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In 1966, in a small wooden building situated among a grove of eucalyptus trees, UC San Diego Extension first opened its doors. No longer an arm of UCLA, the bustling six-person office continued its turn-of-the century service to San Diego by developing classes for 2,000 learners. Today, Extension's presence is felt everywhere with locations throughout the region, on the web, and inside more than 100 local companies. Staff members number close to 250 and serve more than 40,000 individuals arriving from the U.S., Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Core offerings have evolved to fulfill a diversity of needs including education and training, civic and cultural enrichment, and regional economic solutions. To tell Extension's story is to reflect on the vibrant history of California and its neighbors around the world.
With the opening of the UCSD campus, Extension began to operate as an independent office under Dr. Martin Chamberlain, a former Peace Corps director in Africa. Extension quickly established a reputation for being a reliable resource of knowledge taught by national experts, Chamberlain says. Courses and programs reflected the social turbulence of the 1960s with course titles such as "The Extremists: Radicals Speak for Themselves," and "Great Issues in International Affairs." Other offerings included a statewide lecture series on integrated circuits for engineers; a course entitled, "The Middle East: Crossroads of Western and Eastern Worlds;" and performances by Quincy Jones, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk.
In 1967, all public funding for Extension came to a halt. "We were confronted with earning our own way," Chamberlain says. With an entrepreneurial mindset, his staff assured Extension's viability by providing access to the kind of knowledge needed for personal growth and career advancement. In addition to courses in accounting, real estate, and nursing, Extension offered women's studies classes such as, "So You Want to Go Back to Work." Chamberlain also helped create a lecture series presented by Latino and African American community leaders and launched an English as a Second Language (ESL) program for international students. "What makes a good administration is looking at what's going on in society and determining how you can contribute to that." Chamberlain says.
To tell Extension's story is to reflect on the vibrant history of California and its neighbors around the world.
Interpreting the community's needs was, and is today, key to Extension's programming. Beginning in the 1970s, Extension recruited a diverse pool of local leaders such as educators, bank presidents, city planners, and attorneys to sit on an advisory committee. Today, Extension's programs are developed collaboratively with multiple advisory committees. A cross section of advisors come from companies and organizations such as Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, California Reading and Literature Project, Callaway Golf, Northrop Grumman, Pfizer, San Diego Gas & Electric Company, Qualcomm, and Sempra Energy. By engaging community leadership, enrollment figures have increased from 2,500 in 1966 to 40,000 today, representing revenue of $35 million.
To extend the intellectual resources of UCSD into the community, Chamberlain and then assistant dean, Mary Walshok, recruited the help of professors to offer lectures based on the university's cutting-edge research. Lectures such as "Frontiers in Space, Impact of the Space Program on Computers" and "Viruses and Cancer" were successful, drawing 200-300 people. Extension's philosophy continues to be making the groundbreaking work of the university accessible to the public through outlets such as UCSD-TV and UCTV.
Chamberlain says Extension's programs today are just as relevant and responsive to the community as they were in the 1960s.
"San Diego has always voiced a desire to pursue education at every stage of life," says the 91-year-old Chamberlain, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. "The trick is to try to anticipate what's going to be needed six months from now."
One person who has been able to tap into early trends is Mary Walshok, Ph.D., who took over as the dean of UCSD Extension in 1981. With a sharp ear to the ground, Walshok helped position Extension as a regional, national, and global model of university outreach for research, education, and assistance for growing companies.
During the 1980s, Walshok responded to a signal from the private sector: help business and science innovate. She saw an opportunity to develop some of the nation's earliest interdisciplinary education and assistance programs focusing on high-tech and science based industries.
"Through conversations with local business and community leaders, it became apparent that networking and economic development programs would be vital to smart growth in the region. Today, Extension-originated programs such as Executive Perspective for Scientists and Engineers (EPSE) and CONNECT are helping citizens understand the trends that are changing our world, assisting start-up enterprises, and enhancing skill development in critical professions. The university, by virtue of having Extension, can respond rapidly to new demands in the community."
The focus on business innovation in the 1980s was balanced with vibrant intellectual and cultural programs. Inquisitive minds spent an evening with child expert Dr. Benjamin Spock; heard a lecture by eminent scientist Dr. Roger Revelle about energy issues; studied the traditional crafts of Saudi Arabia; and embarked on travel study tours to Switzerland, Spain, Greece, Turkey and the Yucatan Peninsula.
Interpreting the community's needs was, and is today, key to Extension's programming.
In the 1990s, Extension launched three pivotal offerings focused on regional needs: Online classes, the San Diego Dialogue, and UCSD-TV. Identifying a need for on-demand learning, Extension was one of the first providers of online courses in areas such as CDMA wireless technologies and clinical trials. Today Extension offers more than 60 web classes in pharmaceutical sciences, engineering, and healthcare.
Recognizing the importance of San Diego's crossborder location, the San Diego Dialogue was founded in 1991 as a public policy research center. Since its inception, the Dialogue has conducted research on long-term challenges and opportunities facing the binational region, as well as helped implement viable solutions to improve quality of life. Today the Dialogue is focused on building a Crossborder Innovation and Competitiveness Center in order to integrate the economic strategies of the San Diego/Baja California region.
Helping to connect campus and community, UCSD-TV offers more than two hundred original programs per year, reaching two million viewers locally and 15 million homes nationwide through UCTV. The station has been recognized with multiple awards including seven Emmys. Programming partners include the San Diego Opera, San Diego City Club, La Jolla Music Society, and Revelle Forum at the Neurosciences Institute.
"Through UCSD-TV, San Diego can satisfy its ongoing passion for the magic and wonder of opera," says Ian Campbell, General and Artistic Director of San Diego Opera. "Music is just one aspect of San Diego's love for the arts. Extension reflects this diversity with opportunities to study painting, languages, and literature. Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, and Calvin Trillin have all come to San Diego by invitation of Extension. By attracting the world's most provocative thinkers, we become a more rich and culturally aware region," says Campbell.
Irwin Jacobs, founder and chairman of San Diego's telecom giant Qualcomm, says one of Extension's best contributions has been the creation of CONNECT, a non profit technology organization that fosters innovation and entrepreneurship. CONNECT was founded in 1985, just as Qualcomm was planting its tech roots in San Diego.
"When we started Linkabit (Qualcomm's predecessor) we didn't have a community that supported start-ups," says Jacobs, a former UCSD engineering professor. "We had to develop our own contacts with banks, lawyers, and other businesses in order to grow. It was hard. When CONNECT was formed, we were able to bring together a large group of interested parties to help make entrepreneurship easier in San Diego. It had a tremendous impact."
UCSD Extension's executive and engineering courses have also played a vital role in growing and sustaining local tech companies such as Qualcomm, Jacobs says.
"When you hire new engineers right out of college - which we do quite extensively - they do very technical work for a number of years. But as they grow in their jobs, they begin to take on more supervisory roles, so it's critical to have more people trained in business and leadership."
For Jacobs, continued education is the key to innovation.
"I believe that the ability to support an improving economy is going to depend on our ability to innovate," he says. "In order to innovate, you not only need a basic education but you also need to continue to expand that education. That's where Extension provides a useful service. If we, the San Diego region, are going to continue to drive our higher paid job base, then we'll have to have educational resources like Extension to help provide the basis for strong innovation here."
Former UCSD chancellor and UC president Richard Atkinson says Extension has helped the university keep tabs on the evolving needs of the individual, as well as the community at large.
"Our Extension programs have been superb," Atkinson says. "Extension has been very responsive to the needs of citizens, companies and the various organizations in San Diego. It has set a standard for all Extensions throughout the University of California system as a comprehensive and impactful outreach program."
In 2006 Extension embarked on a digital preservation project to archive forty years of programming history. Browsers of the website will find pivotal issues of the day mirrored in an array of catalog covers and course descriptions.