UC president announces pick for UC Berkeley chancellor

University of California President Janet Napolitano today (March 13) announced that she has selected Carol T. Christ, UC Berkeley’s interim executive vice chancellor and provost and the former president of Smith College, as her choice to become the campus’s next chancellor, the first woman to serve in the role.

Carol T. Christ
Credit: UC Berkeley

The UC Board of Regents will vote on the nomination Thursday during a special session held concurrently with the regular board meeting at UC San Francisco’s Mission Bay campus. If approved by the regents, Christ, 72, will become UC Berkeley’s 11th chancellor, effective July 1. The current chancellor, Nicholas B. Dirks, announced in August that he would step down to return to teaching and research once a successor is in place.

“I am delighted that Carol Christ has agreed to lead Berkeley at this pivotal time in the campus’s storied history,” Napolitano said. “From among the many highly qualified candidates for the position, Carol’s exceptional leadership and strategic planning skills, her deep commitment to the university’s core values, her many academic and professional accomplishments, as well as her deep knowledge of, and affection for, UC Berkeley stood out.”

“I feel honored and privileged to lead the campus at this challenging time,” Christ said. “It is a small way to give back for everything the university has given me. My experience at Berkeley has been transformational; it formed my ideas of higher education, and it formed my ideals of higher education. I look forward to working with Berkeley’s many communities in the months and years ahead in a way true to UC’s motto, ‘Fiat lux’ — ‘Let there be light.’”

The wide-ranging search for a new UC Berkeley chancellor directly involved the broad spectrum of campus and community stakeholders.

UC Berkeley Vice Provost and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Distinguished Professor in Microelectronics Tsu-Jae King Liu, who led the search team’s faculty subcommittee, praised Christ as “a renowned scholar and seasoned administrative leader who has the respect and trust of the Berkeley faculty.”

“She is readily accessible, profoundly thoughtful and open to new ideas, and transparently decisive,” Liu said. “Her deep knowledge and appreciation for our university’s traditions of access, excellence, and shared governance, her championship of diversity and inclusion, her genuine concern for student welfare and outreach to alumni and the local community will serve as the bedrock of her leadership. I look forward to working under her historic chancellorship to lead UC Berkeley into a new era of preeminence in research, teaching and public service.”

Christ, a Victorian literature scholar, came to UC Berkeley as an assistant professor in 1970 — at a time when only 3 percent of the faculty were women — and became chair of the English department in 1985. Three years later she was appointed dean of humanities, and in 1989, she became provost and dean of the College of Letters and Science.

In 1994, Christ was named vice chancellor and provost, and later became executive vice chancellor, making her the highest ranking female administrator on campus. During her years at UC Berkeley she earned a reputation as a tireless champion of gender equality and diversity; her first administrative position was as an assistant to the chancellor on issues involving the status of women, and Title IX compliance coordinator.

Christ returned to full-time teaching in 2000 before leaving UC Berkeley in 2002 to become the 10th president of Smith College, one of the nation’s most distinguished liberal arts colleges, where she led a wide-ranging strategic planning process that positioned the college for continued academic excellence and financial stability. Christ retired from Smith in June of 2013, a hiatus from academia that did not last long.

In January of 2015 she returned to UC Berkeley as director of the campus’s Center for Studies in Higher Education, and in May of the following year she agreed to take up her former role of executive vice chancellor and provost on an interim basis.

As executive vice chancellor, Christ serves as UC Berkeley’s leading senior executive responsible for the campus’s day-to-day operations and finances. As provost, she is the chief academic officer on campus, charged with the planning, development, implementation, assessment and enhancement of all academic programs, policies and supporting infrastructure. She is responsible for ensuring UC Berkeley's academic preeminence by overseeing faculty recruitment, retention, and renewal as well as through review of appointments, tenure and promotion for UC Berkeley's 1,500 full-time faculty.

Christ also oversees the planning, quality and delivery of education provided to UC Berkeley's 27,000 undergraduate students and 10,000 graduate students. These duties are in partnership with the Academic Senate under UC’s principles of shared governance.

Throughout most of her administrative career, Christ has continued to teach and pursue her academic research. She has published two books: “The Finer Optic: The Aesthetic of Particularity in Victorian Poetry” and “Victorian and Modern Poetics.” She also edited a Norton Critical Edition of George Eliot’s “The Mill on the Floss” and co-edited the “Norton Anthology of English Literature and Victorian Literature” and “The Victorian Visual Imagination.”

She graduated with high honors from Douglass College, the women's college at Rutgers University, and received her Ph.D. in English from Yale University.

Christ is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.