UC Berkeley Announces New Chancellor

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Thursday November 08, 2012 - 12:17:00 PM

University of California President Mark Yudof announced today that he has chosen Nicholas Dirks, Columbia University's executive vice president, to serve as the new chancellor of UC Berkeley. 

If the UC Board of Regents approves the appointment at a special meeting later this month, Dirks will succeed Chancellor Robert Birgeneau on June 1, 2013, and will become the university's 10th chancellor. 

Birgeneau, 70, who has been chancellor since September 2004, announced in March that he would step down at the end of the year but he has agreed to serve through next May. 

UC officials said Dirks, 61, who is the Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and History at Columbia, the dean of that university's faculty for Arts and Sciences and the author of three books on India, emerged as the top candidate after a six-month search. 

The candidate screening and interview process involved an advisory committee of UC faculty, students, staff, regents, alumni and foundation representatives. 

Yudof said in a statement, "Nicholas Dirks is a highly accomplished leader with the sensibilities and knowledge of a humanist, as well as extensive fundraising, academic and administrative expertise. I'm confident he will be a great fit for UC Berkeley." 

"His global perspective, leadership of diversity efforts at Columbia and experience with both public and private universities will serve him and the campus well," Yudof said. 

UC officials said that as executive vice president for Columbia's Arts and Sciences since 2004, Dirks has overseen the academic administration, operational and financial management and overall direction of 29 departments for the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences and six schools. 

Dirks said in a statement, "This is an opportunity I embrace with both excitement and humility. I have immense respect for the countless accomplishments of faculty, students and staff at what I consider to be the premier public research university in the world." 

"I look forward to becoming part of the UC community and to contributing all that I can to the further evolution of a campus that is a beacon of excellence, innovation and aspiration for California, the nation and the world," he said. 

Dirks went to Columbia in 1997 to chair its Department of Anthropology. Before that, he taught history and anthropology at the University of Michigan. He also taught Asian history at the California Institute of Technology for nine years. 

Dirks' late father, J. Edward Dirks, served as vice chancellor and dean for humanities at UC Santa Cruz in the 1970s, and his mother is a longtime California resident, according to UC officials. 

Dirks graduated with a bachelor's degree in African and Asian Studies from Wesleyan University in 1972, then earned a master's degree in 1974 and a Ph.D. in 1981 from the University of Chicago in the Department of History, focusing on South Asian history. 

He was born in Illinois but grew up in North Haven, Conn. He and his wife, Columbia history professor Janaki Bakhle, have a 13-year-old son. He also has a grown daughter from a previous marriage.