October 19, 2023

Chancellor Howard Gillman's Remarks at the Newport Balboa Rotary Club

Good evening, everyone.  It’s great to be with you all, here at the Newport Balboa Rotary Club.  I had the pleasure of speaking here a few years ago, shortly after I became chancellor of UC Irvine, and it’s gratifying to know I did well enough to be invited back.

It’s been an eventful time for UCI since I was last here, and I’d like to give you a brief overview of we’ve been progressing.

We continue to be one of our nation’s finest universities.  Once again UCI was ranked in the Top 10 of all public universities in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.  This came on the heels of UCI’s being ranked ninth in the nation among public universities for best value in the Princeton Review college survey.  It cited UCI’s stellar academics, affordability through comparatively lower tuition costs and generous financial aid, and strong career prospects for graduates.  And just before that, The New York Times ranked UCI No. 16 on its College-Access Index, a list of the country’s 286 most selective universities placed in order of economic diversity.  UCI was rated first among public universities in California and tied for No. 1 among members of the Association of American Universities.

And earlier this year, in its 2023-24 Best Colleges in America list, Money again ranked UCI at the top.  It was one of only 34 U.S. universities to receive a five-star rating (the highest possible), and Money lauded the campus for offering a high-quality education, for its affordability, and for its student outcomes.

And our faculty continue to garner honors, as well.  Professor in Residence Philip Felgner, director of the UCI Vaccine Research and Development Center and a pioneer in the development of lifesaving mRNA vaccines, and Chancellor’s Professor Payam Heydari, a prolific creator of cutting-edge microelectronics technologies, were elected to the National Academy of Inventors for their inventions that have made tangible impacts on quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society.  Professor Felgner’s discoveries were also cited by the Nobel Prize in Medicine committee when this year’s prize was awarded three weeks ago.  Distinguished Professor Leo Chavez of the Department of Anthropology was elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in recognition of his studies in international migration, especially among Latin American immigrants.  Professors Roland Betancourt, in the Department of Art History, and Hector Tobar, in the Departments of English and Chicano/Latino Studies, were named Guggenheim Fellows for their productive scholarship and exceptional creative ability, respectively.  And two weeks ago Distinguished Professor Julian Thayer of the Department of Psychological Science, was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in recognition of his groundbreaking research into how stress, including racism, affects autonomic nervous system dynamics and influences disease and aging.

With these latest honors, UCI now has 49 members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine; 39 members of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences; 16 members of the National Academy of Inventors; and five members of the National Academy of Education. 

These are all high honors, but to me the highest accolade we can get is the number of California’s best and brightest students to want to come to UCI to achieve to their potential.  Last year we received more than 143,000 applications for admission, a record for us and the fourth largest number of applications received by any university in the nation.  To put this in perspective, the last time I spoke here we had received about 80,000 applications.

We’ve been growing in other ways, too.  When I was here before, we had about 30,000 graduate and undergraduate students.  We now have about 36,000, with most of the increase on the undergraduate side.  And we’ve increased our faculty by about 20 percent in the same time period.

More students and more faculty mean more classrooms, labs, and office space, and even more dormitory space, so we’ve been building.  Among our new facilities are the Susan & Henry Samueli Interdisciplinary Science & Engineering Building, where researchers from our schools of engineering, computer & information sciences, and physical sciences work side by side, tackling some of the world’s great problems; the Anteater Learning Pavilion, whose high-tech, collaborative classrooms and study spaces encourage active learning; a second building for our Paul Merage School of Business; and five new student housing communities that have provided an additional 5,200 beds.  We are now primarily an undergraduate residential university.

Last year, in what we call the Health Sciences District of campus, at the intersection of California and Michael Drake Drive, we opened the Susan & Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences building and the Sue & Bill Gross Nursing and Health Sciences Hall, for a total of 180,000 square feet of new teaching, research, office, and patient care space.  And earlier this year we broke ground on the Falling Leaves Foundation Medical Innovation Building, which will provide another 200,000 square feet of research space. 

Under Construction Indefinitely, indeed!

Our research funding continues to grow, as well.  When I was last here, we received just under $300 million in research support funds.  This past year we received $653 million, well more than double.  Most of this comes from the federal government, the rest from foundations and forward-thinking corporations.  This increased level of funding confirms UCI’s increasing role as a world-class research university.  At a time when there is tremendous national competition for financial support of research and innovation, this outstanding and sustained growth indicates that our preeminent research enterprise will make even greater and more productive contributions to the state, the nation, and the world. 

Of all the things we do and all the myriad ways we serve, none are more important than the activities of our academic medical center.  Our work in human health and medicine has a profound and immediate effect on the people in the communities around us.  People come to us when they are at their most vulnerable; they turn to us to make their lives better, and the outcomes of our efforts have the greatest effect on those lives. 

UCI Health is the largest and most important healthcare delivery system in Orange County, with more than 1 million outpatient visits each year.  During the COVID pandemic, it played the central role in leading the fight to save lives, especially at our medical center in Orange.

And in this area, to, we have been growing.  In addition to the medical center in Orange, UCI Health has opened clinical locations in Irvine, Anaheim, Placentia, Santa Ana, Tustin, Costa Mesa, Yorba Linda, Laguna Hills, Catalina, and here in Newport Beach, with more on the way.

And as any of you who have driven by the corner of Jamboree and Campus have seen, the new medical center is coming along rapidly.  The Joe C. Wen & Family Center for Advanced Care, encompassing both primary and specialty care, will be completed later this year and open early in 2024.  It will be followed later that year by the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and Ambulatory Care Building, which brings the finest in academic health cancer treatment to south Orange County, and in 2025 by a 144-bed full-service hospital and emergency department. 

When it is completed, the new medical center will allow us to address the increasing demand for our specialty services, improve patient access, leverage its proximity to the main campus to support the goal of integrating clinical care, research, and teaching, and bring our world-class physicians and care to the university’s backyard.  

I hope no one in this room ever needs our healthcare services, but rest assured, they will be there if you do. 

And lastly, when I was here before, I spoke about having just started what we called the Institute for Innovation, charged with being a regional catalyst for the development of an innovation economy, exploring the commercialization of the extraordinary innovation that takes place on campus, and building an infrastructure that will serve Orange County innovators more generally.  Today, what is now called UCI Beall Applied Innovation, or BAI, has done all that and more. 

BAI is a world-class facility that brings entrepreneurs, innovators, investors, and industries together to explore new opportunities, new businesses, indeed whole new industries.  Built to create opportunities for connection, sharing, and growth, it provides the UCI campus and surrounding community an innovative ecosystem with access to resources, tools, exposure, and collaborative partners and advisors.  In just a few short years, it has become the premier Orange County resource for business planning, business development, and funding-readiness.  If you haven’t had the opportunity, I hope you will check it out and learn what it can offer you. 

And with that, I thank you. If you have any questions, I’m happy to continue the conversation.