Search Begins for New Chancellor

After eight months of waiting, members of the National Academy of Sciences finally ratified UC Irvine Chancellor Ralph Cicerone’s nomination to become their next president, beginning July 1. UC President Robert Dynes can now officially begin his search for a new UCI chancellor, and has created an advisory committee to help him find a replacement for Cicerone by the end of the spring.
Of the 17 members of the committee, seven are from UCI, including English professor Brook Thomas, chemistry professor Eugene Overman, Information and Computer Science professor Sandra Irani, Associate Graduate Students president Fabio Leite, Associated Students of UCI president Gabriel Ayass and alumnus Steven McHolm.
The 17-member committee is responsible for recruiting, screening and conducting interviews with potential candidates, after which they will narrow down their choice to a pool of between six to eight candidates from which Dynes will select three or four finalists to interview. Dynes will then present his recommendation to the UC Board of Regents at a meeting in May.
Before the committee began searching for candidates, it held a closed-door meeting at the Bren Events Center on Feb. 11 to gather input from various UCI stakeholder groups. Although some committee members declined to comment, Ayass was willing to reveal what he told the committee.
‘I made it a point to state the issues I thought were important in selecting a chancellor … including the issue of acquiring resources for the campus [and] the need for a strong relationship with the community,’ Ayass said. ‘I also felt that there is a strong need for a chancellor who can address student needs.’
Although representatives of UCI form a minority on the committee and Dynes will ultimately decide which candidate to recommend to the Board of Regents, UC Office of the President Spokesman Paul Schwartz said that Dynes will make his decisions with the interests of UCI in mind.
‘President Dynes does decide who he wants to bring forward in a recommendation to the board … but [Dynes’ choice] is informed by a lot of people,’ Schwartz said.
Cicerone believes that if the UCI committee members are all on the same page, they could have a significant influence on the candidates that are chosen.
‘If the UCI people disagree a lot with that concept [of what they want in a chancellor], then obviously their influence will be diluted,’ Cicerone said. ‘But if the UCI contingent has more or less the same concept on what is important on campus and what to emphasize … I think [they] have a tremendous possibility of influencing [the selection].’
Last year, Dynes recommended to the Regents his candidates for the chancellors of UC Berkeley, UC San Diego and UC Santa Cruz. UC Berkeley chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau is a physicist, UCSD chancellor Mayre Anne Fox is a chemist and UCSC chancellor Denice Dee Denton is an engineer. Although they are all scientists, Schwartz dismissed the idea that Dynes is favoring any type of candidate.
‘I wouldn’t read anything into that,’ Schwartz said. ‘The goal is to choose the best qualified person that is available to us and best suits the position. Whether that person is a historian, social scientist, engineer or a physicist, remains to be seen.’
Cicerone agreed with Schwartz.
‘There certainly has been a pattern, but I don’t think that leads to any prediction for UCI,’ Cicerone said. ‘In all of the discussions I’ve heard, there hasn’t been a preference. President Dynes has never expressed that kind of preference. I think it just happened.’
Although whoever is chosen will begin the job once Cicerone leaves in July, Cicerone believes the new chancellor will not have a hard time transitioning.
‘[The adjustment period] depends on whether the person is already on the UCI campus or has UC experience in general or whether they’re coming from a private university,’ Cicerone said. ‘I think it will be quick. … But there are differences and special things here that person is going to have to get attuned to quickly. They’ll be up to speed within a couple of months.’
With only a few months remaining as chancellor before he moves to Washington, D.C., Cicerone still has a few ambitious goals he wants to achieve at UCI. In addition to having another successful commencement in June and gathering more support for the creation of a law school, Cicerone pointed to his first priority.
‘I want the new hospital fundraising to be closer to our goal [of $50 million] by the time I leave. That’s my number-one issue,’ Cicerone said. ‘The hospital has such enormous value to our teaching and research in the College of Medicine. It will also make a big difference for the people who live around there.’