Pat Turner: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Dean Turner at Undergraduate Research Week 2018. Photo by Todd Cheney

As she meets with colleagues across campus and even across the entire University of California, Dean and Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education Patricia Turner is always struck by how highly regarded the staff of the Undergraduate Education (UE) are. In fact, during her first five year term, working with such well-respected colleagues is one of her “biggest sources of pleasure,” she said.

This fall, Turner was appointed to her second five-year term as Dean and Vice Provost.

Over the next few years, she hopes UE can help lower some of the barriers that may prevent students from graduating with the fullest experience possible.

“When you ask graduating students what makes them most proud about their time at UCLA, they will often say something about their research project, the company they started, their participation in Honors, or the internship they took while studying abroad. And as dean, I know those same experiences have a direct correlation to student success after graduation, in the real world,” Turner said. “My challenge is that the programs that provide those opportunities can’t accommodate every student who wants to participate, and for programs like study abroad, students’ financial situations can pose challenges.”

That’s why fundraising continues to be a priority for her. “With increased funding, more students would be able to have access to these types of experiences,” she said.

“It’s about opening up these opportunities so our restrictions of space and bandwidth don’t interfere with students’ ability to do things,” she said. She encourages staff to embrace their role in helping students chart meaningful pathways through their time at UCLA, whether through co-curricular programs or academic resources.

The entire University of California is feeling the pressure to speed up time-to-degree. “Pressure on UCLA will only increase in the years to come. But at UCLA, we already do an excellent job graduating students in a timely manner,” Turner said. “Still, over the next two to three years, my staff and I will be honing our efforts and developing new ones to help students graduate in four years or fewer, prepared for what comes next.”

”Undergraduate Education shines in our ability to personalize the UCLA undergraduate experience,” Turner said. “Part of our challenge will be to keep that personal touch for students while encouraging their timely completion of degree requirements. Opportunities like service learning and civic engagement enable students to make personal connections with the community and with our faculty and staff and to discover and pursue new passions.”

“What UCLA has afforded with the existence of a division focused on undergraduate education is a home for the academic side of the undergraduate’s experience and a whole team of people who are looking out for that,” she said. “From orientation to academic counseling and scholarships, our programs give students an opportunity to learn about themselves, which gives them a meaning and focus to what they learn in the classrooms and the labs.”