Nov. 15, 2012 by Cynthia Rockwell
Nicholas Dirks ’72, a College of Social Studies major, and currently Columbia University’s executive vice president and dean of the faculty of Arts and Sciences, was selected as University of California Berkeley’s 10th chancellor, pending a vote on the terms by the U.C. Board of Regents in late November.
Currently Dirks is the Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and History at Columbia. He is the author of three books on India, including The Scandal of Empire: India and the Creation of Imperial Britain (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2006). His 2001 book, Castes of Mind, published by Princeton University Press, was honored with Columbia’s Lionel Trilling Award for Best Book in 2002.
Dirks was selected as the top candidate at U.C. Berkeley, after a six-month screening and interview process involving university faculty, students, staff, regents and others.
The U.C. Board of Regents will vote on terms of the appointment at a special meeting in late November. Dirks would begin June 1, succeeding Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau.
In a U.C. Berkley press release, University of California President Mark Yudof said, “Nicholas Dirks is a highly accomplished leader with the sensibilities and knowledge of a humanist, as well as extensive fundraising, academic and administrative expertise.” He added, “I’m confident he will be a great fit for U.C. Berkeley. His global perspective, leadership of diversity efforts at Columbia and experience with both public and private universities will serve him and the campus well.”
Dirks called the appointment “an opportunity I embrace with both excitement and humility.” He has been executive vice president for Arts and Sciences at Columbia since 2004, overseeing Columbia College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the School of International and Public Affairs, the School of the Arts, the School of General Studies and the School of Continuing Education. Additionally, he led a major diversity initiative for the Arts and Sciences, as well as supporting and expanding programs in international, ethnic, African-American and gender studies.
On his appointment to U.C. Berkeley, Dirks says, “I have immense respect for the countless accomplishments of faculty, students and staff at what I consider to be the premier public research university in the world. I look forward to becoming part of the U.C. community and to contributing all that I can to the further evolution of a campus that is a beacon of excellence, innovation and aspiration for California, the nation and the world.”
Before going to Columbia in 1997, Dirks taught history and anthropology at the University of Michigan, where he co-founded the interdepartmental Ph.D. Program in Anthropology and History and directed the Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies. Prior to that, he had taught Asian history at the California Institute of Technology.
At Wesleyan, he pursued African and Asian studies. He earned master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Chicago in the Department of History, focusing on South Asian history.
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