Leadership & Governance

U. of California at Berkeley and Yale U. Tap New Leaders

Yale U.

Peter Salovey
November 08, 2012

The top jobs at two major research institutions were filled on Thursday, when the University of California at Berkeley named a new chancellor and Yale University picked a new president.

Nicholas B. Dirks, Columbia University's executive vice president and dean of the faculty of arts and sciences, will take the helm at Berkeley on June 1. Peter Salovey, Yale's provost and a professor of psychology, will assume the university's presidency on June 30.

Mr. Dirks is a professor of anthropology and history whose major scholarly works have focused on India's colonial experience under Britain. He is a member of a the Council on Foreign Relations.

He will succeed Robert J. Birgeneau, a Canadian-born physicist who became Berkeley's chancellor in 2004.

Mr. Dirks comes to Berkeley from a private institution, but he was a professor at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor before he joined Columbia's faculty, in 1997.

Mr. Salovey succeeds Richard C. Levin, who has served as Yale's president for 20 years and joined the faculty there in 1974.

With the selection of Mr. Salovey, Yale has once again turned to a longtime insider for a president. Mr. Salovey's ties to Yale go back to 1981, when he entered a master's-degree program in psychology. He went on to earn three degrees in psychology, including his Ph.D., from Yale.

"Peter brings a profound understanding of Yale, and great ambitions for advancing the university in the years ahead," Edward P. Bass, a senior fellow at the Yale Corporation, the university's governing board, said in a news release.

Judith A. Chevalier, a member of the presidential-search committee, said the selection of a veteran Yale professor and administrator should not be interpreted as a vote for "stasis."

"We have had many discussions with many people on the topic of what are the big changes in higher education and where does Yale want to position itself as higher education changes," said Ms. Chevalier, a professor of finance and economics at the Yale School of Management. "And I definitely don't think you can hire a person thinking what you want is more of the same."

"You need a president who is willing to grapple with the next 10 years looking very different than the past 20," she said.

Yale and Berkeley wrapped up their presidential searches at a time when several high-profile positions are opening up.

A presidential search is under way at Dartmouth College, and Shirley M. Tilghman announced in September that she would step down as president of Princeton University at the end of the academic year.

Berkeley's decision comes eight months after Mr. Birgeneau announced his intention to retire, and Yale's entire process took less than three months.

"This is a very competitive environment," Ms. Chevalier said, "and that certainly fed into our decision to be very efficient."