UC president Napolitano says she wants UC Davis to expand into Sacramento

UC President Janet Napolitano speaks to the editorial board of The Sacramento Bee at The Sacramento Bee offices in Sacramento on Wednesday, March 9, 2016.
UC President Janet Napolitano speaks to the editorial board of The Sacramento Bee at The Sacramento Bee offices in Sacramento on Wednesday, March 9, 2016. Sacramento Bee file

University of California President Janet Napolitano said Wednesday that she hopes whoever gets picked as the new chancellor of UC Davis can pull off an expansion of the campus into Sacramento.

“I think there is a real opportunity to bring Davis over the highway, so to speak, and to do more in this general economic area of California,” Napolitano said Wednesday during a meeting with the Sacramento Bee editorial board. “What I am looking for in a chancellor is someone that has the capability of doing that.”

Former Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, who resigned under pressure in August, had laid out plans to build a campus in Sacramento that would have included a school focusing on population, a global health and public policy institute, as well as clinics to treat people dealing with nutrition and other food-related issues. She had said the plan would include moving the university’s World Food Center to Sacramento, with the downtown Sacramento railyard being one of the contenders to house it.

That vision appeared to die with Katehi’s resignation, which followed an internal UC investigation that found she violated multiple university policies. But Napolitano said Wednesday that there is still plenty of interest at the UC level.

Napolitano said such an expansion could take many forms. One possibility is a downtown building where students would live, study and work at internships – modeled after the UC Washington Center in Washington, D.C.

The expansion of UC Davis would be beneficial to Sacramento, bringing jobs and innovation to the city, Napolitano said.

“It’s not surprising that the areas of California succeeding the most are the areas with a UC campus,” she said.

Sacramento, in exchange, could relieve the shortage of space on the Davis campus, especially as the university population continues to grow.

Napolitano met with Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg shortly after his June election to discuss the possibilities. She also met with community leaders in the fall to discuss the chancellor search. The leaders showed interest in the campus expansion.

“I think what impressed me was the intensity of feeling about it – that this was an era of opportunity for Sacramento and that we ought to take a jump at it.” she said.

Steinberg said the university fits perfectly with the city’s aspirations to build an economy around a farm-to-fork theme based on agriculture, food and tourism.

“We want to invite the university to come across the causeway, because whether it’s food policy research, entrepreneurship around food and agriculture, whether it’s literally bringing some of their graduate programs across the causeway to Sacramento, I think we can be of great benefit to the university, and we need the university,” he said in an interview Wednesday.

The expansion could still include the relocation of the World Food Center, Napolitano said. The center was established in 2013 to increase the economic benefit from campus research, influence national and international policy, and to convene teams of scientists and innovators from industry, academic, government and nongovernmental organizations to tackle food-related challenges around the world.

“It could take many forms,” she said. “I really think the next chancellor should be able to weigh in on that.”

Napolitano said eight or nine candidates are being interviewed this month for the top job at UC Davis. The committee could recommend one or more candidates to Napolitano, who will make a recommendation to the board of UC Regents at the January or March meeting.

She would like the UC Davis chancellor to have the ability to effectively interact with the media and state legislators.

“There is more visibility here than on other campuses,” she said.

Napolitano could not say how much the new chancellor will make.

“I haven’t put a cap on it,” she said. “This is a time when you can be penny-wise and pound-foolish.”

University of California President Janet Napolitano told The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board that UC's six-year tuition freeze is unsustainable.

Diana Lambert: 916-321-1090, @dianalambert

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