2023 reflections: Stepping boldly into the future

UCLA Newsroom | December 23, 2023

With the holidays around the corner, it’s that time again — an opportunity to take stock of a year filled with awe-inspiring achievements and more than a few surprises, and to celebrate the accomplishments of our entire Bruin community.

“New” was certainly the watchword for 2023, which saw the opening of new vistas and venues for the arts, the introduction of new majors and academic programs, the establishment of a new campus facility for medical technology and training, the welcoming of new deans in medicineengineering and law, and the launch of the new UCLA Strategic Plan: 2023–28, which charts a course for the university’s future centered on inclusivity and the expansion of our local and global engagement.

But perhaps the “newest” of all was UCLA’s acquisition of the historic Trust Building in downtown Los Angeles, a major investment aimed at broadening access to a UCLA education and strengthening our ties to the city’s diverse and dynamic communities. “We are thrilled about the possibilities this new space offers,” Chancellor Gene Block and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Darnell Hunt said of the new UCLA Downtown building, “and confident that it will further intertwine UCLA and L.A., helping us to deepen the impact of our teaching, research and public service mission.”

By any measure, the future looks bright for UCLA. Below, take a deeper dive into everything that made 2023 a year to remember.

Topping the list

For the seventh year in a row, UCLA was named the nation’s best public university by U.S. News & World Report. “The success we have had in college rankings,” Chancellor Block said, “is reflective of the hard work, dedication, resilience, ingenuity and excellence of the people who make up the Bruin community.”

But the U.S. News rankings were just one of the many top honors the university community had to be proud about this year. Here are a few others:

Gene Block’s final year as chancellor

It’s still hard to imagine. Chancellor Block announced that he plans to step down from his position next July after 17 years of transformative leadership — a period that has seen the campus increase enrollment​​​​​​, guarantee housing to undergraduates, rise to the top of national rankings, double its research funding, expand its geographic footprint throughout Los Angeles and deepen its commitment to access, affordability, diversity and service.

But there’s still much work to be done before next summer, Block said. “I look forward to the opportunities ahead — to working on the campus’s new strategic plan, refining programming for our UCLA South Bay and UCLA Downtown properties, growing our faculty with a focus on diversity, supporting major research initiatives, deepening our ties to the city of Los Angeles and laying the groundwork for our institution’s next fundraising campaign.”

More on Chancellor and Mrs. Block in their final year:


Bringing Bruin expertise to bear on local issues

UCLA researchers have provided strategies that center equity and justice in LADWP’s transition to completely renewable energy.

As a world-class public research university located in one of the world’s most diverse and dynamic megacities and the nation’s most populous state, UCLA is effecting positive change throughout local communities.

Among those efforts, faculty, students and staff have partnered closely with the city of Los Angeles over the past year to formulate equity-based plans for addressing the threats posed by extreme heat and the city’s plan to achieve 100% clean energy by 2035.

Read more about UCLA’s local engagement in 2023:

Going global: UCLA’s impact around the world

A rainforest in Amazonas, Brazil. A global network aimed at saving rainforests around the world from deforestation has its roots at UCLA.

In 2023, Bruins continued to expand UCLA’s global reach, focusing on a wide range of pressing international challenges, from earthquakes and climate change to disease, food security and biodiversity. In June, for instance, the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force, which is housed at UCLA brought together three dozen specialists from the governments of Brazil, Ecuador, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Mexico and Peru to explore new ways to use sensing technology to protect rainforests from deforestation.

Other UCLA projects and programs that had a global impact:

UCLA continues to put its stamp on the world of sports

Perhaps no one is more representative of UCLA’s sports legacy than former men’s basketball coach John Wooden. This fall, the U.S. Postal Service announced it will issue a limited edition stamp honoring Wooden, who led the Bruins to a record 10 national championships and left an indelible mark on the university, the sport and a generation of student athletes — and whose teachings and books continue to inspire legions of fans and admirers around the world. Get out your pens and envelopes, Bruins!

At the same time, UCLA athletes — both human and otherwise — continued to inspire:

A banner year for arts and culture

This year saw both the opening of UCLA’s new Nimoy Theater in the heart of Westwood — a landmark space that hosts events for UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance — and the unveiling of the updated Hammer Museum at UCLA following a two-decade transformation of its physical spaces. In addition, CAP UCLA named a , and the Hammer’s director, Ann Philbin, announced she would retire in 2024 after 25 years at the helm.

Among UCLA’s other arts and culture news:

Elevating our teaching and learning

A UCLA literature course used an AI text generator to produce this book, which takes a fictional look back from the perspective of an “artificial literary historian” writing in the year 2063.

Providing students with a world-class, inclusive education while embracing new teaching strategies and technologies is a strategic priority at UCLA — one that will put the university at the forefront of a 21st-century education and help all students grow, thrive and become engaged members of society, according to Erin O’Leary Sanders, UCLA’s new vice provost for teaching and learning.

This year proved a pivotal moment, with the rise of ChatGPT and other generative artificial intelligence platforms, bringing with them extraordinary opportunities but also great responsibilities. One English literature course encouraged students to study AI analytically while also using in creatively. “I think that the use of generative AI … presents real ethical and moral concerns,” said the course’s instructor, Danny Snelson, who has been studying the intersection of AI and creativity. “But these tools, and the new ways of making they present, are not going away. That box has been opened.”

Other ways UCLA has enhanced teaching, learning and campus life in 2023:

Pursuing knowledge from the oceans to the stars

Are we alone in the universe? That’s the question UCLA’s SETI — an acronym for “search for extraterrestrial intelligence” — has posed, and this year, they’re asking your help to find out. Their new project gives members of the public an opportunity to help scientists find signs of extraterrestrial life by classifying radio signals that may have been emitted up to tens of thousands of light-years away and that have been collected by a radio telescope.

Read more about the groundbreaking research conducted in 2023:

Students, staff and alumni making a difference

Nam Yong Cho training in Alaska during his time in the U.S. Army. Today, he is a third-year medical student at UCLA who hopes to become a trauma surgeon.

This Veterans Day, we highlighted the stories of three immigrant students who served in the U.S. military and have gone on to study for careers in medicine at UCLA — two with hopes of becoming trauma surgeons, and the other who intends to practice reconstructive surgery. These student veterans among the countless students, staff and alumni whose contributions consistently enrich the campus and its mission in so many areas, from health care and sustainability to government serviece and diversity and inclusion.

More highlights:

A year of extraordinary giving

In fiscal year 2022–23, more than $80.5 million in donations went toward student support, with $71 million of that total providing direct financial aid to students.

UCLA received $692 million in new gifts and pledges in fiscal year 2022–23, representing the largest annual tally of philanthropic support since the close of the Centennial Campaign.

“Throughout my tenure, I have been gratified to see how our mission as a public university inspires donors to contribute gifts of all sizes,” Block said. “Their support of our outstanding teaching, world-class research, top-quality health care, excellence in athletics and dynamic campus culture allows us to better serve Los Angeles, California and the world.”

A few highlights:

Entrebruinurial: An engine of continuous invention

Company founders who pitched their ideas to investors at UCLA’s Venture Accelerator showcase.

At UCLA, entrepreneurial culture has evolved into a network of offices and scientific laboratories around campus where Bruins swap research, find private sector mentors and kick-start their own businesses. This year, the UCLA magazine highlighted how these incubators and accelerators have shaped hundreds of new companies, mostly in the technology, medical and environmental fields and have plugged into the creative spirit of Los Angeles, which is now the third-largest startup hub in the United States.

Read more on how UCLA is fostering innovation:

Commencement: Kindness, service is in UCLA’s DNA

This year’s UCLA College commencement ceremony focused on making meaningful change in the world. Thousands of soon-to-be graduates heard from a fellow Bruin actor, writer, comedian and keynote speaker Randall Park: “Let’s try to be kinder and more considerate of one another. Treating others with kindness, especially when there’s nothing personal to gain from it, is a small, simple and effective way of making this world a better place.”

“Bruins,” Chancellor Block told the crowd, “are nothing if not marked by optimism, and it is in our DNA to look at the world and see it as ripe for constant reshaping.”

Ceremonies across campus featured addresses by, among others, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, California Attorney General Rob Bonta, California Surgeon General Diana Ramos and Los Angeles City Council President Paul Krekorian.

Other highlights of commencement 2023:

Bidding farewell to a UCLA icon


Former Chancellor Charles E. Young.

In October, Charles E. “Chuck” Young, who served chancellor of UCLA for 29 years, from 1968 to 1997, and whose legacy will long be felt across the campus, died at the age of 91.

“During his long tenure,” Chancellor Block said, “Chuck Young guided UCLA toward what it is today: one of the nation’s most comprehensive and respected research universities and one that is profoundly dedicated to inclusiveness and diversity. He faced head-on the many challenges of his time, and his principled leadership positioned UCLA to meet the many challenges of the future.”