Photo by Carlos Puma

Extending Our Reach

Dean Kevin Vaughn left UCLA to lead UCR Extension and help keep Inland Empire job growth booming.

By Omar Shamout

For Dean Kevin Vaughn, it’s easy to understand the vital role UCR Extension plays in the community.

About 23 percent of Riverside citizens have a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to roughly 33 percent nationwide, according to 2016 U.S. Census data.

Despite this gap, nearly 75 percent of the 43,000 jobs added to the Inland Empire economy in 2017 required some form of postsecondary credential, according to Vaughn.

UCR Extension helps to bridge this educational attainment gap with postsecondary certificates, the fastest-growing credentials awarded in the United States — second only to bachelor’s degrees — which represent 27 percent of the credentials awarded in the country, Vaughn said.

Certificate programs, which can be taken in person or online, offer intensive study of a professional field through coursework balancing theory and practice.

Everyone knows UCR exists, but we want them to know that UCR Extension exists as well.

During the 2016 academic year, UCR Extension graduated 728 students in certificate programs aligned with the highest-growth industries in the region: education, health care, logistics, and business and management. While they do not replace degrees, Vaughn believes certificates play an important role in 
 the higher education landscape of the United States and especially in 
 the Inland Empire.

Before arriving at UCR in January, Vaughn served since 2015 as associate dean of academic affairs at UCLA Extension, the largest continuing education program in California with 90,000 annual enrollments, 170 certificate programs, 5,000 courses, and 2,000 instructors. During his tenure at UCLA, Vaughn, 47, led new program development, expanded online curriculum development and delivery, and worked to increase philanthropic support for Extension. He concurrently held an appointment as adjunct professor of anthropology — Vaughn is an internationally recognized authority on Andean archaeology, ceramic analysis, preindustrial mining, village and household archaeology, and archaeometry.

He previously spent a decade at Purdue University, where he was a tenured associate professor, serving as director of undergraduate studies and as a member of the provost’s committee on research integrity.

He spoke to UCR Magazine about how he’s trying to expand UCR Extension’s programming and raise awareness in the community about its offerings.

How did you find your way into the world of Extension as an anthropology professor and researcher?

A In my research projects in Peru, I was managing large groups of people in very challenging situations in remote locations. I was managing a very diverse group of students — undergraduates and graduates — and other faculty and researchers. I really liked managing people, and I thought going into administration would be a way to sort of tap into that talent. The other thing is that I really felt like I was making a big difference in people’s lives by going into administration and supporting students’ efforts to get employed.

What are the major differences between UCLA and UCR’s Extension programs?

A UCLA Extension was about twice as big, and it has a very different character. There are nine academic departments and one of the biggest is Arts. That’s because of L.A. — there’s a huge Writers’ Program at UCLA, a very large entertainment studies program, so there’s a focus there. One of the other major differences is that UCLA really focuses on domestic programs, whereas here there’s been a big focus on international programs for a variety of reasons. We’ve been very successful bringing international students to UCR Extension. One of my goals is to really increase the capacity to bring in more of those domestic students, especially those here in Riverside and the Inland Empire.

What are the most popular certificate programs here?

A Accounting is a very popular one; project management is another. We’re starting to have a Crime Scene Investigation program that’s really popular. I think the health care sector is going to be really important for us in the future, so I’m really happy to see the case management certificate growing. We offer a lot of credentials in education as well.

Are there other programs that you think are particularly well suited for Inland Empire residents?

A One is the paralegal program — there are a lot of paralegal jobs in the Inland Empire. We’re starting to develop a data science program that I think would serve certain constituencies in the Inland Empire very well. We’re looking at things like health care analytics. We have a geographical information systems certificate. Another one is supply chain management — we’re looking to modify it for Inland Empire residents. Advanced manufacturing — looking at the research, that’s another one that’s going to be big here, and I would like to get ahead of the game on that. We’re working with the medical school on a medical scribe program and that should be ready to go this summer.

How do you make people aware these programs exist?

A We have a great brand, the University of California, and as UCR we are the premier higher education institution in the Inland Empire. On the other hand, we can’t just rely on the brand. We have people who are going to businesses, establishing relationships, and letting them know that we offer all of these programs for their employees. We were just at the mayor of Riverside’s office raising awareness for what we do. The mayor actually invited us to go with his staff to businesses, as they do a weekly visit to businesses. We’re always working with local school districts. Everyone knows UCR exists, but we want them to know that UCR Extension exists as well.

Do you think creating more online programs would make it easier to recruit new students?

A We have a little bit less than 25 percent of our courses that are fully online, and a benchmark for me is about a third. That’s where we were at UCLA. In Southern California, it’s hard to get around in traffic, and if you have busy working adults, online is one way to give them access. We can do really high-quality courses and programs online. Case management is a great example of a program that is fully online. A working mom who doesn’t have a lot of free time can take this certificate on her own time at night, or for a couple hours during the day. It’s really important for students to be able to take them whenever they can.

Are you still doing any research?

A I try. I knew when I finished that last big field season that I had about five years worth of data to go through and publish, so I’ve been working on that at a slower clip than when I was a professor. I’m not teaching, but I am full faculty and have tenure. I’m told that I can teach if I want to, and I’d love to do that at a certain point.