Ever since news broke last June confirming that Chancellor Ralph Cicerone would leave the University of California, Irvine at the end of the 2004-2005 academic year, the UC Irvine community has speculated on who would replace him and become UCI’s fifth chancellor.
After an 11-month wait, UCI found out last week who its new chancellor will be: former UCSF professor and administrator and current UC Vice President for Health Affairs Dr. Michael V. Drake.
UC President Robert Dynes nominated Drake for the position following a nationwide search that began in February and was led by a committee consisting of UC administrators and UCI faculty, students and staff. The UC Board of Regents approved Drake’s nomination on May 26 at a meeting in San Francisco.
‘I’m obviously really pleased,’ Dynes said in a press conference after the Regents’ approval. ‘He has all the tools that I think are necessary to be a chancellor. He has them all, but he doesn’t know it yet.’
Drake, 54, will assume his post on July 1 when Cicerone departs to begin his new job as president of the National Academy of Sciences. He will be only the second African-American ever to be appointed chancellor in the UC system.
Although the official search for a new chancellor began three months ago, Drake did not know until more recently that he was among the over 600 candidates considered for this position.
‘Six weeks ago, if I were to write down a list of things I was going to do for the summer, this wouldn’t have been on the list,’ Drake said. ‘It really was a surprise.’
UCI affiliates were introduced to Drake in an impromptu welcoming event in Aldrich Park on May 27. Cicerone welcomed Drake and his wife to the campus, telling them ‘I think both of you have had interesting lives, but you’ve seen nothing yet.’
Drake’s first remarks explained his decision to become chancellor.
‘I’ve had a chance to work at all the campuses,’ Drake told the audience of approximately 200. ‘I’ve made a couple of dozen trips to Irvine. … The growth at this campus has been phenomenal, and the quality has improved at the same time.’
Drake has served in his current position as a UC system-wide administrator since 2000. Prior to that he rose through the ranks of UCSF, beginning with enrollment in medical school there in the 70s. He then became a professor of ophthalmology, specializing in glaucoma, and also served in various other roles as a student affairs administrator and as senior associate dean of admissions.
However, Gabriel Ayass, a fourth-year political science major and ASUCI president who represented UCI students on the chancellor’s search committee, believes Drake’s previous experience may leave him without enough exposure to effectively work with students.
‘The only problem is that he doesn’t have much experience in dealing with undergraduates, which is a concern for me,’ Ayass said.
Drake addressed that concern as he spoke with enthusiasm about coming to UCI and working with students, faculty and staff. He also expressed fond memories of working as the dean of admissions at UCSF and meeting college seniors applying to UCSF.
‘Students are our primary focus; that’s why we’re here,’ Drake said. ‘I’ve always enjoyed my interactions with students. … I’m probably most excited about the opportunity to return to an undergraduate campus.’
The chancellor-designate ex-plained that, in his view, two ideas described his previous leadership experiences.
‘Two things that perhaps characterize my past, as I look back on it, would be inclusiveness [and] excellence,’ Drake said. ‘It’s really important for us to be the best that we can be, and it’s really important to include as many people as possible.’
At the press conference held after the welcoming event, Drake detailed his views on diversity and admissions at UCI.
‘Diversity is complicated; you can’t start at undergraduate admissions and fix the issue of diversity in the hope of addressing something that is a ubiquitous problem throughout American society,’ Drake said. ‘One of the things that we will continue to do is to work with other educational institutions … to help develop people who are interested in, and qualified and excited about, education.’
Drake also discussed his long-term vision for greater integration of the campus with local businesses.
‘I would like the campus to be the employer of choice for people in the community. … I would like the community around the university [to think] of our graduates as the ideal employees,’ Drake said. ‘So if our graduates can be employees of choice, I think we will have done our job.’
Drake also suggested that he would lobby for the UCs in the wake of recent budget cuts and reduced state funding for the university.
‘There’s no better place we can send our money than to the places that will develop leaders for the coming generations,’ Drake said. ‘I will continue to say … to our state legislature and others that this is really the place for California to invest in its present, and more importantly, in the future.’
Drake ended his speech in Aldrich Park by reciting a poem he found in a statement of purpose he read while working in UCSF’s admissions office.
”I slept and dreamt of joy / I woke to find a life of service / I lived my life to learn / That service is joy,” Drake recited, then adding, ‘And I look forward to the joy of service with all of you.’