Gary Matkin
Gary Matkin, head of University Extension and Summer Session, says: “Online education will be the fastest-growing segment of our portfolio, and we’re poised to take it to the next level.” Steve Zylius / University Communications

When Gary W. Matkin entered the field of continuing education nearly four decades ago, it provided a unique niche for someone with a background in accounting and a desire to help people.

“After working in the corporate world for six years, I realized that I really did enjoy the culture and environment of the university,” says Matkin, UC Irvine’s dean of continuing education and director of Summer Session, “so I applied for a job as business officer at UC Berkeley’s University Extension. Because Extension is self-supporting and must operate very much like a business, it was a job ideally suited to both my accounting background and my aspirations of returning to academic life. It also suited my desire to direct my efforts toward helping people rather than increasing shareholder value of a company.”

He has been making significant contributions to university-level continuing education ever since. At Berkeley, Matkin quickly built a reputation in financial management. But his most noteworthy accomplishments have been in online and distance education.

Upon joining UCI in March 2000, he established the Distance Learning Center, which – in conjunction with the School of Social Ecology – created the University of California’s first online degree program, a master’s in criminology, law & society.

Matkin has also played key roles in the development of University Extension online courses and the OpenCourseWare movement, including establishing UCI’s OCW website.

This spring, the University Professional & Continuing Education Association honored him with the Julius M. Nolte Award for Extraordinary Leadership.

“The UPCEA has provided me with many benefits over my 36 years of membership,” Matkin says. “Most important has been the opportunity to foster relationships with colleagues from university continuing education units across the country. Receiving the Nolte Award is a point of personal gratification for me and a significant highlight of my career.”

With UCI’s continuing education arm nearing its 50th anniversary, in 2012, he discusses its past, future and evolving role.

Q: How is it that University Extension is older than the university itself?
A: The first UCI course, “The Chancellor’s Lecture Series,” was offered by University Extension in 1962, three years before the campus opened for classes. Just as University Extension was a leader then, it remains a leader in innovation today. A recognized pioneer of online education, University Extension helped develop the UC system’s first online degree program; now more than 130 online courses are offered per quarter. Online education will be the fastest-growing segment of our portfolio, and we’re poised to take it to the next level and support UCI as it considers expanding online degree programs to undergraduates.

Q: How can University Extension and Summer Session help ease UCI’s budgetary challenges?
A: Our staff is very involved in recruiting and providing services for international students who help make our campus more of a global village and generate revenue. With a 30-year history of offering English-language and certificate programs, we serve 3,000 international students per year. University Extension also can offset the costs of delivering classroom instruction on campus by providing online courses for undergraduate and graduate students. We’re expanding Summer Session with online and special courses and support curricular redesign, such as a proposed three-year degree. Using our entrepreneurial, market-focused approach, we expect to assist in the development of full-fee, part-time master’s degrees that can be pursued online.

Q: What part will OpenCourseWare play in higher education?
A: UCI was the first West Coast university and UC campus to support the OpenCourseWare movement with membership in the OpenCourseWare Consortium. Our involvement aligns UCI with institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale University and Johns Hopkins University and furthers our leadership position in higher education. I predict that within the next five years, every major U.S. university will have an OCW website or open educational resources initiative. Again, UCI will lead the way.

Q: What is your vision for UCI and how will you contribute to that vision?
A: My hope is that University Extension and Summer Session will be more tightly woven into the fabric of the campus. We have the staff, infrastructure and capacity to serve UCI as it faces the challenges ahead.