AnnaLee Saxenian, dean of School of Information, announces resignation

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AnnaLee Saxenian, who has served as dean of UC Berkeley’s School of Information, or I-School, for more than a decade, announced her resignation Monday.

Saxenian joined the I-School in 2000 and became its second dean in January 2004. While most deans serve for about two terms, campus spokesperson Michael Dirda said Saxenian has served as dean for three five-year terms and has been instrumental in building the I-School from a fairly new program into one of the world’s leading information schools.

Saxenian could not be reached for comment as of press time.

According to Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Alivisatos, upon taking the position of dean, Saxenian immediately began defining the school’s purpose and focusing its research and teaching. She renamed the school — previously known as School of Information Management and Systems — in 2006 and helped construct a new mission statement: “Advancing knowledge and practice wherever humans interact with information and technology.”

Over the course of her tenure, Saxenian more than doubled the size of the school’s faculty and established its first faculty chair. She doubled the size of the doctoral program and introduced various graduate student fellowships, according to Alivisatos.

According to Michael Buckland, I-School professor emeritus and co-director of the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative, Saxenian also introduced new online master’s programs — the Master of Information and Data Science and the Master of Information and Cybersecurity — that have been “enormously successful” in increasing the scope and achievements of the I-School.

Regarding his expectations for the future of the school, Buckland said a great deal will depend on the next dean. Buckland said a wise choice would be somebody who could build on Saxenian’s achievements and a bad choice would “undo the good work” Saxenian has accomplished.

“The world is changing and the information environment is changing, and that means that our curriculum and research projects and faculty need to constantly adapt to the changing world,” Buckland said. “The reason why the school is so important is because it is dangerous for people to be ignorant. And this school is directly concerned with helping people to know what they need to know.”

Dirda said that after a dean steps down, the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, or EVCP, announces a call for nominations for a new dean. The announcement will likely take place later this fall, with the final decision coming out late spring or early summer of next year, according to Dirda.

Dirda said that Saxenian will take on a full-time faculty position. Saxenian will also continue her teaching and scholarship in the area of economic development, which focuses on how regional hubs, such as Silicon Valley or Boston’s Route 128, become centers of economic activity.

“Although she has served (as dean) for (almost) 15 years, she certainly deserves to return to being a regular professor,” Buckland said. “But she has done very well and everybody has been very pleased with what she achieved.”

Contact Jenny Weng at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @jennyweng1999.