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We have a one-on-one with UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla.

August 2, 2012 1:17 p.m.

GUEST:

Dr. Pradeep Khosla, chancellor, UC San Diego

Related Story: New UCSD Chancellor Hopes To Raise Endowment Into The Billions

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

CAVANAUGH: Our top story on Midday Edition is UC San Diego's new chancellor. In recent years, the UC system has seen several cutbacks from the state. Administrators at UC San Diego have worked to avoid a downward spiral for the school and preserve its reputation as one of the top universities in the country. Pradeep Khosla is taking on a big job, and he's here to tell us about his role. Welcome, doctor Khosla.

KHOSLA: It's a pleasure to be here.

CAVANAUGH: What was your first day like?

KHOSLA: It was really exciting. I started my day at 7:30 AM, and I finished at 10:00 PM.

CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh!

KHOSLA: And the good thing was when I went home, I could fall asleep finally.

[ LAUGHTER ]

KHOSLA: They made me work. It was very invigorated.

CAVANAUGH: What attracted you to UC San Diego?

KHOSLA: The quality of the institution. UC San Diego is an amazing institution that in a short span of 50 years has grown from nothing to one of the top 10 public institutions in the country. When I say top 10, you cannot appreciate what it means. When you start thinking about UC Berkeley, Michigan, UT Austin, Georgia tech, you know that we are ranked with the best.

CAVANAUGH: You come to San Diego from your position as dean of Carnegie Mellon school of engineering. I'm assuming that UC San Diego is a larger institution?

KHOSLA: It is three times the size of Carnegie Mellon. That was about 10,500 student, UC San Diego is 30,000 students.

CAVANAUGH: Is that a daunting challenge?

KHOSLA: It is. Also the fact that UC San Diego is public makes it a little bit more interesting. Those are waters I'm not used to navigating. And that was one of the interesting parts of this move, to understand the public enterprise in this country, because that has been a very influential enterprise in terms of improving the quality of life for the majority of this country.

CAVANAUGH: Exactly. And I have a couple of questions about that. As you know, tuition has been mounting steadily in the UC system. Tuitions and fees for undergraduates at UC San Diego are up nearly 70% in the last five years. Now, that's provoked student strikes and protests. Tuition is set by a board of regents. Have you been thinking about it? Is there anything you as chancellor might be able to do?

KHOSLA: Yes. There are several things. I'm glad you reminded everybody that tuition is set by the board of regents. And the campuses just follow that directive. The campuses have no influence in setting the tuition. That said, the campus does have some flexibility in offering financial aid. And one of my goals would be to expand and make fundraising efforts for scholarships better. And that's going to have an impact on how much the students pay. But one should also be reminded that a lot of students in the UC system go to college for free because of the California blue and gold program. About half the students, or 60% of the students at UC San Diego, have some sort of financial aid or loan or scholarship. And those facts are lost on the public when we talk about increasing tuition.

CAVANAUGH: Right, indeed. But there have also been because of state cutback, fewy classes offered and some have you had to be shut down. When you were considering coming here and looking across the board at what this university has gone through in the past several years, not only why did you take on this challenge, but what went through your mind? What kind of ideas got sparked in you about ways around this?

KHOSLA: I believe that an organization like UC San Diego, which is 30,000 students and about 30,000 faculty, staff, for it to be successful, every individual in that organization has to be empowered. As I was thinking about making this transition and how I would go about thinking about it and doing it, my view is that we have to put structures in place that empower every individual to achieve their own goals, and in the process achieve the goals of the organization and the university.

CAVANAUGH: Can you give me an example?

KHOSLA: There are several examples one could think of. Let's see. At the very high level, if you think about the smallest organizational unit in the university, it would be a department. So if we create structures where departments are empowered to think about their academic enterprise, their excellence, now programs in the department, and the budget is structured so that the money comes back to the department, then you can imagine the department heads and the faculty being more empowered than they would be if everything was controlled top-down.

CAVANAUGH: You're talking about a more grassroots budgeting at the university.

KHOSLA: And also grassroots or bottom-up creation of ideas and empowering people to create ideas and execute those ideas where the administration's role is to support our faculty and students to accomplish their goals.

CAVANAUGH: Now, during this time of cutbacks and tuition increases, your annual salary of 4 hundred thousand thousand dollars raised some eyebrows. Do you think that high salary will be a continuing issue in your dealings with UC San Diego students?

KHOSLA: I hope not because I'm totally committed to what I think of as the total student experience. I'm totally committed to -- and I fully understand the angst that the students and their families feel when the tuition goes up, and I'm going to be working very hard to make sure that our students get not only the best possible education but the most affordable education.

CAVANAUGH: How important is that that we insure that college is affordable for everyone who wants to go? We have heard ruse reports, there have been opinion pieces about how the goal of a college education is sort of becoming out of reach for an awful lot of Californians and people across the country. &%F0

KHOSLA: Yes, and that is true. And I think that is very unfortunate. If you look at the history of this country, and if you look at the middle class when it was created in the early to mid-19-hundreds, you will see that most of the middle class that was created and the way we have built new industries and led the world, it has been through investments in science and technology and broadly in education. So as we go forward, we need a more educated workforce in this country than 100 years ago. So affordability and access is very, very significant to maintain our quality of life in this country.

CAVANAUGH: What would you say your top priorities are in your first year as chancellor?

KHOSLA: My first year as chancellor, I have several priorities, but one of the priorities is going to be thinking through the whole UC San Diego enterprise and developing a strategic plan and a vision of who we want to be over the next 5-10 years. I want to do that in the context of the involvement of the faculty and the staff, and the broader community and the alumni. And once we have the plan in place, we want to go out and use that plan to develop a fundraising campaign aimed at improving the quality of life for the faculty and students. In the context of that goal, you'd be looking to improve the quality of life for students or the student experience, and do the same for faculty and staff.

CAVANAUGH: You have some really ambitious goals for fundraising and for increasing UC San Diego's endowment, don't you?

KHOSLA: I do have a dream. And I'm going to need the community both within UC San Diego and our broader community to help me achieve our dream. And this dream is aimed at making sure that the dream of this state and our young kids is kept alive for the future.

CAVANAUGH: Now, we have a -- I believe a $500 million endowment at UC San Diego. You'd like to see that go into the billions.

KHOSLA: Yes, I would. And here's a simple way I think about this. If you look at UC San Diego's budget, we get about $240 million from the state which is on its way down. But that money from the state is the equivalent of what I would get from a $5 billion endowment. So you can imagine now that for us to be neutral, vis-a-vis the state funding, and the vagaries of the state funding, we've got to have a $5 billion endowment.

CAVANAUGH: And that's your goal.

KHOSLA: That's my goal.

CAVANAUGH: That's your dream.

KHOSLA: I think it is an extremely aggressive goal, but I believe if we don't shoot for the moon, we will not get where we want to be.

CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you a pondering sort of question about that goal. If you do raise so much private money for an endowment for UC San Diego, it's a public university, and do you think that that might be threaten the mission of public education in any way?

KHOSLA: I don't believe so. Because we are not changing the mission of the institution. We are just creating the resources to support the mission that was defined back when the constitution was created. So there is no change in the mission.

CAVANAUGH: So the fact that indeed -- well, contributors would contribute to the school instead of the bulk of the contribution would come from private contributors rather than the state itself. No fundamental alteration there of what a university of California school is?

KHOSLA: In my view, there is not. And I can give you examples of leading private universities in the country where if I didn't tell you they were private, you could not tell by looking at their mission, by looking at what they are doing and how they educate students.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. All right. Another big goal of yours is to boost the number of graduate students with that emphasis?

KHOSLA: Because it's through graduate students that faculty pursue their research goals. Secondly, graduate students especially at the masters level are very highly desirable and needed by industry. As we think about our economy becoming more and more technology-based, as we think about companies on the cutting edge of technology building new industries. Yesterday I was at Sapphire energy, and they showed me how they're using algae to create biofuels. Out of about 200-odd people they have, 40 are PhD's, and something similar is masters level. This is not a company that can be created or that can succeed with just high school graduates.

CAVANAUGH: Right. You have some very lofty goals for the school. But let me root us both in the reality of the present situation if I can. For the first time in several years, UC regents didn't raise the tuition for this coming semester. They hope the governor's tax initiative will be approved in November. But if it's not, UC San Diego will take a budget hit of about $35 million. Are you preparing for a worst case scenario?

KHOSLA: This is just day No. 2.

[ LAUGHTER ]

CAVANAUGH: Yeah!

KHOSLA: So I can tell you I'm not preparing for a worst case scenario. But before I got here, my vice chancellors were thinking about it, and through this month, we will be thinking about it, how to deal with it want

CAVANAUGH: You agree that the school has to prepare for the fact that this initiative may not pass, right?

KHOSLA: There is no choice. We have to prepare. But we are hoping, and I am hoping, and I am supportive of this initiative, and I will do what it takes from our side to support this initiative.

CAVANAUGH: What do you think of UC San Diego's role in the larger community of San Diego?

KHOSLA: It plays in my mind a very significant role. The first thing to remember is it is the largest employer in San Diego based in San Diego. About 30,000 people are employed, about 30,000 students are being educated. Secondly, over its history of 50 years, it has created more than 650 companies, about 150 of which are still active. It puts in about $20 million every year into the larger San Diego overall economy. So it has a significant role to play.

CAVANAUGH:

CAVANAUGH: What is your plan? Do you have a sort of rollout plan of how to get familiar with UC San Diego? The faculty, the students, the different college, etc?

KHOSLA: Yes, I do. And I started that plan about two months ago. I've been in the last two month, I've visited UC San Diego about our or five times. I've talked with all the vice chancellors, about all the deans, the heads of the major units. In the next few day, I will be doing the same with the faculty level. I'm meeting with major donors, heads of companies that have a commitment to us who hire a lot of students from us. And last but not the least, I'm talking to people like you and people on TV to make sure that our message is heard broadly and clearly.

CAVANAUGH: Well, I'd like to thank you very much. Thank you for speaking with us, and good luck.

KHOSLA: Thank you very much. Hopefully I'll come back again.