Claude Steele of Stanford University chosen as next UC Berkeley provost

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Claude Steele, dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Education, was announced as the next executive vice chancellor and provost of UC Berkeley by Chancellor Nicholas Dirks on Monday.

As UC Berkeley’s second-highest-ranking official, Steele will be responsible for the management of campus administrative operations — including the campuswide budget process — and all academic programs, working in close collaboration with the chancellor.

Steele will succeed current executive vice chancellor and provost George Breslauer on March 31. The appointment is pending final approval by the UC Board of Regents, which will vote at its next meeting later this month.

Steele, who received his doctorate at Ohio State University and worked as a professor at three public universities, said he was drawn to the public mission of UC Berkeley. When he begins his new role at UC Berkeley, it will be a “coming-home kind of experience,” Steele described.

“This is where talented, motivated kids from anywhere can come and get the best education in the world,” Steele said. “That kind of opportunity is something that has always stirred me.”

In May 2013, a search committee consisting of faculty, students and staff was formed to advise Dirks on the selection of the next executive vice chancellor and provost. Dirks said Steele’s passion for UC Berkeley’s public nature made him an ideal candidate for the job.

“To me, it was important that Claude had in fact spent a good deal of his career in public institutions,” Dirks said. “But the most important thing for me was that when we talked about the position, Claude’s most enthusiastic responses came from the fact that Berkeley was not just excellent but that it was also public.”

Dirks, who has worked with Steele at Columbia University in the past, said Steele not only demonstrated a commitment to academic quality but also proved to have a range of experiences that “set him apart from the general field.”

Steele was appointed dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Education in 2011 and, as dean, successfully increased the school’s engagement with public education through a major partnership with the San Francisco Unified School District. Prior to that, he served as provost at Columbia University from 2009 to 2011, during which he led an effort to enhance resources for the basic sciences.

Dirks also praised Steele’s academic accomplishments, particularly Steele’s recent research on stereotypes and their impact in higher education.

A distinguished scholar of social psychology who has been working in the field for decades, Steele was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Education and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was also awarded the Senior Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest and the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award in 2003 by the American Psychological Association.

Although he will have to “get a clear picture” of the challenges he will face at UC Berkeley before he can determine his plans for the campus, Steele said he intends to focus on keeping the university financially healthy and on improving diversity.

“The combination of excellence that (UC Berkeley) has achieved as an institution, and in the context of being as committed as it is to broad access as a public institution, makes it an incredibly distinct institution,” Steele said. “It makes it a treasure … and it’s a great joy to be part of it.”

Somin Park is the lead academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @_sominpark.

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