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UC Santa Cruz launches the Jack Baskin School of Engineering

SAN JOSE, CA–With its distinctive new School of Engineering, finalized yesterday (May 15) before the University of California Board of Regents, UC Santa Cruz is poised to assume a critical role in training the skilled engineering workforce that will drive the economies of Silicon Valley, the Monterey Bay region, and the state in the 21st century.

Instruction will begin in September for freshmen in electrical engineering, the first of several new degree programs that will join existing strong departments in computer engineering and computer science to comprise UCSC’s first professional school. Studies have shown that California will need increasing numbers of proficient engineers in these fields to remain at the vanguard of the high-technology global marketplace.

Faculty hiring is also under way in the key discipline of applied and engineering mathematics, the second of the new programs. The school’s planners envision future programs in at least three other areas of growing importance: software engineering, engineering management, and molecular biotechnology engineering.

Ultimately, plans call for the School of Engineering to grow to about 90 faculty, 500 graduate students, and 1,200 undergraduates –significant expansions from the current totals of 24 faculty, 160 graduate students, and 320 undergraduates.

“The new School of Engineering at UC Santa Cruz is both timely and advantageous to the state,” said UC President Richard C. Atkinson. “The campus has carefully planned the school and its programs to place UCSC on the cutting edge of intellectual developments and the application of new knowledge, as well as to address clear societal needs. The school represents another important step as the University of California seeks to continue to meet and anticipate the needs of students and the state.”

UCSC’s expansion of its engineering programs also received a huge boost today with the announcement of a $5 million gift from Santa Cruz philanthropist and retired developer and engineer Jack Baskin, for whom the school will be named (see separate news release). The gift is the largest private donation in the campus’s history.

Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood presented UCSC’s plans to the Board of Regents yesterday and accepted Baskin’s gift at a news conference today in San Jose. These developments, plus a commitment of $2 million in funding over the next four years from the UC Office of the President, will allow the campus to proceed without delay toward its ambitious goals, Greenwood said.

“The Jack Baskin School of Engineering will foster innovative and entrepreneurial research, both by the faculty members we will recruit and by the students we will educate,” Greenwood said. “By focusing on several targeted areas of excellence, we believe that our engineers and computer scientists will become creative and important contributors to the economy of our future.”

Several factors, said Greenwood, will make UCSC’s School of Engineering stand out:

— Close partnerships with industry. As the University of California’s service provider for Silicon Valley and the burgeoning high-tech community in the Monterey Bay region, UCSC has worked closely with industry leaders to gauge their needs and chart the course for its new school.

— Linkages with other area engineering programs. UCSC’s offerings will complement those at UC Berkeley, Stanford, San Jose State University, and Santa Clara University through joint research and education, sharing of facilities, and other collaborative efforts.

— The Santa Cruz educational experience. Synergistic ties with UCSC’s first-rate departments of environmental studies, economics, biology, chemistry and biochemistry, earth sciences, and ocean sciences will offer unique opportunities for young engineers to apply their skills. Further, UCSC’s traditional emphasis on a well- rounded liberal arts education will help prepare graduates for the human aspects, as well as the technical challenges, of their jobs.

Patrick Mantey, Jack Baskin Professor of Computer Engineering at UCSC and dean designate of the School of Engineering, looks forward to the fruition of the campus’s long-standing plans. Indeed, the UC Board of Regents first approved a School of Engineering at UCSC in 1966, one year after the campus opened. Those plans, plus an updated proposal in 1991, were shelved until now for budgetary reasons.

“We are fulfilling our dream that UCSC can become a much more important player in the regional economy,” Mantey said. “We will also become a more mature and diverse UC campus in terms of our academic offerings and the students we are likely to attract.” Already, Mantey noted, applications to engineering and computer science at UCSC have increased 17 percent and 34 percent, respectively, since the campus announced its preliminary plans last fall.

Greenwood and Mantey also foresee close links between the School of Engineering and the UC Monterey Bay Education, Science, and Technology (MBEST) Center, a research and technology park that UCSC is developing in Marina at the site of the former Fort Ord military base. MBEST tenants will draw upon the expertise of nearly two dozen research and educational institutions in the Monterey Bay Research Crescent to study issues relating to information technology, environmental science, biotechnology, and other fields.