May 20, 2016

Remarks at the Center for Real Estate Symposium

Good morning, everyone. I’m delighted to be with you today to talk about UCI’s vision for the future.

But before I talk about our brilliant future I’d like to ask you to take a short trip with me down memory lane.

Let’s go back to the early 1960s. Imagine yourself standing on a hill in the middle of a 90,000 acre, dusty ranch in the San Joaquin foothills. You see mountains in the distance, a few dozen sheep roaming about, a tumbleweed or two – but no highways, no cars, and no people. Not a city in sight.

That was the landscape facing our founders more than 50 years ago. Yet they didn’t see empty space. Like many of you – people in real estate – they looked at land but saw something vastly different.

First, they saw a great research university, what was called during our groundbreaking ceremony “one of the great institutions of higher learning in the land.” It would embrace bright, pioneering faculty and students who wanted to be at a place of superior teaching and trailblazing research.  It would satisfy the dream of great state and educational leaders to construct a “public Ivy” that would bring an Ivy League-quality education to all talented young people in California, regardless of background.

And our founders saw more. 

They saw this university as an essential catalyst, an anchoring institution if you will, in creating a great urban area, home to hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people, living and working in new, planned communities with plentiful green space, outstanding amenities, and an extraordinary quality of life. They knew that a great research university was integral to this vision. 

One of our founders, Joan Irvine Smith, fought to get the university on the Irvine Ranch because she wanted for this region what UCLA had done for West Los Angeles. 

From the beginning our founders had in mind a new paradigm of public-private partnership, so the master plan for the campus and the master plan for the City of Irvine were designed as one. That was the start of it all.

It's noteworthy that we are the only UC campus not named after an existing city. As you know the city of Irvine did not come into existence until six years after the creation of the campus. Unlike most places, which create colleges and universities in order to enhance an existing town, we started with a university and then imagined the region that would emerge around it.

UCI and the community, working together for 50 years and counting, have created a region known the world over for its entrepreneurial vitality and its exceptional quality of life. 

And given the scope of our university's mission – to educate the brightest young people, to create the next generation of researchers, scholars, and professionals, to explore the frontiers of knowledge, to be an engine of innovation, to fight disease and improve human health, to understand and resolve the most serious challenges facing our community and our world – we have unique contributions to make as Orange County continues to develop as a world-class metropolitan area.

UCI currently has more than 30,000 students and more than 15,000 fulltime employees, so every day when school is in session, we’re a city about the size of Aliso Viejo. We are the 9th ranked public research university in America, tied with UCSD according to U.S. News, and according to the New York Timeswe are the top university in America, public or private, for combining academic excellence with access to low income students.

According to the Sierra Club we are the number one university in the United States for sustainability. And Money magazine says we are the number one university for beach lovers.

Oh, and we have the best mascot.

We are Orange County’s second largest employer, with an annual economic impact on Orange County of $4.8 billion (that’s with a B). The majority of our 174,000 alumni live and work in Orange County and across Southern California, making us a major supplier of the region’s talent-rich workforce and business and community leadership. We provide this region with the only world-class academic medical center, making available to our neighbors today the future of wellness and disease treatment.

And we are determined to forge even stronger partnerships with the community, not only to fuel our academic mission, but to accelerate the positive impact we are having on our region. 

For example, UCI Applied Innovation, which we started a couple of years ago and which some of you already know, is fast becoming a regional catalyst for the development of an innovation economy, exploring the commercialization of the extraordinary innovation that takes place on campus – we received 81 patents in the last two years alone based on our research breakthroughs – and building an infrastructure that will serve Orange County innovators more generally. 

We are developing VC funds, forging partnerships (including Tech Coast Angels and Golden Seeds), creating industry advisory boards, and opening a 30,000 sq. ft. space at University Research Park called the Cove, where we are co-locating inventors, entrepreneurs, accelerators, and incubators. 

Another example of an important partnership is a recent, visionary gift from Bill and Sue Gross, to transform our nursing program into a school that will serve the health and well-being of our region and train the next generation of nurse Ph.D.s who will blaze new trails of caregiving.

As part of our Illuminations initiative, we work with the leaders of Orange County's leading arts and culture institutions to both enrich the experience of our students and to find new ways to enhance the future of arts in the region.

Another example is what brings us all together this morning, the Center for Real Estate. In just a few years the center has grown into a comprehensive real estate resource for the professional real estate industry in Orange County and, increasingly, across the nation. It provides in-depth research and expertise in real estate studies, education, and consulting, and then disseminates the newest and most influential approaches to strategic innovation and entrepreneurship in real estate through specialized training and industry conferences. 

I opened these remarks by looking back at the moment of our founding. Let me close by looking ahead. 

We plan to grow significantly. In the next ten years, we plan to increase our student population by 20 percent – to about 40,000 from the current 32,000 – and hire 250 new top-tier faculty to serve them.  

We will be conducting more high impact research, in existing and new fields, and rising higher and higher in reputation.  

And the Center for Real Estate, strategically located in the epicenter of planned development, will be recognized as the global hub of studies in the master planning of communities. 

This is our plan.

But this is not just growth for growth’s sake. The increases we expect in students, faculty, and funding are designed to make a difference in the lives of individuals, our community and region…and the world. 

We have a duty to use our talents, gifts and resources to make a powerful impact on the world. And we can’t do that on our own. We want to be in mutually beneficial relationships with people who share our values and vision. We want our partners to find in us a vehicle for their dreams and a collaborator for their ventures. 

I thank you for all you have done and continue to do in support of the Center for Real Estate, the Paul Merage School of Business, and the University of California, Irvine. We value your insight and ideas, your participation in the life of the university. We hope you will be our partners for a long, long time as together we create better lives for all in our community, in our region, and across the nation.