Photo By: Kathryn Tomaino/ Special to the Town Crier
George Blumenthal, Ph.D., chancellor of UC Santa Cruz, assured a Morning Forum audience Jan. 8 that despite huge cuts in state contributions, the University of California system remains relevant to the state, the nation and the world.
In his presentation – “How Relevant is the University of California to the State?” – Blumenthal used three anecdotes to illustrate why the university system is so essential to the future.
The story of how Kathy Sullivan discovered her passion for science illustrates the impact of UC Santa Cruz’s teaching. Initially a linguistics major, Sullivan put off her science classes as long as possible. But when she took her first science class, she was so excited about the material that she changed her major to earth sciences. She went on to earn a doctorate in geology and was the first woman to walk in space. Sullivan now works for the Obama administration as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction.
To exemplify the importance of the research conducted by UC faculty and students, Blumenthal described UC Santa Cruz’s role in completing the Human Genome project. Research of the cancer genome hub allows physicians to offer personalized – and therefore more effective – treatment to their cancer patients.
The study of mountain lions in UC Santa Cruz’s Puma Project demonstrates how the UC system helps establish policy informed by science. Ecologist Chris Wilmers and members of his team use tracking collars to explore puma behavior and movement. Their findings explain why mountain lions are showing up in populated areas and could help minimize future conflict between humans and pumas.
In addressing the increased cost for students to attend a UC campus, Blumenthal lamented that state funding for UC students has dropped by 60 percent since 1990. Fifty years ago, UC students paid no tuition; now they pay more than $13,000 per year in tuition and fees.
The chancellor said he wishes that taxpayers and government policymakers throughout the country understood that supporting public universities is a great investment.
“Our public universities educate 70 percent of the nation’s college graduates,” he said. “Moreover, college graduates earn on average over $1 million more over a lifetime than those without college degrees.”
The Morning Forum of Los Altos is a members-only lecture series that meets twice monthly at Los Altos United Methodist Church, 655 Magdalena Ave. For more information and membership details, visit www.morningforum.com.