One alumnus explains, “UC San Diego is recognized as one of the most challenging schools in the country, so [employers] know that graduates are capable of handling difficult, challenging, and creative environments.” To help facilitate these relationships, the school offers an Academic Internship Program, which allows students to merge their academic theory with real world applications, using research tools to explore the relationship between them, and gain hands-on professional experience while earning school credit. A psychology major speaks highly of the “many internships, labs, and other opportunities outside of the classroom.” With shared-space centers, incubators and accelerators across campus, and a curriculum that places emphasis on education, career preparation and social responsibility, UC San Diego fosters a culture of collaboration and sense of community while strongly embracing the principles of diversity and equity. “The coursework is challenging,” an electrical and computer engineering major tells us, “but the academic atmosphere is friendly and supportive. The sense of competition is minimal, but this doesn’t mean that students don’t study hard. It just means that the students are more willing to support their classmates and help each other out.”
For example, the school offers a new public health major in association with the UC San Diego School of Medicine, which places health into a context of both human rights and cultural understanding. With students developing and applying knowledge from multiple disciplines—including biological sciences, social and behavioral sciences, and quantitative skills—the program benefits not only student on a conventional medical school track, but those seeking to enter legal, business, and other health-related professions. One alumnus tells us that access to graduate school resources like these was a key in skill-building for his future career. “Since I was interested in technology and applied physics, the practical laboratory work in graduate school was certainly very valuable. This taught me the techniques that I would use later in starting a company.”
In fact, evolution is the name of the game at UC San Diego. The curriculum is a work in progress, constantly shifting and reinventing itself based on the needs of both students and the world they’re entering. Professor Famulari gives one example: “Recognizing that UC San Diego’s strengths in STEM disciplines attract many mathematically strong undergraduates to our campus, the Economics faculty designed the Management Science major. Management Science applies rigorous mathematical analysis and economic models to study the complex decisions that businesses and governments must make.” Though patterned somewhat after a similar major at MIT, the UC San Diego program fuses management science with econometrics, a field of economics where faculty are highly ranked. Professor Famulari tells us there are now over 800 management science majors at UC San Diego.
Among the UC San Diego students we surveyed, the most frequent praise was for the school’s faculty, which a psychology major describes as “passionate, articulate, helpful,” and “super friendly.” Their enthusiasm is understandable; they learn from an impressive staff of leading researchers, authors, and scholars (sixteen Nobel laureates have taught at UC San Diego in the past five decades). “Professors are key to UC San Diego’s success as a university,” a human biology major explains. “An all faculty-taught undergraduate education—so rare!” “My professors are incredibly knowledgeable about their material, and many of them are actively doing research in their field,” notes a molecular biology major, echoing a popular sentiment among students: that the UC San Diego faculty isn’t just teaching, but doing. “The professors are always doing research and writing books and have great insight into what it’s like outside in the real world,” says a communications and political science major. “They are incredibly intelligent.”
UC San Diego doesn’t just seek instructors—they seek innovators and thinkers, interested in conducting complex, question-driven research in an interdisciplinary environment, and in contemplating big questions and important issues. And with over 1,000 full-time faculty members, the school’s 19:1 ratio allows professors to work closely with students, and vice versa. “The professors here are truly amazing,” a literature of the world major told us. “In the Literature Department, professors work to make sure that students get what they need out of class time, usually spending the majority of the time focusing on getting students to participate in intellectual discussions rather than spending the whole hour lecturing. It helps to make us start thinking more critically about what we are studying so we will be prepared if we choose to take our studies to the next level. They are also always available outside of class and extremely friendly and helpful.” Alumnus Sheldon C. Engelhorn agrees. Engelhorn, a 1972 graduate in biology who went on to co-found the biotechnical research tools company NOVEX, recalls, “I really enjoyed and benefited from the research experience . . . The excitement and passion for discovery that professors brought to the classroom was inspirational.” The school also offers several mentorship programs, including the Faculty Mentor Program; California Alliance for Minority Participation in Science, Engineering and Mathematics Program (CAMP); Health and Medical Professionals Preparation Program (HMP3); McNair Program; and the Marshal Mentor Program, which specifically connects transfer students with a faculty mentor.
Notable alumni of UC San Diego include prominent researchers, CEOs, computer designers, scientists, authors, journalists, artists, activists, musicians, athletes, actors, a Congressman, and two Nobel Prize winners. Business relationships often begin at UC San Diego; the aforementioned Sheldon C. Engelhorn began NOVEX with 1974 graduate Richard Chan, and UC San Diego alumni Bob Akins and Richard Sandstrom founded Cymer together. Cymer is an industry leader in developing lithography light sources for the semi-conductor industry. “Both my wife and my business partner are UC San Diego alums, and our company has hired over 100 UC San Diego graduates,” Sandstrom tells us. “We maintain many contacts with professors so that we can get first dibs on the best students. We have endowed various chairs and student scholarships on campus.”