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Columbia University administrator chosen to head UC Berkeley

November 8, 2012 | 11:24 am

Photo: Incoming UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks. Credit: Eileen Barroso / Columbia University
Nicholas B. Dirks, a high-ranking Columbia University administrator and an expert on the history and culture of India, has been chosen to be the next chancellor of UC Berkeley, officials announced Thursday.

Dirks, who is Columbia's executive vice president and dean of the faculty for Arts and Sciences at that New York campus, is expected to become the head of UC Berkeley on June 1, succeeding Robert J. Birgeneau in one of the most prominent posts in American higher education. The 36,000-student UC campus often ranks as the best public university in the nation by various measures.

“Nicholas Dirks is a highly accomplished leader with the sensibilities and knowledge of a humanist, as well as extensive fundraising, academic and administrative expertise,” UC system President Mark G. Yudof said in an announcement. “I’m confident he will be a great fit for UC Berkeley.”

Dirks, 61, who is a professor of anthropology and history and the author of three books on India, earned his bachelor’s degree at Wesleyan University and a history doctorate from the University of Chicago. He taught at Caltech and the University of Michigan before moving to Columbia. He has family connections to UC: his late father, J. Edward Dirks, served as the vice chancellor and dean for humanities at UC Santa Cruz in the 1970s.

The UC Board of Regents is expected to vote on his salary and other employment terms at a special meeting in late November. His proposed salary was not publicly released pending negotiations. Birgeneau’s salary was $436,800 a year and Dirks is expected to be paid at least that.

Birgeneau, who is 70, led the prestigious campus since 2004 through a mixed period involving state budget cuts, Nobel Prizes and campus protests. He announced in March that he would step down Dec. 31 but now has agreed to stay on until June to accommodate Dirks’ schedule.


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Photo: Incoming UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks. Credit: Eileen Barroso /
Columbia University