In a surprising turn of events today, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has been announced as the next president of the University of California. Though Napolitano has no previous experience in academic management, the former governor of Arizona has spent seven years supervising the 240,000 employees that make up the Department of Homeland Security, while working closely with the Obama administration on immigration reform. As the University of California’s twentieth president, Napolitano will be the first female in the university’s 145-year history.
“Secretary Napolitano is without a doubt the right person at the right time to lead this incredible University,” said UC regent Sherry Lansing in a statement released Friday. “She will stand as a vigorous advocate for faculty, students and staff at a time when great changes in our state, and across the globe, are presenting as many opportunities as challenges.”
Indeed, Napolitano’s nomination comes at a time of crisis for the UC system, which has faced dramatic budget loss and tuition fee increases over the last few years.
Board of Regents Chair Bruce Varner, who also served as part of the search committee, feels Napolitano “has the intellectual curiosity, leadership qualities, personal charm and discipline needed to navigate any future challenges that await this university.”
The board will vote to approve her nomination on July 18 with current UC President Mark Yudof expected to step down in August.
We’ll continue posting updates and reactions from campus staff as they come in.
Here’s Napolitano’s official statement:
“For more than four years I have had the privilege of serving President Obama and his Administration as the Secretary of Homeland Security. The opportunity to work with the dedicated men and women of the Department of Homeland Security, who serve on the frontlines of our nation’s efforts to protect our communities and families from harm, has been the highlight of my professional career. We have worked together to minimize threats of all kinds to the American public. The Department has improved the safety of travelers; implemented smart steps that make our immigration system more fair and focused while deploying record resources to protect our nation’s borders; worked with states to build resiliency and make our nation’s emergency and disaster response capabilities more robust; and partnered with the private sector to improve our cybersecurity. After four plus years of focusing on these challenges, I will be nominated as the next President of the University of California to play a role in educating our nation’s next generation of leaders. I thank President Obama for the chance to serve our nation during this important chapter in our history, and I know the Department of Homeland Security will continue to perform its important duties with the honor and focus that the American public expects.”