The UC Regents convened from May 14-16 at UC Merced to discuss agenda items concerning the UC community, including San Benito Housing funding, student-athlete perspectives, S.T.E.M. Peer Mentorship Programs and student degree programs tuition, among others.

At the May 14-16 UC Regents meeting, the Regents discussed San Benito Housing funding, student-athlete initiatives, peer mentorship programs, student degree programs tuition and more.

Student-athletes at UCSB, UCSD discuss perspectives

The UC Regents Special Committee on Athletics heard student-athlete perspectives and suggestions for improving campus athletics from UC Santa Barbara and UC San Diego (UCSD) student-athletes at their May 14 meeting.

UCSB Director of Athletics Kelly Barsky and UCSD Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director Eric Coleman presented to the Regents alongside two student-athletes from each of their respective campuses.

“Santa Barbara athletics’ mission is to serve our student-athletes, but also to connect our community and bring people together,” Barsky said.

UCSB fourth-year sociology major and women’s basketball player Alexis Whitfield said she chose to transfer to UCSB due to the community in and out of the basketball program, as well as academic and athletic opportunities.

“I chose UCSB because of the community. They’re welcoming. They’re an amazing community, like never before. I was instantly welcomed with open arms, and you can’t beat that, especially being a transfer,” Whitfield said. “I [also] chose Santa Barbara because I knew that they would push me to achieve my academic and athletic goals.”

Whitfield requested that the Regents consider food-fueling stations on campus to help student-athletes find a balance between their academic and athletic schedules while maintaining proper nutrition.

“I know a lot of athletes have some hardships making sure that they fuel properly, so I think an addition of a fueling station would help maximize athletes’ performances,” Whitfield said.

Fourth-year sociology major and men’s tennis player at UCSB Diego Castillo echoed Whitfield’s sentiments and said he found support and belonging at UCSB through “multiple Big West Championships” and “wins against Power Five programs.”

Castillo said that while the men’s and women’s tennis teams have recently gained new facilities thanks to a $5.25 million donation from UCSB alumni and UCSB Foundation trustee John Arnhold and his wife Jody Arnhold, other athletic groups on campus have not had access to the same upgrades.

“We recognize that some other athletic facilities need some renovation for our other athletes, because we’re all so close. It feels like their success is also our success,” Castillo said.

Students from UCSD urged the Regents to consider academic and housing priority for student-athletes, as well as a designated space that includes advising, tutoring, mindfulness centers and a cafeteria specifically for student-athletes.

Preliminary funding plan for San Benito is approved 

Chancellor Henry T. Yang, co-chair of the student housing building committee Gene Lucas and Director of Capital & Physical Planning Josh Rohmer presented preliminary funding plans for the San Benito student housing project at the May 16 Finance and Capital Strategies Committee meeting.

San Benito is set to be the first phase in a two-phase project that will fulfill the 2010 Long Range Development Plan’s (LRDP) goal of 5,000 new beds by 2025. The new residential housing is proposed to add 2,140 new beds with the second phase adding 1,360 more. The 3,500 new beds with the current 1,500 beds in San Joaquin and Sierra Madre Villages will meet the LRDP’s 5,000-bed goal. 

The housing project will be located in the northwest corner of the Main Campus boarded by Mesa Road to the north and Stadium Road to the west. It is the same location proposed for Munger Hall. 

Yang addressed the dissolution of plans for Munger Hall and the subsequent plan to move forward with San Benito. 

“A year ago the project met strong headwinds with a recommendation from a campus independent review panel and construction inflation was rapidly increasing the estimated cost of the [Munger Hall] project,” Yang said. “We initiated the parallel project to pursue a more conventional means to add the 3,500 beds and subsequently that has become our primary goal.” 

Lucas stated that San Benito will be completed sooner due to preliminary work done for Munger Hall. 

“We’ve taken advantage of a lot of work that we did in preparing for the Munger project in terms of characterizing the site, stormwater management and analyzing seismic issues around the site. We’ve probably saved about a year’s time in taking advantage of that preparation of this site,” Lucas said. 

Phase two will be on the east side of campus and is “at the very beginning of the detailed project program process.” The project is set to be presented in subsequent meetings.

Lucas stated that UCSB is planning for 3,500 new beds by 2029 and that San Benito is planning to open fall 2027. 

Regent Jose Hernandez questioned if the project would use local architects, as it was a point of contention for the Munger Hall project. The appointed companies, Skidmore, Owings & Merill and Mithium are not local.

“We’ve actually gone through the process of architect selection and brought on board SOM and Mithun as the two architects for this project,” Lucas said. “We will be using local labor at the time that we start construction.” 

Chair of the Board of Regent Richard Leib expressed satisfaction with the project’s progress. 

Regents approve professional degree supplemental tuition for several graduate student degree programs

Operating Budget Director of the UC Office of the President Cain Diaz sought UC Regent approval for adding professional degree supplemental tuition to student fees at the Academic and Student Affairs Committee on May 15. 

The funding is for 12 multi-year graduate student degree programs at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC San Diego and UC Santa Cruz whose funding will expire in 2024. An additional 11 multi-year graduate professional degree programs at UC Berkeley sought one-year extensions.

Professional Degree Supplemental Tuition (PDST) is paid exclusively by students enrolled in certain professional degree programs, according to the UCOP website. The additional charges aim to enhance and maintain the quality of the programs by funding initiatives outlined in multi-year plans. 

According to Dean of the College of Environmental Design program at UC Berkeley Renee Chow, revenues from PDST are essential in maintaining and enhancing the quality of programs through providing supporting professional faculty, diversifying the student population and providing professional student teaching opportunities.

Programs charging PDST are required to submit multi-year proposals every five years to the UC Regents, where they are assessed for renewal and funding.

The representatives from the programs presented their respective PDST plans to the Regents.

Chow began by outlining UC Berkeley’s Environmental Design program’s multi-disciplinary training rooted in environmental equity.

“The subject fields of the college span the sciences, social sciences, humanities and design,” she said. “Our program offers students unique, value-based skills, methods and critical thinking to engage in professional practices.”

She concluded her proposal by elaborating on the affordability of the program and their hopes to increase student diversity over the course of the multi-year plan.

Representatives from UCLA’s Architecture program, and MBA Programs from Berkeley and Davis also looked to secure Regent PDST approval for their respective programs.

During UC Davis’s PDST proposal for their Graduate School of Management given by Dean H. Rao Unnava, audience members disrupted the meeting, shouting demands that the UC Regents divest from the war in Palestine. 

The meeting went into recess for 15 minutes while California Highway Patrol officers cleared the auditorium of all audience members and resumed with the Davis team’s proposal immediately afterward.

All presenting programs besides UC Davis received approval by the UC Regents for their multi-year PDST plans; UC Davis was only approved for one additional year of PDST charges after their program experienced a decrease in enrolling students during the 2022-2023 school year.

S.T.E.M. peer mentorship programs at the University of California

The UC Academic and Student Affairs Committee gave a presentation to the UC Regents focusing on peer mentor programs for students in S.T.E.M. fields, highlighting two different approaches in designing these groups at UCSB and UC Riverside. 

Peer mentor programs pair first-year students with experienced undergraduate students who have undergone mentorship training and can help them find success within their major.

UC Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs Katherine Newman, began the presentation by explaining the importance of these programs, stating that they “positively impact college student success and sense of belonging on every campus in the UC system.”

Newman said the peer mentorship programs are particularly crucial in S.T.E.M. fields as they “address retention challenges that S.T.E.M. majors face at UC campuses and at universities all across the country.”

Linda Adler-Kassner, the Associate Vice Chancellor of Teaching and Learning at UCSB, presented her university’s course-based approach to S.T.E.M. peer mentorship groups known as Partnership Education Effectiveness Resources (P.E.E.R.). 

“P.E.E.R. reflects our campus’s commitment to increase equity and provide resources that support students, faculty and TAs to increase progress toward [UCSB’s 2030 Graduation] goals,” she said.

Adler-Kassner continued by highlighting the program’s primary principle under which P.E.E.R. was founded.

“Peers should build on learners and teachers, all of whom bring strengths, identities and important commitments of their own to learning and teaching,” she said.

Adler-Kassner concluded by summarizing findings from the P.E.E.R. pilot in 2023-24, stating that students who participated averaged a 0.19 point higher Chemistry 1A GPA than students who did not participate and were 50% more likely to continue to the next course in the Chemistry track on time.

Guadalupe Ruiz, the Director of Transfer Initiatives & Professional Development in the College of Engineering at UCR, followed Adler-Kassner’s presentation on UCR’s Engineering Transfer Peer mentoring program.

Ruiz began by covering the program’s core principles and ideas of establishing a sense of self-belonging, self-efficacy and self-authorship in its students, while also facilitating alumni engagement with P.E.E.R. through established relationships.

She elaborated on the steps that engineering transfer students would follow in order to be fully incorporated into the program at the pre-transfer and post-transfer levels.

“Peer mentors also receive benefits, guidance and access to transformational leadership models,” she said. “Over the last 10 years on average 51% of our peer mentors have gone on to pursue graduate degrees,” Ruiz said.

UCR’s Chancellor Kim Wilcox and UC Regent Alfonso Salazar both expressed their satisfaction with the Engineering Transfer Peer mentoring program and mentioned how the program would also particularly aid transfer and first-generation students.

“Many people think about transferring and assume that transferring into engineering would be one of the more difficult challenges for transfer students, Guadalupe [Ruiz] and her team have turned that on its head,” Salazar said. 

A version of this article appeared on p. 5-6 of the May 23, 2024 print edition of the Daily Nexus.

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Anushka Ghosh Dastidar
Anushka Ghosh Dastidar (she/her) is the Lead News Editor for the 2024-25 school year. Previously, Ghosh Dastidar was the Community Outreach News Editor for the 2023-24 school year and the Assistant News Editor for the 2022-2023 school year. She can be reached at anushkagd@dailynexus.com or news@dailynexus.com.