UC San Diego’s continuing education division has been known as "Extension" for decades. During that time, the organization has earned a reputation as a leader in lifelong learning and professional development, evolving over the years to fulfill a range of needs on regional, national and international levels.
With new initiatives on the horizon, UC San Diego Extension is changing its name to UC San Diego Division of Extended Studies (DES), effective May 2022. The rebranding aims to better reflect the Division’s close ties with the UC San Diego campus as one of three core academic units spanning the full range of learners. The name change will also help the Division to continue cultivating a global presence, specifically through the creation of an intriguing new downtown location, UC San Diego Park & Market, which aims to be an intellectual hub for all ages and walks of life.
Journey to Division of Extended Studies
UC San Diego’s continuing education arm started in 1966 under the stewardship of Founding Dean Dr. Martin Chamberlain. Known at the time as the University Extension, Chamberlain is quoted as saying, “What makes a good administration is looking at what’s going on in society and determining how you can contribute to that.” It was critical to Chamberlain that the curriculum centered around the important contemporary needs of the community. That value was a guiding principle for UC San Diego Extended Studies in its early days, and it has been carried on through many years and leadership changes.
Dr. Mary Walshok, a community leader who began as Extension's Director of Women’s Studies, took over as Dean in 1980. With Walshok at the helm, much of the ‘80s was spent developing some of the nation’s earliest interdisciplinary education and assistance programs focusing on high-tech and science-based industries. In the ‘90s, Extension added three new regional offerings: online courses; the San Diego Dialogue public policy research center, which conducted research on long-term challenges and opportunities facing the region and helped implement viable solutions to improve quality of life; and UCSD-TV, a television station that connected campus with community by offering more than 200 programs annually.
In her four-decade tenure as Dean, Walshok established herself as an authority on regional innovation, workforce development and the role of research institutions in regional economies. She spent an illustrious 40 years growing the program into the renowned institution it is today. Walshok left her position as Dean in 2021 to dedicate her time exclusively to establishing the groundwork for a special UC San Diego initiative she helped bring to fruition – the UC San Diego Park & Market building.
After a nationwide search for Walshok’s successor, internal candidate Dr. Hugo Villar was selected as Dean in July 2021. Villar’s entrepreneurial background and experience on the UCSD Extended Studies senior management team gave him a solid understanding of the Division’s mission as a nexus between the university and the broader community.
As Dean of UC San Diego Division of Extended Studies, Villar provides leadership for the strategic direction and operations of the Division in developing and delivering continuing, professional and pre-college education in traditional and non-traditional classroom settings, including varied locations and modalities, with the aim of increasing UCSD’s reach and community impact.
With a new leader at the helm and a new name, UC San Diego Extended Studies is entering a new era. Dean Villar continues to uphold the legacy of his predecessors into the next exciting phase of the Division’s development.
“Our goal is to increase our reach to communities that have historically been underserved and to continue providing workforce development solutions as employers need for the entire lifespan of individuals,” says Villar. “Renaming our division sends a message that UC San Diego not only embraces lifelong learning but is willing to leverage its resources to make those opportunities available to and accessible by all.”
It was that sentiment that sparked the idea behind UC San Diego’s new downtown location, Park & Market, opening in May 2022. Park & Market is a flexibly designed social and intellectual hub that provides a mix of public, business, arts, and educational spaces for civic engagement, learning, and collaboration. The building is located on a full city block in a Promise Zone in East Village, adjacent to the trolley line connecting the UC San Diego campus to downtown and the U.S./Mexico border. Purpose-built to spark connections and make education accessible to all, programming at Park & Market features opportunities to learn from and connect with the cultural heritage and shared values of our unique, binational region.
The new building will be home to resident partners such as the Burnham Center for Community Advancement, Digital Gym Cinema, Qualcomm Institute, the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, and other thought-leading organizations.
“Eventually, we want to open up the university as a global enterprise,” says Villar. “Park & Market will be an integral part of our cross-border community in that anyone who wants to tap into the resources of UC San Diego will have the ability to do so.”
Since its beginning nearly 60 years ago, UC San Diego’s Division of Extended Studies has touched countless lives – across different ages and life stages – with the gift of education. As the Division continues to increase access to lifelong learning through a close connection with the UC San Diego institution and its novel Park & Market location, that impact only promises to grow.