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"Rethinking the First UC Campus and Designing the Tenth at Merced"
February 10, 2000

Trudis Heinecke

I'd like to talk about two ideas that I think really influence the vision and the kind of design and built environment that will emerge for UC Merced. One of the things that has happened to public research universities is that the expectations of what we do is much beyond simply developing and transmitting knowledge. And these expectations are especially highlighted in the case of UC Merced, but also are true for Berkeley and other public as well as private institutions.

And I think the first is the social and political issues that public universities need to deal with, issues of access and equity. Carol mentioned this to a degree in talking about the kinds of students that we expect to serve from the Valley, as well as from the state as a whole. These are populations that don't necessarily have a tradition of higher education, participating in, maybe lower income, maybe new immigrant population, may have the same question as Harrison's nephew in terms of, you know, 'Why would I attend this place?' And so the campus becomes in itself symbolic of access and equity in the way people respond to it and interact with it and so on. And I think there are some real basic ideas in terms of is the campus an inviting place to be? Do we want to invite the larger community in? Is this in conflict with perhaps the need for some separateness or a protected place for students and faculty to pursue intellectual growth?

Often, again, parents of undergraduates would like to have their children at a protected place, not at an open place. We do have the opportunity at Merced, and it is a tremendous opportunity, to design the town and gown in parallel, to think of it as a single new town, as Harrison has talked about. And one of the issues is how to define the boundaries. Are there boundaries at all between town and gown? We've thought very much about having a very permeable kind of boundary at one end of the campus that maybe--we still haven't drawn the final property lines--maybe having a property line that looks like this as opposed to a straight line--where there are other parts of the campus that we may want to have more of a barrier and more of a protection.

And so I think this is a very interesting question. Again, how much do you really want to invite the community in? How much does the campus become a symbol of these larger social issues of access and equity? My own views are very much influenced by where I grew up. I spent my early childhood in Madison, Wisconsin, not too far from the University of Wisconsin campus. My parents had no formal affiliation with it, but we thought of the university as our campus. It was our place, it belonged to every citizen in the state. And just through circumstance, as a small child at 6 or 7, I knew the campus as well as my own neighborhood because we spent a lot of time there, and I had cousins who went to school there, and my mother went to extension classes. And we spent a lot of time on the campus. And so my notion was that it was my university and it was a part of my life. And I think this is something that we've thought about in terms of establishing the vision for Merced. Is it kind of a new land grant institution, this notion that people believe it's their university?

Carol has mentioned several others. This very strong feeling about environmental stewardship. I think in living lightly on the land, I think there's another aspect to this. And that is, the University of California is a global university, an international university and so on, and yet I think we have a very strong feeling that it needs to very much have a regional identity because of, again, it's this beautiful transitionary between the flat agricultural land of the Valley and the foothills, has some very precious environment resources. And the nature of the campus and its built environment, I think we would like very much to reflect that regional identity. And that, again, I think is something a little different than certainly the development of the other UC campuses over time.

A second major issue deals with the expectation of research universities, that they will become an economic engine. And this certainly is an expectation for UC Merced and its effect on the economy of the Valley, which is very different than the rest of California. Merced County, for the first time in decades, its unemployment dipped below 10% in the last year. This is a historically economically depressed area. That has a lot to do with the nature of agriculture and so forth. And so there's a lot of political and local expectation that the University will attract new industry and development. And what may seem very bizarre to you who live in Berkeley and Palo Alto and at UCLA, they want us to induce growth, they want growth, they want us there. Yet at the same time, we do need to be careful about how that growth is expressed. And you've heard, again, the statements from many about environmental concerns.

And I think it is a real, real challenge for the University, and where we can provide leadership that growth can happen in a responsible way, that perhaps as we think about the evolution of this as a new town it can become a model for some of the growth issues in the San Joaquin Valley that deal with ag. preservation and preservation of habitats, and water and air quality, and all the rest. And as a part of that, I think there are kind of two important aspects. One is we really do hope to use the campus as a laboratory, whether it is in the preservation of some natural reserve area; whether it is building metrics into buildings, such that we can, in fact, actually measure our impact on the environment in terms of energy use, the use of new materials and so forth. But I think, secondly, and I think perhaps Brian mentioned this as well, that it is incumbent upon us not simply to depend on the outside regulators to tell us what it means to be environmental stewards or to live lightly on the land, but that very much a part of our physical planning process has to be the development of internal standards for accountability. And that we need to be accountable for what we do both to the land and the region, and have that as kind of a built-in ethic as a part of the planning process. And we have begun work on that in the last year.

Trudis Heinecke has been Director, Physical Planning, University of California, Merced since April 1998. She has been responsible for physical planning and capital project development for the new 2,000 acre campus which also includes collaborative planning with the landowners and local government agencies for the 8,300 acre University Community adjacent to the campus site. She has been involved with the tenth campus project for almost ten years since the site selection process was initiated. In March she will be returning to the UC Office of the President as Director of Long Range Resource Planning.

She began her 26-year university career at the UC Irvine campus, serving in planning positions at the College of Medicine and as Director of Physical Planning for the campus. At the UC system office, she has served as Director of Capital Improvements Planning and Director of Financial Planning and Analysis. She has been an active member of the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP), serving as its president in 1997-98; SCUP is a professional society which focuses on academic, facilities, resource, and institutional planning issues. She has an M.A. in Urban Planning from UCLA.


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