UC Berkeley administrator Paul Alivisatos talks evolving financial, academic landscapes during campus series

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Entrepreneurship in colleges, advances in undergraduate education and decreases in state funding — UC Berkeley Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Alivisatos touched on all these topics at his talk Monday.

Alivasatos’ talk was the second in a series by campus administrators called Campus Conversations, the first of which was delivered by Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer Rosemarie Rae. According to the series’s website, the talks are a place for campus leaders to share their vision for the future and for the campus community to ask questions and share their views.

Alivisatos began by discussing the campus’s continuing budget concerns, which he said are due to decreasing state funding. Despite that decrease, Alivisatos said the campus has been working on reducing the deficit over the past few years and hopes that by 2020 it will be eliminated.

“To look at … (the) state and say they’re not contributing is not right,” Alivisatos said in response to a question about the decreased funding. “Just because we’re a public university doesn’t mean we have just one source of funding. There are so many other contributors. … We should have a more broad base sort of income.”

It is vital to think about changes that are taking place in higher education, such as the fact that the number of master’s students on campus is now greater than the number of doctoral students, according to Alivisatos.

Additionally, Alivisatos said entrepreneurship is becoming a growing consideration in higher education.

“Connections between advanced scholarship and economics has become greater. People feel the need to be connected with where their work goes,” Alivisatos said. “Berkeley kids are inventing the future, no matter what we do — it’s just phenomenal.”

Alivisatos also spoke about the emergence of new fields such as data science, which are being popularized and are changing the way new undergraduates approach their subjects of interest. He defined a good undergraduate education as teaching students to be active rather than passive in their learning, and he wants to focus on learning how to learn rather than solely what to learn.

Interim Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Stephen Sutton, who attended the talk, said he liked the way Alivisatos described the undergraduate experience. The talk was also received well by graduate professor of education Jabari Mahiri, who also attended Alivisatos’s talk.

“I think it is a great idea for leaders of the school to have these kinds of talks, a forum to share the vision they have for progress of university during complex times,” Mahiri said. “The provost was very clear … about the nature of issues that we face and things that leaders and other members of the community can do to keep us as a pre-eminent institution in the country and the world.”

Contact Sri Medicherla at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sri_medicherla.