A Foothold in the Silicon Valley

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A robot does the honor of cutting the ribbon at the new UC Santa Cruz Silicon Valley Extension building opening ceremony. Photo by Matthew Foreman
A robot does the honor of cutting the ribbon at the new UC Santa Cruz Silicon Valley Extension building opening ceremony. Photo by Matthew Forman

Forty-five minutes away from UC Santa Cruz, 3175 Bowers Ave. swarmed with excitement. On the evening of Sept. 28, community members, UCSC staff and alumni convened at the entrance and stared at a ribbon blocking off the front door.

“I’d like to invite a special guest from the robotics program to do the honors,” said Vice Chancellor of Research Scott Brandt. With that, a robot emerged from the crowd and cut the ribbon, officially opening the UCSC Silicon Valley campus.

The campus opened its doors to the public in Santa Clara with an open house and TED talk style lectures. Notable attendees, including UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal, Assemblymember Kansen Chu and Sen. Bob Wieckowski, stood surrounded by mingling guests discussing the plans and future of UCSC Silicon Valley.

Known as the Bowers Building, the 90,000 square foot facility cost roughly $46.5 million and has state of the art equipment, including sound booths and a production studio.

The opening ceremony began with Blumenthal, who said the satellite campus enters, “a new phase where our goal, my goal, is that right here we’ll have the energy of a new start up and an incubator of new ideas.”

The campus includes UCSC Extension, the games and playable media masters program, more than 40 certification programs, UCSC research programs and UC Scout — an online course for students across the globe.

UCSC Extension, a program that has existed for the past 40 years and is the first UCSC program to inhabit Silicon Valley, offers accredited online and onsite courses for working and potential professionals in Silicon Valley. The UC previously leased multiple buildings in Silicon Valley to house the extension program and university research. When the main building they were leasing was bought out by the Irvine Company earlier this year, UCSC decided to purchase a larger, permanent property in Santa Clara.

Due to the strong partnership the courses have with the surrounding tech companies, the building’s location was crucial.

“[Many students] work and even those who don’t often have internships in the local companies — so the commute becomes a critical factor for them,” said Executive Vice Chancellor (EVC) Alison Galloway. “You have to be able to attract people to the school and make it an easy commute, so when we had to move that was one of the criteria.”

UC Santa Cruz administrators stand in front of the new UC Santa Cruz Silicon Valley Extension building on opening day. Photo by Matthew Foreman
UC Santa Cruz administrators stand in front of the new UC Santa Cruz Silicon Valley Extension building on opening day. Photo by Matthew Forman

The institution brings the accessibility of the UC system to a growing high tech industry. The classes allow for flexibility with students schedules, making it easier to work while pursuing higher education.

“To remain truly relevant to your tech inventor clients, you must constantly reinvent yourself by always learning and continuing your formal education,” said former extension student and intellectual property attorney Rafael Baca. “UCSC Silicon Valley Extension offers the best, most cost-effective and working-professional-oriented means for doing just that.”

With only about half the campus currently occupied by classes and offices, the new building allows for expansion. There are plans to introduce a serious games master’s program to accompany the already existing games and playable media master’s program, focused on games for purposes rather than entertainment — potentially including educational games and therapeutic games.

UCSC will introduce this and two other master’s program surrounding games and computer science on the Silicon Valley campus within the next few years.

“We’re trying to find these areas where we can have an impact,” EVC Alison Galloway said.

The new facility and the extension classes are available to the public, as well as all UCSC students. The classes, which require no application, help students of all levels master new skills.

“We bring [to the Silicon Valley] graduate programs, we bring access to a broad range of California residents and students to the area, and we bring a relationship to jobs as well,” Chancellor George Blumenthal said. “The only thing that’s lacking in this facility is real banana slugs.”