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New Chancellor Receives Enthusiastic Welcome at Annual Staff Picnic

View All Staff Picnic Slideshow | Photos by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

UC San Diego’s new chancellor received a near rock-star welcome as he greeted the nearly 4,000 staff members who turned out at the annual UC San Diego All Staff Picnic Friday. The event was part of the Making Connections plan to introduce Chancellor Pradeep Khosla to the campus and community.

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Staff stopped Chancellor Pradeep Khosla at seemingly every step to shake his hand, share a campus insight or offer a warm welcome. Many asked to take their photo with the new chancellor, who – proudly sporting a surfboard-decorated shirt presented to him by UC San Diego staff alumni – warmly agreed.  Some picture takers used their cell phones to immediately share their shots with friends on Facebook.

Khosla helped kick off the annual event by taking to the main stage at the front of Town Square and thanking staff for their important contributions to the campus’ success. He shared that he had taken an overnight flight in order to be there to offer his appreciation for all of their hard work.

“You are the backbone of this university,” he told the gathered crowd to cheers. “So, I want to thank you for all you do.”

He also thanked them for giving him such an enthusiastic welcome to campus.

“The welcome out here has been so warm and so great that within two weeks of being here, I already feel a part of this place,” he told them.

Khosla, who previously served as dean of engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, congratulated the campus for being named one of the top 15 campuses in the world according to the 2012 Academic Ranking of World Universities released by Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

“This is truly amazing for a university that is only 50 years old,” he said. “And the reason this is happening is because of the people here.”

Khosla said that he was also impressed by the fact that as he walked around the campus, staff members felt comfortable stopping him to introduce themselves. And he encouraged them to continue to do so.

Chancellor Khosla handing out ice cream sandwiches and popsicles

“You are important to me, and I hope my presence out here can make a difference to you in some small way,” he said.

After leaving the stage, Khosla chatted and joked with staff members as he handed out ice cream sandwiches and popsicles. “What is this ‘other duties as assigned?’ ” asked Brett Pollak, director of the Campus Web Office, referring to the catch-all category on campus job descriptions, as he accepted a frozen treat. “This is the easiest part of the job,” replied Khosla, laughing.

Upon closing his ice cream station, Khosla posed for photos with UC San Diego staff alums at the foot of the Triton staircase and then visited information tents set up by campus groups. At each station, he peppered those manning the tables with questions about their jobs and their views on the campus and its inner workings.

At the Black Staff Association tent, he was greeted with an enthusiastic hug by Veronica Hansen-Phillips, who shared her perspectives on campus diversity issues and presented Khosla with a Black Staff Association T-shirt and an “I love being black” bracelet. A student affairs coordinator in the Office of Graduate Studies, Hansen-Phillips works on diversity outreach and retention.

“He represents change and he represents diversity,” Hansen-Phillips said of Khosla. “I am an alum of UC San Diego – graduate and undergraduate – and I am excited about the possibilities of our new chancellor. From what I have read, it seems like he is going to be a good fit.”

Terrance Mayes, director of diversity and student life at the Jacob’s School of Engineering, said he was impressed that Khosla was taking the time to mingle with the staff.

“It shows that he is accessible and approachable, and I think that is what we need,” he said. “I think it highlights his commitment to diversity at all levels of UC San Diego, and we look forward to working with him now and in the future.”

In addition to getting an opportunity to meet the new chancellor, staff were treated to a fun mix of free food and entertainment all tuned to the ‘California Dreamin’ picnic theme. They munched on an assortment of deli sandwiches, chips, kettle corn, churros and cotton candy while downing cups of icy lemonade in the hot sun.  They watched as staff members performed, had the opportunity to make silly hats, take home yellow and blue beach balls and gather information about UC San Diego’s various staff associations and campus groups.

At the UCSD Alumni booth, staff alumni were encouraged to get involved and were offered the chance to win raffle prizes to upcoming events, including UCSD Alumni’s “Day at the Padres,” the Beyond the Brew special event series—behind the scenes tours of alumni-owned micro-breweries, as well as tickets to theatre and dance performances with ArtPower! More than 500 alumni and their families have already purchased tickets to the Sept. 30 Padres event, where Chancellor Khosla is slated to throw out the first pitch.

“With over 2,000 UC San Diego alumni working here on campus, we are making a strong effort to keep them engaged and connected,” said Jeff Grantham, director of marketing for Alumni and Constituent Engagement. “We’re absolutely thrilled with the turnout we had today. I was especially encouraged to see 150 staff alumni gather at the Triton statue for a group photo with UC San Diego’s new Chancellor Pradeep Khosla. That made my day!”

Kim Newin, chair of Volunteer50: Chancellor’s Call to Service, and her team were on hand to encourage staff to join the Volunteer50 effort that encourages faculty and staff to engage in community service.

“We are really lucky that we have a new chancellor who is championing this Volunteer50 call to service,” she said. “It was started by Chancellor Fox and he is going to continue supporting it.”

Newin said that more than 100 Volunteer50 volunteers were volunteering their time at the staff picnic to ensure its success.

“It just show the commitment of UC San Diego staff wanting to volunteer in any capacity,” she said.

As the picnic started to come to a close and Chancellor Khosla headed back to the relative quiet of his office, he paused to reflect on the almost overwhelming lengths staff had gone to greet him.

“It was a little bit uncomfortable – I am not used to this,” he said. “But it was extremely warm. I felt like I was welcomed into a very warm family.”