College of Environmental Design dean Jennifer Wolch announces plan to step down in 2019

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Jennifer Wolch — dean of UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design, or CED — has decided to step down in June 2019 after serving as the first female dean of CED for 10 years.

Wolch said the college would benefit from having new leadership, since it is “unusual” for deans to serve longer than 10 years. After stepping down as dean, Wolch will continue to be involved in CED as a professor of city and regional planning.

“I’m pleased to have led the college in some new directions with respect to its curriculum, programs and culture that have evolved over the last decade,” Wolch said.

According to a press release from Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Alivisatos, Wolch has recruited 20 “exceptional ladder rank” faculty members, half of whom are women and a quarter of whom are people of color. She also launched a new tradition of an annual student design showcase, which she cited as a memorable moment that brought the community of alumni, faculty and students together.

The learning environment in CED has also evolved during her time, with the addition of a digital fabrication lab, a plaza, a café and study spaces. Studio spaces and classrooms underwent renovations as well, according to Wolch.

“As someone who preceded her by a generation, it was interesting to see how well she took on the issues of the school,” said professor emeritus Richard Bender, who served as CED dean from 1976 to 1989.

Wolch said her other contributions to the school include leading the college in developing multidisciplinary programs with other colleges and schools, such as a master’s degree program in design along with UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering. Other unique programs launched during Wolch’s tenure include master’s degrees in real estate development and design and an undergraduate major in sustainable environmental design.

In addition to interacting with the alumni on a regular basis, being the dean gave Wolch a broader view of the college. Wolch said she enjoyed seeing people of different disciplines come together to work with students.

Daniel Rodriguez, a professor of city and regional planning, worked with Wolch in various events and said he was impressed by her leadership and communication style.

“She’s been very supportive of faculty. She’s set a very high bar for her successor,” Rodriguez said.

According to Wolch, the process of selecting her successor is in its initial stages. The goal is to have the new dean begin work by July 1, 2019.

Wolch said she would volunteer to stay on as dean to ensure an effective transition if the successor could not arrive by that time.

“It’s been an incredible honor to have served as the dean of the college,” Wolch said. “It’s an extraordinary place with amazing faculty, students and alumni.”

Contact Andreana Chou at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @AndreanaChou.