FY22 Projects

UCSC Student Access, Engagement and Media Literacy Initiative

Submitted by Cowell Provost Alan Christy and Merrill Provost Elizabeth Abrams

Sponsored by Stephen Bruce

Approved: October 5, 2021


Student access to trustworthy news is a crying need of social media age.  “Old media” are only read through uncertainly filtered social media, leaving major questions of old fashioned civics and the newer field of media literacy unanswered.  

Into this void, first in Santa Cruz, Lookout Local has answered the call. Built by nationally known business of news analyst and UCSC Foundation Trustee Ken Doctor, Lookout is a new, well-resourced digital-only, mobile-first news product. It is aimed at replacing the flagging local press, as represented in Santa Cruz, and increasingly nationally, by newspapers being slowly milked to death by hedge funds and other distressed property owners.  

Launched in 2020, Lookout Santa Cruz is now by far the largest news company in Santa Cruz County.  Its news staff will number twelve by June, with early financing support from both the Knight Foundation and Google, as well as local funders. Lookout covers the county – from the relatively prosperous north end to the less prosperous and historically disadvantaged south end – as whole. It believes the revival of democracy starts with a high-quality, non-partisan factual reporting. In its short life, it has exceeded early goals in audience, advertising and in membership.  

Reader revenue is a fundamental part of Lookout’s model, which overall, borrows heavily from the New York Times’ transformational success, scaling it to what communities like Santa Cruz County can support.  While Lookout requires that reader revenue – and is already earning it at the rate of $17 per month, or $187 year, with adoption quickly mounting – it also aims to reach a broad audience across the county.   One key part of that broad strategy: Lookout aims to serve its content to all of the county’s 40,000 college and high school students. This program, too, is modeled on and advised y the New York Times. Like the Times, Lookout heavily discounts its student program, 94% off of the regular member price: $12 per year pays for the costs of the access. That program is now 63% funded for fall launch overall.  Donors have paid for Cabrillo College student access fully. UCSC student access is now 60% funded, with $85,000 left to raise to complete the first-year funding, while Lookout works – with support of the County Office of Education and the county’s largest school district, Pajaro Valley Unified School District – to fund high school access.  


This BOF proposal requests $20,000 in funding, only to be activated if the remaining $65,000 is raised to allow full access for UCSC’s 19,000 students. $145,000 toward that goal has been raised through the generosity of three individuals, Rowland Rebele, Felix Magowan and Foundation Trustee Linda Peterson.  Among the major outcomes of fully funded student access: 

  • Complete student access to all Lookout content, including local civics/political news, enabling them to be better citizens of the community; 
  • Inclusion in Lookout’s planned Student Voices project, both allowing students to voice their own concerns and for community members to better understand them. 
  • Working with UCSC Student Media, appropriately, with the Digital Arts and New Media program, City on the Hill Press and KZSC. Lookout has already established a working relationship with UCSC’s esteemed Science Communications program, with an intern now placed for the spring quarter.

Lookout has spoken with University Librarian Elizabeth Cowell, who can coordinate the actual access for students through the campus’ .edu account.  

Students will be provided an activation code – presented to them in multiple ways through both Lookout and campus messaging, and in person, as the fall allows. Lookout will seek to multiply the activations and measure them, as well as growing usage. It will track the kinds of content students actually use, on their phones and laptops.  

Also measurable will be the Student Voices enabled by Lookout and shared with the wider community, in a major effort to bridge the half-century town/gown divide.

Amount funded: $20,000 

Key UCSC faculty and staff:

Lookout is all about partnership, having brought dozens of civic, content and marketing partners into its fabric: https://lookout.co/santacruz/footer-nav-partners It has quickly integrated itself into the fabric of the county’s civic life.  

Importantly, while Lookout is relentlessly local in its focus, its editors selectively curate timely, contextual news from Lookout’s content partners. Those currently include the Los Angeles Times, CalMatters, Kaiser Health News and Inside Climate News.  

On campus, Lookout is already deeply engaged with UCSC’s marketing division, which has seen Lookout as an emerging key conduit of messaging and marketing to the wider community – in a time still fraught with division. Lookout is actively working with both the Humanities Institute, on co-sponsorship of community activities, and the revived Quarry, as they ready programs for society’s reopening.  

It is also at work with Vice Chancellor Mark Davis, on several going-forward mutual opportunities. 


Fintech: Innovation, Inclusion and Risks Conference

Submitted by Galina Hale and Professor Nirvikar Singh, Department of Economics

Sponsored by Stephen Bruce

Approved: February 25, 2022

As Co-Directors of the Center for Analytical Finance (CAFIN), Galina Hale and Professor Nirvikar Singh are co-organizing a conference titled Fintech: Innovation, Inclusion and Risks, to be held in person in San Francisco on May 13, 2022. The rationale for this conference is the accelerating speed at which the global financial landscape is changing: computing power and communication technologies have already reshaped the financial system and are now facilitating game-changing technologies such as blockchain and cryptocurrencies. However, while these technologies and approaches can enhance financial access globally and limit systemic risk, they also bring potential costs. This new financial environment is evolving in a faster and more decentralized manner than any prior financial architecture, constantly challenging our understanding of its potential benefits, risks, and costs. Building communication and debate channels among regulators, industry, and academia is critical to developing a safe, fair, efficient, and transparent digital financial system.

This conference brings together top experts and leaders from all three market participant groups: policymakers and regulators, industry, and academia. The conference is designed as a mix of academic-style, industry-style, and policy-style conferences, which will allow equal participation by all stake-holders and facilitate an open conversation.

Increase attendance of high-profile academics and industry professionals;
Enhance promotion activities for the conference, and follow-up reporting of outcomes;
Seek seed funding for future conferences and research, through a high-profile donor event, which will be held close to the conference date, and include some of our most successful alumni in the finance and technology sectors.
The conference provides a venue for a productive dialogue among all parties, where market participants, academics, and regulators can discuss each other’s concerns and experiences from equal ground and share knowledge on the current state and potential of Fintech. It fosters collaboration and debate on key Fintech topics including efficient and fair regulation, financial inclusion, open banking and data privacy, market design for blockchains-based markets and crypto ETFs, central banking with digital currencies, climate impact considerations, among others. The event will attract significant attention from industry, regulators and media, given its timing and location, and the participation of multiple groups who are part of the process of shaping the evolution of Fintech. In addition, the conference increases the visibility of CAFIN as a premier global research and policy center in the area of finance, and enhances the potential for significant external support for the center.
The Board Opportunity Fund grant will make it possible for selected graduate and undergraduate students from UC Santa Cruz to attend.

The Lam Family College of Business at SFSU is partnering in the conference. An initial virtual conference involved a collaboration with the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (FRBSF). At SFSU, our collaborator is Prof. Todd Feldman, a graduate of UCSC’s doctoral program in Economics. The collaboration with the FRBSF was enabled by Prof. Galina Hale, Co-Director of CAFIN, through her affiliation with the FRBSF.

Amount funded: $10,000

Key UCSC faculty and staff:
At UCSC, Economics Department Assistant Professor Brenda Samaniego de la Parra and Kristian Lopez Vargas, both members of the CAFIN steering committee, played an essential role in laying the groundwork for the conference. Dr. Eric Aldrich, Senior Economist at Amazon (and former Associate Director of CAFIN) also played a planning role on the scientific committee.

Stephen Bruce, Chair of the CAFIN Advisory Board, and June Ou, a member of the CAFIN Advisory Board, are providing additional guidance. Ms. Ou is an industry leader in Fintech: she was CTO of SoFi, which has a market cap of about $11B, and is currently COO of Figure Technologies, a highly regarded Fintech startup which she co-founded. Ms. Ou is an alumna of UCSC’s MS program in Applied Economics and Finance.

The conference is aimed at Fintech industry participants, academics, and regulators. In addition, students can attend in person or remotely. Finally, we expect media interest in the conference, given its topicality and importance.

Stephen Bruce is providing $10,000 as a one-for-one match for a Board Opportunity Fund grant. We will also use this funding to host an event for prospects and donors as described above.