UCSC Science building hallway

Academic Priority Areas

Strategic Academic Plan


Academic Priority Areas

Three major academic priority areas (APAs) of cross-disciplinary research and creative work capture much of the insight and energy the faculty brought to the planning process. The APAs build on existing campus disciplinary strengths, advance priorities critical to the university mission, and represent distinctive research areas in which the campus can or already does excel. An intentional and coordinated focus on these three areas, Earth Futures, Justice in a Changing World, and Digital Interventions, will aid us in communicating with one another internally and with the world externally, providing us with another means of highlighting our important disciplinary and cross-disciplinary research and creative work at UC Santa Cruz. Alongside our attention to graduate program growth and critical undergraduate curricular needs, we will support strategic efforts around the APAs.

Earth Futures: Taking a uniquely long view of the Earth and humanity—not just over the next decades, but over hundreds or thousands of years, UC Santa Cruz examines the scientific, philosophical, social, and practical question about the Earth’s future. Faculty, researchers, and students will pose pressing questions, both ethical and scientific, and propose strategies and actions that lead to desired global outcomes and resolutions.

Justice in a Changing World: Our world’s landscape is rapidly changing— demographically, economically, environmentally, politically, and socially. UC Santa Cruz offers a dynamic, critical, and interdisciplinary approach to understanding this change, rather than reading our challenges and their contexts as largely static. This approach can provide more meaningful responses to the question “How can we serve justice in the world?”

Digital Interventions: Examining how the digital world interacts with and shapes human lives, makers, artists, critics, and data scientists come together to develop and propose novel means of interacting with and theorizing about culture and the future. Digital interventions challenges us to imagine how technology can transform our minds as well as the world in which we live.

As a comprehensive research university with a broad range of valuable programs, we will continue to support the full range of programs essential to a R1 university and member of the Association of American Universities (AAU), even as we grow in new directions. Administrators and faculty acknowledge the existing tensions between the campus’s R1 designation, ensuring academic freedom for faculty and researchers, and serving and providing accessible equitable undergraduate instruction to the undergraduates who comprise 90% of the student population. Campus leaders are dedicated to the critical work our faculty and staff perform to produce new knowledge, educate students, and change the world. The focus offered by the APAs will make more visible the outstanding work of faculty and staff, which may result in important second order benefits for the whole campus measured by ranking, reputation, student and faculty recruitment, and external fundraising.