UC Regents confirm Carol Christ as Berkeley’s 11th chancellor

Carol Christ, who joined the UC Berkeley faculty in 1970 as an assistant professor of Victorian literature, was confirmed today by the UC Board of Regents as the campus’s 11th chancellor. A popular, highly regarded administrator and scholar, she will be the first female chancellor in Berkeley’s 149-year history.

Carol Christ after confirmation by the UC Regents as Berkeley Chancellor (Video by Roxanne Makasdjian and Stephen McNally)

UC President Janet Napolitano, announcing Christ’s appointment earlier in the week, lauded her “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.”

The regents ratified the choice by a unanimous vote this morning at their meeting at UCSF Mission Bay.

Carol Christ

Carol Christ

During her first three decades at Berkeley, Christ (rhymes with “list”) served in a wide range of leadership roles, rising from English department chair to executive vice chancellor and provost, the campus’s No. 2 administrative position. She headed east to lead Smith College as president from 2002 to 2013, then returned to Berkeley in 2015 to direct the Center for Studies in Higher Education. She reassumed her former role as second in command last May on an interim basis.

Her tenure as chancellor is effective July 1, when Nicholas Dirks is set to resume his teaching and research activities. He announced his intention to step down as chancellor last August.

“It has been my great pleasure to work closely with Carol on the widest range of issues, opportunities, and challenges facing our university,” Dirks said. “I have been impressed by her intelligence, her strategic acumen, and most of all her love for Berkeley. Carol knows this institution inside out, and embodies and embraces the ideals and values that are fundamental to Berkeley: shared governance; student welfare; diversity, equity, access, and inclusion; freedom of expression; and public service.”

Will Morrow, president of the Associated Students of the University of California, said he was “excited” by the announcement, and “optimistic” Christ would take on her new role “with the same tenacity, passion and empathy as she has this past year serving as interim provost.”

“Her work as a scholar, her history as a champion of Title IX and her commitment to the ideals of UC Berkeley align her with the priorities of today’s students that Berkeley remain an academically rigorous, equitable and public mission-driven university,” Morrow said. “In our current global climate, having strong female leadership at the country’s preeminent public university matters, and it is a signal to the rest of the world that UC Berkeley remains committed to the pursuit of social progress that has defined it for the past almost 150 years.”

Representing the faculty, Robert Powell, chair of the Academic Senate, called Christ’s appointment “terrific news.”

“Her open and engaging management style has earned her enormous goodwill, and she is held in very high regard across the campus,” said Powell. “Berkeley is at a critical juncture and very difficult decisions have to be made that will do much to shape the future for a long time to come. In the best traditions of shared governance, the Academic Senate looks forward to partnering with the future Chancellor Christ in helping navigate the coming challenges and opportunities. It will be great to have Carol at the helm.”

During a stellar academic career, Christ has earned a reputation as a champion of women’s issues and diversity. Her first administrative position was as an assistant to the chancellor on issues involving the status of women. At Smith, a small, prestigious liberal arts college for women, she supervised the development of the nation’s only accredited engineering program at a women’s college, oversaw a significant rise in student diversity and international student enrollment, expanded Smith’s global activities and reach and managed a major campus capital planning program.

Since resuming her former duties as executive vice chancellor and provost, Christ has been instrumental in tackling what had been a $150 million budget deficit, working tirelessly with constituencies across the campus to identify efficiencies and new income streams.

In addition to her executive experience, Christ has published two scholarly 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.