be one of the main topics that we talk about,” he said.
Councilmember Brett Lee said it would be good to have some structures in place for working with the city, both for long range planning and a general understanding of each other’s priorities. He noted people in the audience who do good outreach, but “what I notice is I don’t think we have … at the planning level … a good joint linkage.” This would be assisted, he said, by a more formal process.
Mr. Currall said he heard the call for a “more systemic and institutionalized set of dialogues.” He said they have a good group already in place and “what we would do to add to that is to have dialogue about the strategic issues that are facing the university and the city and to think about how to solve those together” because of, as he acknowledged, the symbiotic relationship between the two. And he agrees with the need to have it be more institutionalized.
This is clearly a dialogue that will be picking up more this fall, but it connects us to critical issues as the city looks to the university on issues like technology transfer and the unstated needed for things like housing – just as the university looks to the city for development of innovation parks and other means for it to continue to expand.
Most of this part of the discussion was unstated in the dialogue on Tuesday, but clearly underlies the entire process of working together.
—David M. Greenwald reporting