After a ten-month search, the UC Board of Regents unanimously elected Michael V. Drake as the 21st President of the University of California (UC). Expected to take office on Aug. 1, Drake will be the first Black president in the 152 years of UC’s history.
Drake has served in UC for three decades as the UC vice president for health affairs from 2000 to 2005, chancellor of UC Irvine from 2005 to 2014, and president of Ohio State University from 2014 until the beginning of July.
Drake will succeed UC President Janet Napolitano, the first female President in UC’s history. Drake’s base salary is set at $890,000, an increase from Napolitano’s $570,000.
In a press release announcing the presidency, UC Board of Regents Chair John A. Pérez said he is optimistic about Drake’s leadership.
“Dr. Drake personifies the qualities we looked for in selecting a new president: He is committed to seeing the whole student and to supporting all our students. He recognizes the incalculable value of faculty and staff to the University’s mission, and he understands the importance of the public and private partnerships that help us achieve that mission,” said Pérez.
In a live-streamed conversation last Friday, Drake discussed his vision of UC with Pérez.
Drake stressed the importance of humanities in education despite his large focus on STEM and medicine in his academic career. Being a doctor, he said medical science was interesting, but it was still in the service of the people.
“I think we have almost a sacred trust to protect the humanities and social sciences. The ‘who we are’ is really important in our scholarly work,” he added.
In an anecdote, Drake talked about how he views his leadership role.
When Drake became the vice president for health affairs, a colleague told him that he would now serve the Board of Regents, although Drake disagreed.
“I thought my boss has always been the same person, and that’s somebody I don’t know,” said Drake. “And if my work is done correctly, I’ll help circumstances be such that his life and his family’s lives will be elevated and can move forward.”
Drake also plans to run UC with lessons from his past leadership.
Drake said he would like to continue his work on climate change from when he served on the University Climate Change Coalition (UC3), an effort he previously collaborated on with Napolitano.
“As a globe, as a nation, it’s really critically important that we work to reverse the climate change that we’ve seen changing the ecosystem right before our eyes, and the university is meant to be a leader,” said Drake.
Drake told the Los Angeles Times that he might consider addressing the UC’s budget shortfall with tuition raise for each incoming class and lock it in for four years. Part of the tuition increase then goes back to students in need through financial aid.
The method was previously implemented in Ohio State, which Drake claimed to result in a lower debt load on students and decrease the number of graduates with no debt at all.
Drake ended the talk by saying it was a privilege to be a part of the UC, and his experience at the institution has been impactful for him and the lives of millions of alumni.
“This is the most impactful public research university in the world. It’s the model for public research university systems in the world,” said Drake. “We’ve had an incredible impact on California, the United States, and the world. And we are in a position to continue to do that as we move forward.”