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Cynder Sinclair: UC Santa Barbara Profoundly Impacts Our Entire Community

Think of yourself as a Gaucho? You can and should — whether you attended UCSB or not. I recently had the opportunity to speak with George Thurlow, executive director, and John Lofthus, associate director, of the UC Santa Barbara Alumni Association. I was amazed to discover the far-reaching impact UCSB makes on our entire community. I think what follows will surprise you, too — and make you realize that you are indeed a Gaucho.

Chances are that whether or not you traveled to the UCSB campus today, you interacted with UCSB in one way or another. Don't believe me? Have you listened to Jack Johnson, Rebelution, or Iration on the radio or your iPod today? All of these musicians started at UCSB. Went out for a nice meal? Gaucho-owned restaurants include Bouchon, Wine Cask, Paradise Café, Beachside Bar & Café and Enterprise Fish Co. Perhaps you had some wine with your meal? Gaucho vintners include Au Bon Climat, Gainey, Margerum and Municipal Wine Makers.

Looking for something special? Log onto FindTheBest, where lots of Gauchos help you find the best of over 2,000 topics from plumbers to headphones to boarding schools and more. Needed a "lyft" back home? Lyft was co-founded by UCSB alum Logan Green. Ordered shoes online? Zappos.com was started by another Gaucho, Nick Swinmurn. Many of us work for Gaucho-grown businesses. Some of Santa Barbara's larger Gaucho-grown businesses include Deckers Outdoor Corp., Citrix Online, QAD, AppFolio, Kinko’s, Ring Revenue and InTouch Health.

UCSB Ranked 10 in the Nation

It’s no wonder UCSB ranked No. 10 out of the top 30 public national universities in the U.S. News & World Report on best colleges released this past week. Over 90 companies in the Santa Barbara area were started by UCSB alumni and faculty.

People are beginning to realize the overwhelming impact UCSB has on our community and showing they really care about the well-being of the university. UCSB is a powerful economic engine for the South Coast business community, with an overall impact of $1 billion and 11.6 percent of the Central Coast economy and employing 9,500 people.

George Thurlow
George Thurlow

There has been a huge explosion of tech companies in our area, in large part fueled by UCSB. Many high-tech companies are beginning to choose Santa Barbara as their headquarters in part due to the large talent pool of potential employees coming out of UCSB. In fact, Internet search giant Google has leased a new facility in the Hollister Avenue high-tech corridor, planning to staff the facility with a team of scientists and researchers from nearby UCSB.

Chances are that many of the folks in Santa Barbara work for a Gaucho-grown business. Startup business is a huge hub of activity to our region from starting companies, visiting faculty and visiting researchers.

There’s a myth that people who go to UCSB aren’t from here and they don’t stay here, but our studies show that nearly 20,000 UCSB alums live in the Santa Barbara area. Compared with adult-age, college-educated public, that’s significant, so the myth just isn’t true. People love Santa Barbara and choose to live and work here.

Collaborating with Community Organizations

Everyone who lives in Santa Barbara benefits from our incredible university and can consider themselves a Gaucho. Many help support their university. And the university realizes it has a responsibility to show people the positive change we make in their lives.

John Lofthus
John Lofthus

Realizing there are a lot of fantastic causes in Santa Barbara, UCSB works collaboratively. For example, the Goleta Entrepreneurial Magnet (GEM) came together with support from the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce, the City of Goleta and UCSB. Another wonderful example of collaboration is the Harding University Partnership School, an unprecedented partnership between Harding Elementary School and UCSB. This program achieved status as an International Baccalaureate Programme, making it the only Santa Barbara elementary school currently using this highly acclaimed approach that emphasizes 21st-century skills and international mindedness. UCSB is always looking for new ways to collaborate with community-based institutions.

Where Does UCSB Get Its Funding?

UCSB’s funding is multifaceted, depending more and more on alumni and community generosity (state support now makes up less than 17 percent of UCSB’s annual budget). Private schools, like Princeton or Stanford, carefully craft their message to students well before they begin attending classes. Before they even step onto campus they have already spoken with alums who have assured them they are going to have the most amazing experience of their life. The alums assure the new students that their connection will not end when they graduate. They are told that when they graduate it’s up to them to continue the tradition to make their school a world-class university by giving and staying involved. When you look at giving to private schools, their alumni make up a large percentage of gifts.

But not so with public schools like UCSB. For example, when I went to college, the California State system cost only $50 per semester. The fee was so low because the state was providing the overwhelming majority of funding. As such, public universities were supported by taxpayers. So public universities haven’t had the mind set to engage alumni to give back.

Alumni Associations Play a Key Role

Alumni associations in private schools are seen as vital support for the university; whereas at public universities alumni associations have focused more on ways the association can serve alumni rather than alumni serving the university. Alumni engagement at public universities has consisted of putting on fun events, providing career services and participating in networking events — all focused around the alum. Only recently have they realized the critical role of alumni in serving the university.

UCSB is beginning to shift its approach to its students and alumni. The university is now looking at alumni support as a necessity not a luxury. We need alumni and friends to stay involved with their university and to give back financially.

At the same time, UC Santa Barbara’s alumni population is quickly changing. Our alumni population is seeing dramatic changes in average age, gender balance (has shifted toward the fairer sex) and ethnicity. So we must re-examine how we reach out to our alums.

As UCSB’s alumni populations become more youthful (more than 60 percent of UCSB alumni have graduated in 1990 or later), we will need to shift our message as to why they should give back. Older generations gave back to their university out of loyalty, whereas younger generations want to see what their donation will impact. So we need to show how their investment will benefit the greater community and the greater good.

Additionally, we are battling alumni giving percentages that are going down nationwide, and a quickly changing alumni population (for instance, the incoming undergraduate student population now contains 40 percent first-generation students). So the landscape is changing in terms of the demographics of our alumni and we must respond accordingly.

Educating the Best and the Brightest

The total annual expense for attending UCSB has grown from $14,870 in 2000-01 to $31,600 in 2013-14, more than doubling in just over a decade. What is the draw of California? We have a world-class educational system that is affordable. It’s becoming more and more difficult for families to afford college for their kids. State support is never going to go to back what it was so it will only be through private giving that we will be able to educate the best and brightest and continue to build a world-class community through efforts like the Koegel Autism Center, which is part of the Gevirtz School, Arts & Lectures, which engages many visiting artists and speakers that make public performances, visit local schools, and conduct master classes both on and off campus, the Hosford Counseling & Psychological Services Clinic, the McEnroe Reading and Language Arts Clinic, the Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve and many more.

We have a major focus on entrepreneurship at UCSB. But since we don’t have the resources of Silicon Valley, it takes community-wide effort for entrepreneurs to be viable and for them to stay in our area. UCSB needs everyone’s support to continue to offer world-class education — foundations, corporations and businesses, alumni, parents, friends and community members.

UCSB launched a $1 billion campaign in 2001, and we have raised $875 million to date. Of that, less than 15 percent is from alumni donations; whereas at private schools the percentage would be as high as 40 to 50 percent. There have been some transformational gifts from alumni, with Jeff and Judy Henley’s (Jeff is a 1966 alumnus) $50 million gift to the Institute for Energy Efficiency and the College of Engineering leading the way, but alumni giving is still a relatively small percentage of private donations.

Private funding provides resources for everything from endowed fellowships and undergraduate student scholarships to the Moser Alumni House. UCSB still has a public mission — to educate California’s best and brightest. But to raise the needed funds for this we must function more like a private school when it comes to funding, not relying solely on funding from the state.

For More Information

As you can imagine, this is a much bigger story than I can fit into this article. I hope you can see why I was so surprised at all UCSB is doing that impacts all our lives on the Central Coast. So, remember you are a Gaucho. If you would like to know more about our phenomenal university, sign up for the university’s twice-weekly eNews by clicking here or contact Lofthus at [email protected].

Biographical Information for John Lofthus

» Born and raised in Seattle, Wash.

» Has two degrees from UCSB (bachelor of arts in economics and a master’s degree in educational leadership)

» Married the woman of his dreams (she’s a Gaucho, of course — Jenny Lofthus) on the beach at UCSB

» Proud father of a 3-year-old girl who will probably save the world (or come up with a new dance craze)

» Involved locally in the following areas: serves on the board of the Santa Barbara Athletic Association, serves on the Goleta Lemon Festival Planning Committee, former assistant cross-country coach at Dos Pueblos High School

— Dr. Cynder Sinclair is a consultant to nonprofits and founder and CEO of Nonprofit Kinect. She has been successfully leading nonprofits for 30 years and holds a doctorate in organizational management. To read her blog, click here. To read her previous articles, click here. She can be contacted at 805.689.2137 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The opinions expressed are her own.

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