UC Berkeley creates position of vice chancellor for undergraduate education

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UC Berkeley has created the position of vice chancellor for undergraduate education in an administrative reorganization that is a part of Chancellor Nicholas Dirks’ efforts to focus on the undergraduate experience on campus.

Cathy Koshland, former vice provost for teaching, learning, academic planning and facilities, assumed the new vice chancellor role July 1, which was reported in the agenda packet for the UC Board of Regents meeting last week. In her new position, she will oversee undergraduate programs that include the Student Learning Center and Berkeley Connect, which connects undergraduate students with graduate mentors.

According to Dirks, he developed the position partly with Koshland in mind.

“Koshland … was somebody who had deep understanding of reinstitution and a lot of responsibilities that already were centrally engaged with questions of undergraduate education,” Dirks said in an interview with The Daily Californian. “I decided that I needed to elevate, and also focus, (Koshland’s) portfolio to align with the significance I was according to undergraduate education in my administration here at Berkeley.”

Taking over some of Koshland’s former responsibilities is former dean of the graduate division Andrew Szeri, whose new position is vice provost of strategic academic and facilities planning. Szeri will be responsible for reviewing academic programs and strategic planning, among other duties, according to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

The administrative changes are aligned with the campus’s Undergraduate Education Initiative, intended to focus on the undergraduate experience, and date back to before July. Bob Jacobsen, who was appointed in May as interim dean of undergraduate studies in the College of Letters and Science, took on a different role than his predecessor, who held the title of dean of the undergraduate division in L&S. His duties will include focusing more on the undergraduate education in L&S, according to Jacobsen.

“What I wanted to do was get my own group and cabinet up and running,” Dirks said about the changes.

Regarding the undergraduate initiative, ASUC President Pavan Upadhyayula said it was necessary to not only offer a quality educational experience but also focus on the student experience, adding that he believed undergraduate student advising, which he said is lacking on campus, has been strengthened through changes such as the creation of Jacobsen’s new role.

“Figuring out how to give that (experience) requires us to not just think about the university as a set of classrooms,” Upadhyayula said.

While working at Columbia University, Dirks helped develop an undergraduate initiative there and said he came to campus hoping to pioneer a similar initiative — an effort that he said dates back to UC Berkeley’s first chancellor, Clark Kerr.

He started with a planning committee for the education initiative, which he said he and Koshland co-chaired.

Koshland, a professor in the campus School of Public Health and the Energy and Resources Group, has had an unusual path to taking on her role, according to campus professor of energy emeritus Robert Sawyer.

He said her background as a fine arts major at Haverford College, followed by a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering as well as an appointment at the School of Public Health, shows a wide range of interests and qualifications for tackling the diverse undergraduate experience at UC Berkeley.

“She has a real record of experience in higher education and administration,” said Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele. “She embodies this institution’s values.”

Contact Katy Abbott at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @katyeabbott.