Five! Four! Three! Two! One!… were you one of the lucky ones that counted down to the new year in New York City? Well, if you weren’t, I made a New Year’s resolution that could get you to the Big Apple while earning credits toward your degree as a student of the University of California.

For nearly a year, I have been working closely with student leaders and have been in contact with Gov. Gray Davis, UC President Richard Atkinson, Regent Sheryl Lansing and Student-Regent Justin Fong to create a study and internship program in New York City. My proposal, called the University of California at New York (UCNY) program, is modeled after a program that you might already be familiar with – the UCDC program in Washington D.C. UCNY will be a year-round, one-quarter (10-12 weeks) program, open to students of all majors in good academic standing.

Can you picture yourself in NYC interacting with the global politics of the United Nations, the economic climate of Wall Street and the artistic world of Broadway? By collaborating with other students and career professionals, you can gain experience through paid and nonpaid internships. There is no better opportunity to gain practical experience than by actually being immersed in your choice of study or research. This valuable learning experience goes well beyond the classroom, because UCNY would better prepare us for the world when we leave the university.

UCNY would combat the dramatic enrollment growth across the UC system. According to the California Post Secondary Education Commission, there will be a surge of 700,000 new UC students between now and 2010. This 40 percent increase in new students, which former UC President Clark Kerr branded “Tidal Wave II,” is being accommodated by planned improvement in students’ graduation time and impending state-supported summer instruction at the Berkeley, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara campuses.

However, in the face of Tidal Wave II, how can UCSB put more students into the already crowded and high-rent housing market in Isla Vista, Goleta, or Santa Barbara? Can you even imagine what an extra 2,000 to 3,000 UCSB students will present to our teaching assistants, crowded lecture halls, and poorly funded student retention services, such as Counseling & Career Services, Disabled Students Program and Women’s Center?

The forecast of Tidal Wave II should motivate our legislature, administration and UC Board of Regents to support budget proposals that will develop more off-campus centers of study. Sending UC students to off-campus locations will alleviate Tidal Wave II. Therefore, UCNY, coupled with the existing Education Abroad Program and UCDC program, is a worthwhile exploration. Protecting and enhancing our education greatly depends not only on how the UC will break Tidal Wave II, but also how it will handle future waves of student enrollment.

Given the challenging road ahead to the establishment of UCNY, students often underestimate their ability to influence decisions on the state and national level. Remember that the UCDC program started a decade ago with the idea of four undergraduate students at UC Irvine. Your participation and voice will not only increase the chances of UCNY becoming a reality for thousands of students, but will also challenge us to discover our power to make a difference in students’ lives.

If you have any questions or are interested in joining the UCNY Project Team, feel free to contact me anytime at 805.893.5085 or at . The Project Team will finish a preliminary proposal to the campus early this quarter that covers areas such as estimated costs of attendance, research on affordable housing and partnerships with business, art and cultural institutes. Because UCNY would be an academic program, our next step is to gain support from UC campuses in consultation with UCDC coordinators.

Additionally, the Project Team, in collaboration with the University Leadership Network will officially present the UCNY program during a Spring Quarter conference regarding the future of the UC arts program. The conference will cover a broad range of issues, including needed arts funding, expansion of arts classes and integration of UCSB with the newly created UCTV. We will also highlight student artwork and feature performances from local bands during the conference.

The countdown to UCNY has begun, so let’s start building the bridge for thousands of students today! And whatever the experts predict for the future of 2001, let’s predict that our education will soon be enhanced with the creation of UCNY. Are you ready to use your power to make that prediction a reality?

Mel Fabi is Associated Students Isla Vista Community Relations Committee chair.