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Chancellor’s Letter: Lighting the Way

March 18, 2020
by Chancellor Carol T. Christ
Chancellor Image source: Keegan Houser // Courtesy of the UC Regents

Berkeley unveils a new fundraising campaign.

Last month, we formally launched a comprehensive fundraising campaign with the goal of raising $6 billion for Berkeley—a historic target for any public university and one of the most ambitious in all of higher education. 

The goals and aspirations for the campaign connect directly to the challenges and opportunities our University faces at a decisive moment in its life, at a time when our societal and academic role has never been more important.

We are calling this multiyear endeavor “Light the Way: The Campaign for Berkeley.” Hanging in the balance is our ability to sustain traditional areas of excellence, even as we evolve and adapt to the ever-changing needs of our students and the public we serve.

Beyond its financial significance, a campaign of this sort provides us with a platform to tell Berkeley’s story to our extended family of alumni, parents, and friends who believe in our mission and want to support the hopes and dreams of our students, faculty, and staff. By now, there is a broadly shared awareness that the proportion of our budget funded by the state of California has, in the last 20 years, declined from 49 to 14 percent. Yet our public character and ethos is stronger than ever. We continue to be a powerful engine of opportunity and socioeconomic mobility for thousands of students from low-income families. We continue to produce stunning discoveries that are making the world a better place. We remain a beacon of truth and intellectual freedom at a time when democracy’s fundamental values and institutions are being called into question.

It may seem ironic, but it is the support we receive from private sources that helps to secure and sustain our public character. In recent years, as the campus closed a significant budget deficit, adopted an ambitious strategic plan for the future, and launched numerous initiatives to expand and strengthen the University’s excellence, we have been humbled and honored by the extent to which members of our extended family have expressed their faith and confidence in Cal through philanthropic support. Simply put, we have shattered past records for giving every year for the last three years, and that could not be happening at a better time, given that we intend to use the campaign’s proceeds in new and essential ways.

Compared to our private peers, Berkeley, like most public universities, was a late entrant to campaign-based fundraising. Our first effort was launched in 1980, and until now our fundraising has primarily focused on what I call the nice-to-have’s—the extra embellishments, if you will, that were not necessarily provided for by state funding. Now, however, we are raising funds for our core needs and activities—for the heart and soul of the University and all that sets Berkeley apart from the crowd. With that in mind, we have identified four high-level, campus priority areas:

  • Faculty and fellowships to ignite the core of Berkeley’s excellence. This includes adding 100 new faculty positions and growing the number of our graduate fellowships.
  • Research for the public good to illuminate solutions for California and the world. This encompasses the following multidisciplinary themes: data science and artificial intelligence; health; environment; innovation and entrepreneurship; and democracy and equality.
  • Undergraduate opportunities and experiences to brighten the brightest—our students. We are focusing on scholarships, basic needs, the Center for Connected Learning at Moffitt Library, and Berkeley Connect and Discover.
  • Development of new facilities in order to strengthen and modernize infrastructure on the oldest campus in the University of California System.

These priorities do not reflect all of the needs of the campus; rather, they inform and animate a vision of how the campus can continue to educate a diverse and extraordinary student body, attract the world’s greatest faculty, lead the way in research, entrepreneurship, and problem-solving—all in service of the greater good.

More than anything, this campaign is about showing Berkeley to the world. That starts with telling our story, reminding ourselves of the meaning of Cal in our lives, and inviting more and more people into the tent of our University community.

I encourage you to visit our website at and explore our core priorities and learn the stories of the people and discoveries that make this place so special. There, on that same site, I invite you to share your own story about the role Cal has played in your life. It is but another way to join us, and thousands of other alumni, parents, and friends at this unique moment in our history.

Together, I know that we can and will illuminate the future and light the way there.

From the Spring 2020 issue of California.

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