Former Smith president Carol T. Christ named chancellor of University of California at Berkeley

Tyra Wu ‘19Associate Editor

Carol T. Christ, Smith College President from 2002 to 2013 was selected as the first woman chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley, beginning on July 11. The UC Board of Regents voted unanimously to approve Christ’s nomination and welcomed her with a standing ovation.

"Berkeley transformed me and it transformed my understanding of education," Christ told the Regents meeting, saying she was deeply honored "to lead Berkeley at this critical moment in its history."

Christ started at Berkeley as an assistant professor in 1970. She later served as chair of the English department, dean of humanities and provost and dean of the College of Letters and Sciences. Christ was the highest-ranking female administrator at Berkeley until she returned to full-time teaching in 2000.

After being named the vice chancellor and provost, Christ eventually returned to Smith College in 2002. Her tenure at Smith was known for its energetic outreach and innovative approach to issues of financial stability and academic excellence. Christ particularly encouraged developing coursework that emphasized fluency in American cultures and the diverse experiences of American ethnic groups. During her time at Smith, a number of major building projects were finished, including the Campus Center, the Olin Fitness Center and Conway House.

Christ studied Victorian literature and graduated with honors from Douglass, the women’s college at Rutgers University. She received her Ph.D. from Yale University.

“I am delighted that Carol Christ has agreed to lead Berkeley at this pivotal time in the campus’s storied history,” UC President Janet Napolitano said. “From among the many highly qualified candidates for the position, Carol’s exceptional leadership and strategic planning skills, her deep commitment to the university’s core values, her many academic and professional accomplishments, as well as her deep knowledge of, and affection for, UC Berkeley stood out.”

Christ will replace Nicholas Dirks who resigned in August after critics argued that he was too lenient in addressing sexual harassment cases involving faculty. She has addressed impending financial challenges at a time of decreased public funding, saying that her goal is "to reimagine our financial model while always staying true to our public mission."

Christ will be responsible for the campus’s day-to-day operations and finances. She will also be in charge of the development of infrastructure, overseeing faculty recruitment and the quality of education provided to UC Berkeley’s 27,000 undergraduate students and 10,000 graduate students.

“I feel honored and privileged to lead the campus at this challenging time,” Christ said. “It is a small way to give back for everything the university has given me. My experience at Berkeley has been transformational; it formed my ideas of higher education, and it formed my ideals of higher education. I look forward to working with Berkeley’s many communities in the months and years ahead in a way true to UC’s motto, ‘Fiat lux’ — ‘Let there be light.’”