Portrait of Orbach, Raymond L.

Orbach, Raymond L.

August 17, 1998

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Raymond Orbach, the current UC Riverside Chancellor, projects his vision for the future with an emphasis on growth and professional schools. He discusses the existing strengths of the campus and utilizes them to project the future growth.
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Erickson: Excuse me, did you see any remnants of that liberal arts college that had been established?

Orbach: Well, I saw I it in two different ways. The answer is yes. That first of all is what attracted me, not so much the liberal arts college, but the commitment to teaching and research that I believe a research university is about. And that was a remnant, that was a carryover from the liberal arts concept that was the beginning of the Riverside campus.

I had seen other examples. Santa Cruz had grown up the same way. It was going to be a campus where teaching was paramount. There would be colleges in which the teaching would take place.

But in the University of California with a single academic senate, and a single standard for promotion and appointment, that won't work. You would have to separate the two campuses from the mainstream of the University, and nobody wanted to do that.

So it wasn't so much there was anything wrong with being a liberal arts campus. The trick was to marry that with the research function, which, it turns out, that many liberal arts colleges have.

Orbach: For example, Swarthmore is a liberal arts school which happens to have some very fine researchers. Dartmouth is another one. There are many. Amherst is yet another one, very, very fine Eastern universities that have a research focus. Their faculty are very involved in research. And so I never felt that there was a tension between the two, but that was certainly the case. That was point one.

Point two was the difference between the faculty from that period and the modern period. There were faculty who came here with a liberal arts tradition in mind, and they were troubled, and correctly so from their perspective, when they saw the campus, from their perspective, turn from a teaching function to a research function. And they had their point, and my job was to retain what they wanted, while at the same time promoting the research enterprise which was also alive and well on the campus.

And I think that is one of the things that interested me most about Riverside, was mirroring the two functions and showing to the world that it was possible to do both, to have a liberal arts experience and be a top-flight research university .

And I think if anything typifies my goals for the campus it is that. And it's difficult because their are forces and tensions which cause the two to interfere with one another on occasion. But the trick is to try to get faculty who want the same thing, who are committed to teaching as well as research, and who recognize the inability to separate the two. The two are, in fact, really one in the same thing.

That's something I have always felt strongly about. Curiously enough, the Call, the document we use for promotion and appointments in the University of California. also recognizes that. The primary criteria for promotion and appointments is teaching and research, not or.

Erickson: Right.

Orbach: And that is written, and what I enjoy most about our campus, Riverside campus, is our ability to bring the two together.

Erickson: Let's talk about your teaching and your research. You teach undergraduate students?

Orbach: Yes, I used to teach both undergraduate and graduate, but being Chancellor did not give me the time that I had once had.

Erickson: Do you feel that's important though to do?

Orbach: Oh yes. Well, first of all, I enjoy it. Not teaching would be absolutely terrible.

Erickson: But as a Chancellor when you have so many other obligations, you feel it is important to teach also?

Orbach: I do. I do again for a multitude of reasons. First of all, I think it sets an example. I want, just as we were talking about before, I want our senior faculty to teach at the undergraduate level, especially at the lower division level. And what better way to express that than to teach one's self. And so by my teaching freshmen, nobody can tell me they're too busy to teach freshmen. (smile)

Erickson: Right.

Orbach: And we can encourage the very best faculty to teach at the freshmen levels. It's terribly important. It also fits the idea of undergraduate research, because the campus has a great tradition in that regard. And when the finest faculty are teaching a freshmen and sophomore course, they can encourage them to go into research and work with them for that matter in their laboratory or in their research projects.

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