Carol Christ, who was approved by the UC Board of Regents to be UC Berkeley’s 11th chancellor Thursday, met with members of staff and faculty the same day to be introduced as the next chancellor.
Nearly 100 people filled Morrison Library to meet with Christ. She said the two weeks since UC President Janet Napolitano offered her the role of chancellor have been a time for her to reflect on what UC Berkeley meant to her.
“Within a few years (of coming to campus for the first time), it changed my life, it changed my sense of the world,” Christ said during the event. “There is this extraordinary intellectuality. There is also Berkeley itself — there aren’t many places in the U.S. where you feel history is really happening.”
Christ went on to describe her commitment to students, saying that as a faculty member it was “thrilling” to watch students find their intellectual passion and work with them. Her favorite students when she was a campus English professor, she said, were transfer students, each of whom had a unique story to tell.
Christ also addressed the challenges the campus currently faces, stating that she believes that the current circumstances have been the most challenging since the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s. One of the challenges she cited was budget concerns, emphasizing the need to change the campus’s financial model without compromising its “sense of public mission.”
“I believe that this is our problem together to address,” Christ said. “I want your advice. I want your help. I want your intellectual energy and imagination.”
Many in attendance expressed their satisfaction with Christ’s appointment, citing her years of experience working with campus administration and her genuine character.
ASUC President Will Morrow said he was “cautiously optimistic” about Christ’s chancellorship, highlighting her experience dealing with issues such as sexual violence and student housing as a boon for students.
“I think she really understands and believes in what Berkeley is and what makes Berkeley special, but she also understands the unique challenges facing us in this point in our history,” said Scott Shireman, chief operating officer for UC Berkeley Extension. “In a way I think that makes her sort of uniquely qualified to do the job.”
Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, who gave a speech congratulating Christ on her appointment, called working with her as interim executive vice chancellor and provost a “learning experience.”
He said she helped him to understand changes on campus issues, such as funding resources and how to maintain the university’s public mission, that had occurred since she left the campus in 2002. He added that he looked forward to seeing her work to support undergraduates and continuing the work they had done together on budgeting issues.
“In some ways, some of the work we have to do over the next two years will be more difficult,” Dirks said. “She’ll have to work in an environment where we have much less federal funding for research. … She understands why we’ve gotten to this point, what we’ve got to do and what we need to continue doing to find our way out of it.”
Under instruction by Napolitano to keep the news secret until Monday, Christ said that she did not even tell her kids until the nomination was officially announced.
She will begin her tenure July 1. Christ said some of her immediate points of focus will include student housing, undergraduate education and developing a sustainable financial model for the campus.
“I really, really am looking forward to working with the Cal students,” Christ said. “(Students are) the reason Berkeley exists.”