UC San Diego Extension: Ready for Its Next 50

UC San Diego Extension is entering its second 50 years of service to the San Diego community and the wider world. “We are the embodiment of the notion that the research university is embedded in the community,” says Mary Walshok, UC San Diego’s associate vice chancellor of public programs and dean of UC San Diego Extension. “I see us as a civic partner and a catalyst for change.”

Here are five ways UC San Diego Extension is changing the world:

1. It’s Boosting Business and the Economy

“We are here to help grow the regional economy by providing people with the skills businesses need,” Walshok says. That’s why UC San Diego Extension helps workers develop skills so they can advance in a huge variety of fields ranging from biomedicine and health care to law, digital media arts and engineering.

UC San Diego Extension offers a variety of certificates and professional growth programs while connecting with companies big and small, from the mammoth Qualcomm to upcoming marketing firms in downtown. “We do the hard work of identifying what skills are needed in partnership with industry,” Walshok says.

2. It’s Connecting the Community to Knowledge

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You don’t have to enroll in a class to take advantage of UC San Diego Extension’s offerings. It offers a variety of programs designed to enlighten, entertain and educate the general public.

The Helen Edison Lecture Series, which was developed with a bequest from a generous philanthropist, has hosted such noted speakers as Al Gore, John Kenneth Galbraith, Noam Chomsky, Luis Valdez, and Toni Morrison. Other speakers include His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, author Henry Louis Gates Jr, neurologist and best selling author Oliver Sacks, and social activist and actress Jane Alexander.

In addition, UC San Diego Extension offers a variety of enrichment classes to people of all ages in areas like art, literature, languages, acting and more. The courses are often inexpensive and allow community members to tap into the extensive knowledge of faculty members. UC San Diego Extension draws more than 60,000 enrollments each year, including more 20,000 for online offerings.

3. It’s Helping Seniors Learn for a Lifetime

Back in 1974, Walshok created the Institute for Continued Learning, now known as the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, to offer a wide variety of educational opportunities to people aged 50 and up. “Everything we do is based on the value we see in lifelong learning and providing educational avenues at every stage of life,” she says.

By paying a modest fee, the institute’s hundreds of members get access to high-level courses four or five days a week all year long. The classes provide extraordinary insight into topics like language, science, medicine, social sciences, politics and current events, law and society, and history.

Institute members can take advantage of other activities from luncheons to tours and take advantage of unique opportunities to hear from notables like 1988 presidential candidate Michael Dukakis and Nixon Administration counsel John Dean.

“It keeps my mind alive. Nobody’s too old to learn,” says retired television director Stanley Faer, a former president of the institute. “The program is very enriching. A lot of people have made new friends, and some romances have started.”

4. It’s Changing How We Talk to Each Other

UC San Diego Extension has shaped the community of San Diego and beyond through dialogue. In 1984, Walshok co-founded UC San Diego CONNECT to help accelerate San Diego’s innovation economy, a striving organization still thanks to the early leadership of Bill Otterson. UC San Diego Extension also engaged community leaders throughout the region to help identify San Diego’s competitive advantage.

“It was a discussion of how do you think about regional assets and geography to give San Diego a competitive advantage,” Walshock says. “Dialogue changed the way people thought about our region.”

In 1990, UC San Diego Extension launched the first cross-border research and leadership forum under the leadership of Chuck Nathanson. Those discussions helped spur cross-border collaboration to develop a thriving economy binational economy.

5. It’s Reaching the World Beyond San Diego

UC San Diego Extension launched UC San Diego-TV in the late 1990s with a low-power television license. It’s since grown into UCTV, with one of the most significant university online presences in the United States. On a monthly basis, UCTV garners 6 million broadcast viewers and more than 12 million downloads on such channels as The STEAM Channel, Brain Channel, and the Career Channel.

And through “massive open online courses” — known as MOOCs — UC San Diego Extension is bringing extraordinary free courses to people around the world. In recent years, UC San Diego Extension has enlisted top scientists to share their knowledge about climate change and the future of energy.

“These courses increase the visibility of our region as a powerhouse in technical solutions to very difficult global problems,” says Shannon McDonald, UC San Diego Extension’s business development and marketing manager. “We’re proud to embrace this extraordinary way to educate San Diegans and the world.”

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