Liz Toomey is one proud Anteater. As assistant vice chancellor of community & government relations, she builds alumni support for programs and projects and advocates for legislation that advances UC Irvine’s teaching and research missions.
A former middle school history and English teacher, Toomey has deep ties to the UC system: She’s the daughter of UCI’s founding chancellor, Daniel G. Aldrich Jr., and a graduate of UC Davis.
Here, Toomey discusses UCI’s impact on the community and its role in the recovery of Orange County’s economy:
Q: What is your message to California lawmakers and local elected officials?
A: The University of California higher education system is a good investment now and in the future. Elected officials understand our importance, but the challenge is that many other entities also are critical to the well-being of California, such as healthcare and social services. UCI is unique in that it provides an educated workforce and research that improves our health, the food we eat and the roads we travel. My job is to help Californians understand and appreciate the role the UC plays in their lives.
Q: Why is it important for decision-makers to understand how UCI benefits the community
A: The community benefits from the health care we provide, the educated workforce we produce and the research that leads to tomorrow’s new industries. Having a major research university in Orange County changed the landscape from agriculture to what we have today- a diverse, culturally sophisticated region with established industry hubs.
Q: What role will UCI play in the recovery of the local economy?
A: Depending on the numbers you look at, UCI is either the largest or second-largest employer in Orange County. We collaborate with many local industries – biotechnology and bioengineering, for example. Our students and research, paired with advances these companies are making, are what will bring this region out of the recession. Frankly, companies such as Edwards Lifesciences and Broadcom would not be in Orange County without a major research university.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your position at UCI?
A: I most enjoy telling people not familiar with the University of California about UCI’s impact on healthcare, education and the economy. You see light bulbs turn on in their heads as they realize the UC system’s effect on their lives. Sometimes people share negative experiences they have had with the UC, and I am here to listen to them as well.
Q: What is the relationship between your office and UCI students?
A: We have a great relationship with our students, especially with the Associated Students of UCI. We have participated in their voter registration drives, and we co-sponsor town hall meetings that bring local political candidates to campus. Our students are very savvy when it comes to their education. The issues that matter to them are also very important to us, especially access to education and affordability.