PBS Launches Endowment for Psychological and Brain Sciences Fund

October 14, 2020

With generous gifts from an alumnus and a faculty emeritus, the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences is excited to announce the launching of the Endowment for Psychological & Brain Sciences Fund. The purpose of this fundraising initiative is to promote the long term excellence of the department in its teaching, research, and service missions.


The gift was launched with two simultaneous generous gifts by Professor Emeritus Jerry Jacobs and Class of 1967 alumnus and member of the PBS Alumni Council Steve Foote. 


Professor Michael Miller, chair of the department, noted the importance of contributions: “Professor Jerry Jacobs and Dr. Steve Foote set a wonderful example for all of our alumni and current and retired faculty who have the means to give something back to the department. The department greatly appreciates their contributions. And, I have to say, it may be particularly important to have this kind of support in the coming years due to the budget implications from the pandemic. This support allows PBS to continue to create awards, opportunities and programs that help us maintain the high standards of our teaching, research and service missions.”


Professor Jerry Jacobs has made some of the seminal contributions in the understanding of the biology of mammalian vision, and in particular, the study of color vision and its biological basis. Over his career, he and his laboratory studied a wide range of animal subjects, from mice to humans, and a variety of experimental techniques that have identified the structural features of the visual system. Over his career, Professor Jacobs was the recipient of many university and international honors including the Rank Prize in Optoelectronics (1986), the UCSB Faculty Research Lectureship (1996), the Proctor Medal of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (1998), the Verriest Medal of the International Colour Vision Society (2009), and the Tillyer Award of the Optical Society of America (2012).


Steve Foote, after receiving his BA in Psychology from UCSB in 1967, went to MIT where he earned his PhD. He was on the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, before joining the National Institute of Mental Health, where he served as the Director of the Division of Neuroscience and Basic Behavioral Science. 


Dr. Foote credited the role that UCSB and the psychology department played in his career. “The UCSB Psychology Department was pivotal in setting the course of my career in neuroscience. Most importantly, my experiences there were positive, nurturing and stimulating. They provided me with the motivation and confidence to pursue a career in basic research.”


The relationship with faculty was instrumental in the young Gaucho’s decision to go into science and academia. As Dr. Foote recalled: “I also received crucial guidance that determined my early post-UCSB trajectory:  Dr. Mike Gazzaniga strongly urged me to go to MIT for graduate school, some of the best advice I ever received as MIT proved to be a great match for my interests and provided me with a solid start to my life in neuroscience.”


Dr. Foote described why he was interested in directing his philanthropy towards UCSB and the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences by helping to launch The Endowment for Psychological and Brain Sciences. It goes back to his early days at UCSB: “I arrived at UCSB as a first generation, junior college transfer student. I knew I was interested in psychology, broadly speaking, but had little knowledge of the field and no experience with any kind of research. To say UCSB, especially the Psychology Department, was formative for me would be an understatement. I had crucial growth experiences with fellow students, teaching assistants and faculty that gave me the tools I needed to seek and find great opportunities in subsequent career development. I have had great experiences at all of the institutions I have been a part of, but when I look back and ask what was the most essential environment for me, it was UCSB. I view the whole of UCSB as a critical institution of higher education because it provides a pathway for students from a broad variety of backgrounds to become the crucial leadership elements of a society that is facing enormous challenges. My gifts are a way of giving back and giving to the future.”


The chair of the department’s development committee, Professor David Sherman expressed his appreciation for “Dr. Steve Foote for his continued support of the department not only financially, in terms of his generous contributions, but in terms of his ideas, his energy, and his caring for the current students. When the 2020 graduating class of PBS majors had their awards ceremony via zoom, and all the parents and family members and faculty were celebrating the accomplishments of our seniors, who else was there? Steve Foote, rooting them on, and listening to their accomplishments and appreciation. The department is grateful to Steve and to other alumni who have shared their talents and experiences with UCSB Psychological & Brain Sciences students.”


One vehicle by which Steve Foote and other alumni have contributed to the department is through the PBS Alumni Council, which was launched in 2019, and whose mission is to develop a larger community of former and current students that transcends the time of their UCSB experience, that connects people, expands perspectives, leverages resources, and creates networks and pathways for career and intellectual growth. The alumni council supports two annual events aimed at connecting undergraduates, faculty, and alumni called ENGAGE which was created by Dr. Diane Mackie and Dr. Vanessa Woods


Dr. Foote expanded on why he joined the PBS Alumni Council and is heavily involved in ENGAGE events: “It is energizing to be a part of the UCSB community, and being a member of the Alumni Council is a productive way to do that. For me, it is always rewarding to interact with students and to share in their enthusiasm and their search for a way to contribute to society (while making a living!). As a student, especially one about to graduate, there can be uncertainty and anxiety about next steps. I hope the Alumni Council can help with those issues by developing a network of alumni that can provide a continuity of community for the transition away from campus to the broader world. Then, the new alums can themselves become links in the broader UCSB network.”


Dr. Vanessa Woods, who has led the ENGAGE events that Steve Foote has participated in, described his contributions and that of the other alumni council members: “The alumni council is invaluable to the department in the depth of experience they bring and share with our undergraduates. I am humbled by the generosity of the alumni council and specifically to Steve for his support and help launching the endowment fund. It is inspiring to be around a group of people who are so committed to maintaining the department’s excellence in the future.”


The department is grateful to alumni such as Dr. Steve Foote and to faculty members such as Dr. Jerry Jacobs who have, throughout their careers, supported the institutions where students and faculty learn about psychology, and apply that understanding in science, industry, and society.