Cindy Larive will become UC Santa Cruz’s new chancellor next month.
As the university’s top official, her decisions will shape the campus and its growth. So, she’ll also have a big impact on the City of Santa Cruz and its housing crisis. That’s why we want to get to know her. We visit her at her home in Riverside. We also break down UC Santa Cruz’s pressures to grow and the challenges Larive will face.

Incoming UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Cindy Larive speaks with Santa Cruz Local on June 9, 2019 at her home in Riverside, Calif.. (Kara Meyberg Guzman — Santa Cruz Local)


Kara Meyberg Guzman: I’m Kara Meyberg Guzman and this is Santa Cruz Local.

Cindy Larive will become UC Santa Cruz’s new chancellor next month. She’ll replace George Blumenthal.

As the university’s top official, her decisions will shape the campus and its growth. So, she’ll also have a big impact on the City of Santa Cruz and its housing crisis.

That’s why we want to get to know her.

KMG: How long have you been in this home?

Larive: We moved in here 14 years. When we came to Riverside. Maybe I can sit here?

[Sound of conversation ducks under narration.]

KMG: Yeah, perfect.  

KMG: It’s Sunday morning and I’m in Riverside. I’m at Cindy’s house. It’s a modest two-story Mediterranean-style home. It’s at a dead-end, on a hill, overlooking the Inland Empire.

There’s a for-sale sign out front. Cindy moves to Santa Cruz next week.

She’s just had breakfast – her usual, toast. She’s wearing a blue suit. We chat about her daughters and her grandchildren, and their upcoming family cruise to Alaska. They’re going to celebrate her 40th anniversary with her husband, Jim.

I ask if I can see her home office.

[Sound of going up stairs]

Larive: To call it an office is a little bit of an aggrandizement.

KMG: I just want to see where you work. To set the scene…. Ha. Got it.

KMG: It’s a small, tidy guest bedroom. By the glass door, she’s set up one of those Costco folding tables, with her computer and two monitors.

Larive: But I have a good view, and a lot of light, right? We’re overlooking the city of Riverside. We can, on a clear day, see about to Ontario, which is about 20 miles from here. At night, the lights come up in the city. It’s really very lovely.

KMG: Currently, Cindy is the second in command at UC Riverside. She’s finishing up her last few days as their provost and executive vice chancellor.

Then, on July 1, Cindy becomes UC Santa Cruz’s 11th chancellor.

Cindy is 61. When she assumes her new role, it’ll be the pinnacle of her academic career so far, after decades as a chemistry professor.

She has some challenges ahead.

UC Santa Cruz, like other UC campuses, faces pressure from the state to grow its enrollment. But the City of Santa Cruz is in a housing crisis and its rental market is incredibly tight. Local leaders and voters want to limit UC Santa Cruz’s growth until the campus can house more students. Also, the campus could face multiple lawsuits, if the campus doesn’t agree to limit the impacts of growth. It’s happened before, in 2005, when the city, county and residents sued the campus over planned growth. It may happen again.

Cindy will have to navigate these pressures. I’ll ask her about her views on housing.

But for now, we’re going outside to meet her husband Jim. He’s sitting by the pool.

She warns me.

Larive [whispering]: He’s a ham.

[Kara laughs. Sliding door opens]

Larive: Hey Jim.

Jim Larive: Hey Kara, and … what’s her name.

[Sound of conversation ducks under narration].

Cindy tells me about their stealth visit to UC Santa Cruz this spring. UC President Janet Napolitano had just offered her the position.

Incoming UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Cindy Larive laughs as her husband, Jim Larive, cracks a joke. The couple poses for a portrait just before an open house June 9, 2019 at their Riverside, Calif. home. (Kara Meyberg Guzman — Santa Cruz Local)

Larive: We were worried that maybe we wouldn’t fit in to Santa Cruz because we’re not very fancy. But we didn’t feel out of place at all. And then we drove through the campus and found some turkeys.  And where we grew up in the Black Hills in South Dakota, there are a lot of deer and turkeys. And Jim can call them.


Jim Larive: You would not believe it. I had 6 or 8 of them, with their plumes out, around our car when we went up to Santa Cruz the first time. They were my new best friends.

Larive: That pretty much sealed the deal.


KMG: To understand Cindy, and how she became an academic leader, you should know where she comes from.

Larive: I’m from Deadwood South Dakota. Some people may know the HBO series, but it’s an actual place.

KMG: Her father worked in a foundry at a gold mine.  He left school after third grade.

Larive: He didn’t learn to read until he was in a retirement home.

[Sound of conversation ducks under narration]

KMG: Her mother was a secretary and had a high school degree. When Cindy was 10, her parents gave her a chemistry set for Christmas.

[ Conversation sound comes up, Cindy describing her chemistry set.]

KMG: Cindy fell in love. She would use her bed as a lab bench. One time, she accidentally set her bedspread on fire.

She dreamed of becoming a high school chemistry teacher.


And then, one day, everything changes.


It’s the summer after her junior year of high school. She’s working in the gold mine as a tour guide. She’s in the mine with her coworkers, almost a mile underground.

It’s dark.

It’s pretty quiet, except for the water dripping and the fans whirring.

Larive:  We had our hats on, with lights, and we’re going along through this tunnel. And we turn a corner, and there’s this huge bank of computers. Now remember, in 1976, computers were the size of my refrigerator. They had these flashing red lights. And at the end of the row of computers, there’s this man there, with a white lab coat.

KMG: The man is a researcher from the University of Pennsylvania. He’s there to study subatomic particles in these big vats of fluid. Cindy ends up talking with him.

Larive: It was the first time I realized being a scientist is a job you can have. And he convinced me that you don’t have to be a high school chemistry teacher unless that’s what you want to do. You can go be a scientist. And so, that was a life changing moment for me.

Cindy becomes the first in her family to attend college. She earns her doctorate in chemistry from UC Riverside. After a stint at the University of Kansas, she returns to UC Riverside in 2005 as a chemistry professor. She loves mentoring students.

CINDY: I avoided administrative roles for a very long time, and turned down several opportunities. But in 2012, it became my turn to become chair of the chemistry department. I think that’s sort of a responsibility that people have to take a turn at. And to my great surprise, I liked it. [laughs]

KMG: She works her way up the ladder.

[ Cindy listing titles, panning left to right. Would have to edit and make sure it sounds good. “Associate dean” “Interim dean” “Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education” “Interim Provost”]

Then, in December, she gets a call from the search committee for UC Santa Cruz’s next chancellor. They ask her to apply. She does, even though she’s happy in Riverside. She doesn’t think she’ll get the job. But then, in March, she gets the call from Napolitano.

Larive: So I came home and I told my husband and I said I don’t know what we should do. And Jim says, well I know what we should do. We should be bold. You should go for it.

KMG: Now, with her start date just two weeks away, Cindy says she’s trying to learn as much as she can about Santa Cruz.

We take a seat in her living room. I ask her what she thinks about the city’s housing crisis and the university’s role in it.

Larive: Everybody can understand that the cost of housing in Santa Cruz is a real issue. Therefore, it seems to me that having the university house as many people as possible is a good thing for the community. It also reduces traffic.

KMG: Last year, Chancellor Blumenthal announced that the campus was planning for possibly 28,000 students by the year 2040. That means possibly adding 10,000 more students over the next 20 years. There was a public outcry.

Many residents want the campus to stop growing. They’re tired of competing with students in a tight rental market.

I ask Cindy what she thinks about the 28,000 figure. She says, to be clear, that number is used for planning. It’s not a goal.

Larive: Well, I think that this 28,000 number seems reasonable to me. I think in Santa Cruz, part of that growth has to be graduate students. Given that, the two big growth campuses for the system will be Riverside and Merced and they can accommodate more students. But if you look at the growth trajectory of population and you look at the numbers of students that want a UC education, we can’t just rely on Riverside and Merced to do it all. Every campus is going to have some share.

 I think the other thing we can think about though, is growth not in terms of head count, but growth in degree production. Our four-year graduation rates are not as high as they should be, so if we can increase graduation rates then we can create degrees without growing as many students.

KMG: UC Santa Cruz has a history of strained relations with the city and county regarding growth. Remember those lawsuits we talked about? In 2008, the campus reached an agreement with the city, county and residents, ending the lawsuits.

The campus agreed to limit its enrollment to 19,500 students until the year 2021. It also agreed to house two-thirds of new students – a goal the campus has actually exceeded.

I ask Cindy whether she thinks the campus can agree to house more than two-thirds of new students.

Larive: I don’t know enough to comment about whether 100 percent of new students should be housed on campus or 80 percent or 90 percent. It does make sense to me though that the campus should try and house as many students on campus. But what that means, I can’t say.

I just also wonder though, as somebody looking form the outside, to what extent all the housing pressures are from the university. How do we think about it in a more holistic way than just it’s all the university’s fault?

KMG: So what is driving UC Santa Cruz’s pressure to grow? The deluge of applications to the UC system grows each year. Admissions rates are dropping. The UC system has not been able to keep up with California’s population growth. Cindy says for California to be successful, it needs an educated workforce. So there’s that, the ideal that California students who meet the standard deserve access to a UC education.  

Beyond that, there are financial pressures. The state has injected some cash into the UC system with the past two governor’s budgets. But it’s not enough to keep up with costs. That makes UC Santa Cruz depend more heavily on tuition. And that’s why we’ve seen an increase of out-of-state and international students in the last few years. Those students pay more tuition, and help the campus cover its costs.

Meanwhile, the state legislature and the UC Regents have been hesitant to raise tuition. UC tuition has only increased once since 2011.

Add to that: Certain types of state funding are tied to enrollment targets. And UC Santa Cruz is the second smallest campus in the UC system.

Larive: The university also probably has to grow just to be sustainable. There are just a number of costs and management things that don’t scale linearly with the number of students. You only need one chancellor. You only need one campus provost and a dean for each of the divisions. And as you grow students those costs don’t scale. So that it can be more efficient to run the university if it’s a little larger than it is now. I do think that some growth is probably necessary just to allow the university to be self-sustaining.

KMG: How can UC Santa Cruz house more of its students, given that state funding is not enough to build campus housing? Cindy says one solution is private-public partnerships. For example, UC Riverside is funding new student dorms with private companies. The companies will manage the dorms, and share in the costs and revenues. The partnership will result in 6,000 new student beds.

The Inland Empire, seen from incoming UC Santa Cruz chancellor Cindy Larive’s home in Riverside, Calif. Riverside County is one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation. (Kara Meyberg Guzman — Santa Cruz Local)

UC Santa Cruz, by the way, is also entering a private-public partnership to fund its proposed Student Housing West. It’s a model that has been used successfully elsewhere.

Cindy says another key is the general obligation bond that’s in the works for the state ballot in March. It couldn’t fund housing, but it could fund one or two new academic buildings at UC Santa Cruz. That would help students get through university faster, and help limit the impacts of growth. One of the reasons why UC Santa Cruz’s four-year graduation rates lag is that some students can’t get into the classes they need to graduate. The facilities are too small.


Riverside and Santa Cruz look at growth differently. Riverside County is the 10th most populous county in the nation. It’s the fastest-growing county in the state, and the fifth-fastest growing county in the nation. There’s more land to expand in the Inland Empire.

Cindy says UC Riverside is seen as an economic driver for the region. Riverside city and county want the campus to grow.


Not so in Santa Cruz.

As the new chancellor, Cindy will wade into a difficult relationship with the community. The outcry about planned campus growth is something Chancellor Blumenthal anticpated. Last year, he created an advisory group of about 20 politicians, business leaders and residents. His goal was to get input on campus growth policies, and hopefully ease tension. But so far, things remain unresolved.

Last June, city voters approved a ballot measure that called for city leaders to oppose campus growth. Since then, the city and county have formed a task force to make sure that happens. The ballot measure had five demands for the campus:  

  1. Cap enrollment at 19,500 students.
  2. If growth continues, then the campus will house all new students, faculty and staff.
  3. The campus will only grow if there’s enough housing and facilities on- and off-campus to support it.
  4. The campus will sign a legally-binding document agreeing to build those housing units and facilities.
  5. The campus will create a funding program for those housing units and facilities.

So far, the campus has been willing to listen to the community, but has fallen short of signing anything legally binding. The community is not satisfied.

Larive: I understand that in the past there haven’t been such great relationships maybe between the city and the campus. I hope that I can help to bridge that. I try and be a good listener and to see all sides of an issue, even when we might not agree I know that we can have respectful discourse.

KMG: So, when Cindy assumes her new role, the community and its leaders will be waiting to see how she responds to the pressures. We will be too.


This is Santa Cruz Local. You can find us online and sign up for our email newsletter at santacruzlocal DOT org. Follow us on Twitter @theSClocal.

My thanks to Stephen Baxter for editing the script. Music was by Podington Bear at Soundofpicture DOT com.

I’m Kara Meyberg Guzman. Thanks for listening to Santa Cruz Local.


Kara Meyberg Guzman is the CEO and co-founder of Santa Cruz Local. ​Prior to Santa Cruz Local, she served as the Santa Cruz Sentinel’s managing editor. She has a biology degree from Stanford University and lives in Santa Cruz.