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University News

UC Berkeley dean to be 11th provost

Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mark Schlissel, currently dean of biological sciences at the University of California at Berkeley, will replace David Kertzer ’69 P’95 P’98 as provost beginning July 1.

President Ruth Simmons announced the appointment at yesterday’s faculty meeting, calling Schlissel a “highly qualified administrator and scholar.” She notified the community in a campus-wide email yesterday evening. Schlissel was chosen by a 12-member committee of students, faculty and administrators. The committee was formed in November after Kertzer announced his intentions to step down at the end of the academic year.

Candidates for provost, the University’s top academic administrator, came both from inside and outside of the University, Simmons told The Herald. But she said the committee did not weigh candidates’ histories with the University as heavily as their general qualifications.

“There are lots of opinions on internal versus external (administrators),” Simmons said. She added that while Kertzer was hired from within the University, his predecessor, Robert Zimmer, was not.

Schlissel, who will be the 11th provost, will visit the University as soon as he is available, Simmons said at the meeting, adding that he is “amenable” to holding an event where he can interact with faculty.

Simmons said Schlissel has expressed excitement about working at the University, especially because of the financial difficulties currently facing the University of California system. The freedom associated with a private institution may be a welcome change from Berkeley, she said, because the state school is in part governed by “well-meaning, perhaps, but not particularly well-informed outsiders.”

“Brown is still building — we have a lot on our plate and a lot that we are trying to do,” Simmons told The Herald. “There’s a lot of work ahead. For someone who enjoys what he’s doing, who loves universities, that’s what’s exciting.”

Schlissel wrote in an email to The Herald that he was attracted to the University because of its undergraduate program and the Plan for Academic Enrichment, one of the cornerstone initiatives of Simmons’ presidency.

“I also look forward to helping the faculty fulfill their ambitions as scholars and teachers,” Schlissel wrote. “I am anxious to get to know Brown students. Their reputation for academic achievement and desire to positively impact the world is inspiring to me as an outsider.”

Simmons said at the meeting that Schlissel understands that the tenure debate, which has been a subject of faculty discussion since spring 2010, is a “really important issue on campus.” She added, though, that he brings no preformed opinion to the issue, other than that the “quality of faculty” is important to a strong institution.

Schlissel, who specializes in immunological research, is also interested in eventually transferring his research to Brown, Simmons said. But he is aware that his new job may not leave much time for work in the lab, she said. Schlissel wrote that because the job of provost is “large in scope and very demanding in time,” any research would be on a smaller scale than what he did at Berkeley.

Both Kertzer and Cynthia Garcia Coll, chair of the Faculty Executive Committee and professor of education, said at the meeting they think Schlissel will be a good fit for Brown.

“I think he’ll be a terrific provost,” Kertzer said.

Simmons also called Schlissel “warm and approachable.” In particular, she described him as “articulate, persuasive and scholarly-looking.” His beard, she said, adds to that charm.

“I am very excited by the opportunity to move to Brown and work with the outstanding leadership and faculty to help lead a great university to new heights in the years ahead,” Schlissel wrote. “I am truly honored by this appointment.”

Schlissel, who joined Berkeley in 1999, was one of the chief organizers of a program last fall that invited incoming students to have their DNA sampled and analyzed, the Daily Californian reported in September. The program drew criticism when the California Department of Public Health said Berkeley needed a doctor’s permission before collecting samples and that the program needed to analyze the data with labs that had been approved by state and federal governments.

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