The University of California, Santa Barbara, one of the eight campuses of the University of California system, is located on the Pacific ocean shore in Goleta, a suburb of Santa Barbara, California. UCSB's location, literally on the beach in a city renowned for its stunning mountain surroundings and congenial climate, makes for probably the best situated university campus in the United States, if not the world.

The University has a not entirely undeserved reputation as a 'party school', which it has attempted to shake in recent years, having dropped out of the 'top 25 party school' rankings in 2002. It is certainly true that a visitor's initial impression of the campus might be the mobs of midriff-showing Heather Locklear clones clutching the keys to their Range Rovers, while tales of the drunken antics of Isla Vista, the unincorporated town that houses much of the undergraduate population, are legendary.

However, coexisting with this, UCSB is a major research university. The graduate engineering and science programs are well respected, including the prominent materials and geology departments. The campus is home to noted interdisciplinary research programs such as the California NanoSystems Institute and iQUEST, the Institute for Quantum Engineering, Science, and Technology. And, most prominently, the physics department is one of the best in the world, counting three Nobel Prize winners among the faculty and seven memberships in the National Academy of Sciences, as well as the resources of the associated Kavli Institute For Theoretical Physics.

UCSB is descended from several incarnations of a teaching college founded in downtown Santa Barbara in 1909. In 1953 the college was moved to its current oceanfront location, site of a former Marine Corps air station, and in 1958 it was made a part of the University of California system, adopting the UC system's mission of research, teaching, and public service. As the campus developed, the architecture tended toward a pastel, tropical-oid motif, which, although outlandish, is appropriate for the palm- and eucalyptus-laden surroundings. With the growth of the University has come the growth of the surrounding suburban areas of Santa Barbara, which were formerly almost entirely undeveloped. The university is by far the largest employer in the Santa Barbara area.

Currently, UCSB is divided into five colleges: The College of Letters and Science, the College of Creative Studies, the College of Engineering, the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, and the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education. Undergraduate enrollment is around 16,000, while graduate enrollment is 4,000, and there are about 30 parking spaces. Fortunately, UCSB is probably the most bicycle-friendly campus in the county. Dedicated bicycle paths go everywhere within the campus and beyond, and most undergraduate and graduate students, as well as many faculty and staff, commute by bike. Although 95% of the undergraduate population is from in-state, UCSB has gotten much more selective in recent years, admitting the second-lowest percentage of applicants of any UC campus. As with all of the UC's except UCLA, sports is not a big thing at USCB. The local mascot is the Gaucho, which seems to be mixing metaphors.

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