“I focused the organization on workforce development rather than trying to be all things to all people.”
When Lynda M. Rogers took the reins for the UCSC Silicon Valley Extension program 11 years ago, the organization was still offering Trends in Fabrics and Making of the Western Mind—courses in humanities, science illustration, and personal growth. The organization had a cumulative deficit of more than $41 million and ranked last in the University of California extension system in terms of annual revenue and enrollment.
“I was given a charge: fix it or shut it down,” says Rogers who retired this week.
Assistant Dean Therese Ammiro will be serving as interim dean pending a search for her replacement.
Rogers’ legacy is a streamlined organization comprising three separate, collaborative educational entities: UCSC Silicon Valley Extension, UC Scout, and Smarter Balanced, each with its own five-year strategic growth plan and a total budget of $50 million. What was once a 40-person administrative staff has grown to 140 and includes a large professional production department that creates state-of-the-art online content.
“We balanced the budget and from that day forward we’ve done very well,” Rogers says.
In 2007, as assistant vice provost for University of California, Santa Cruz Academic Affairs, Silicon Valley Initiatives, and Extension, Rogers set out on a three-year, four-phase restructuring aimed at shrinking the shortage and building revenue.
While in its heyday in the 90s thousands of students matriculated through 40 certificate programs and courses as diverse as Return of the Goddess and the Grail: Recovery as Personal Mythology, C++, and English for the Non-Native Technical Professional, Rogers spearheaded a narrowed focus on high performing career development programs. The country was going through a major recession and people were struggling to keep their jobs. The multi-facility campus consolidated to a single campus in Santa Clara flanked by high tech companies.
In 2010 Rogers was appointed interim dean of Extension. The following year the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal put her on its list of 100 Women of Influence. Rogers’ appointment was made permanent in 2012.
Six years later, UCSC Extension is financially stable and well-regarded. Despite its relatively small size, it is one of the most successful extension programs in the UC system. This year UCSC Silicon Valley Extension had the third largest operating budget in the UC system behind UC Berkeley and UCLA and served more students than any other Extension due to the extensive reach of Smarter Balanced. On the professional development side, about 350 instructors share on-the-job experience in their respective fields with students, most of whom have advanced degrees themselves.
“We’ve attracted a large number of talented people to this organization,” Rogers says.
The 52-year-old professional development program offers courses in six major areas of study: Biosciences, Business Management, Design, Education, Engineering, and Technology. Students choose from 31 certificate programs and awards, as well as many credentialing and certification prep classes.
“I focused the organization on workforce development rather than trying to be all things to all people,” Rogers says. “It gave us a real purpose. I eliminated the random arrows and restructured around a serious academic plan—only on the programs that gave people skills to go to work. Suddenly we knew what we were about.”
These days students pack classrooms for Python computer language, data analysis, and machine learning. They study leadership and project management, mobile app development, and website design. The international program draws students from dozens of countries who often go on to internships at top companies.
The Extension umbrella has expanded to include UC Scout, an online college preparation program serving thousands of students who might not otherwise have access to courses they need for college. Last year Smarter Balanced, served over 6 million K–12 students nationally using computer adaptive technology to provide standardized assessments joined the family.
“What all three enterprises have in common is that they are mission-driven and focused on providing the best resources and academic programs possible,” Rogers says.
The Next Chapter
For Rogers, the new beginning starts close to home. She’ll be joining the governor’s Select Committee on the Master Plan for Higher Education in California, a role that will draw from her experience with Extension. UC Extensions, she says, can effectively play a more significant role in preparing people for college and the workforce.
“We can do it faster, cheaper, better, and can provide additional courses online and in blended formats that open up additional seats in higher education for California students.”
Rogers has set up computer and video equipment in a home office for online production and set her sights on some consulting projects. Meanwhile she’s working on an algorithm to automate content development for online courses, a way to give more structure to the development process and tell a better story; she’ll be developing courses for college preparation, workforce development, and undergraduate education—that is when she’s not learning to ride a motorcycle for an upcoming two-wheeled road trip abroad.
“I plan to work on selective projects and develop some innovations in online education and I’m particularly excited about participating on the governor’s stakeholder committee, Rogers says. “I want to expand my horizons and explore new opportunities, but I won’t forget my friends at UC. I will always treasure my time at UC and will hold a special place in my heart for the many talented people with whom I’ve had the honor to work.”