Exit Interview with Chancellor Fox

    Guardian: So, first of all, congratulations on a phenomenal tenure.

    Chancellor Marye Anne Fox: Thank you and I’m glad to hear that you feel that way about it.

    G: Well I’m a first-year, so from what I’ve seen it’s been pretty good (Fox laughs). So you’ve been chancellor for the better part of a decade, what were the biggest issues that you faced when you first came here?

    F: Well I think the biggest issue any new chancellor will face is maintaining the quality and reputation and enhancing it for the faculty and the students of this institution, and it becomes particularly difficult to do that when we don’t have enough money for operations or for financial aid for students. So far we’ve been able to put together packages that make some sense. But we hope that we can continue to do so. As you know, things are getting tighter and tighter. You probably see it in class size and in availability of courses.

    G: Do you anticipate that the same kind of challenges will continue for the next chancellor?

    F: Yeah, certainly. I think the major issue for the next chancellor is how to maximize efficiency and minimize costs for the operation so that we can keep tuition as low as we possibly can.

    G: Is there an easy way to accomplish that?

    F: There is no easy way to accomplish it; you know we’re operating near the bone already, because we’ve had successive cuts for three years running and if the ballot initiative doesn’t pass in November there’s likelier to be a further diminishment of what we have.

    G: On a broader note, what do you think is your biggest accomplishment that you’ve had as chancellor at UC San Diego?

    F: Well I think that the construction program we’ve had provides the means by which we can compete for the very best. So in other words, if you’re a world-renowned scientist or physician, we have now the physical resources to recruit them in and give them a laboratory, give them a space to do their work. If you’re an undergraduate, then you probably can’t imagine life without the Price Center and we were somehow stuck living without it for a while and I think that’s had an impact on how students can relate to each other and to their faculty.

    G: I think I read somewhere that you’re returning to teaching after this?

    F: I’m on administrative leave for one year. What that means is: That’s what every chancellor gets. It’s supposed to be a year to retool intellectually, and then to decide what kind of tasks you’ll take on for the university. So on the one hand I might teach organic chemistry — it would be the 37th time I’ve taught chemistry if I do that — but I’m even more impassioned about the challenge posed by science and math education in schools in the United States. We’re getting students, even a few of them at UCSD, who aren’t adequately prepared in terms of science and math skills so I’m going to work with some foundations, put together some funding for a proposal of that sort. We’ll work with the Cal Teach program. We’ll work with some of the undergraduate instructors to make quality teaching, particularly in science and math and in engineering, become the norm as opposed to the exception and I think it is the norm on this campus. I think teaching is taken pretty seriously by most of our faculty.

    G: So is that all for further down the road or is that for next year?

    F: Well, next year what I’m going to do is try to determine which is a more productive route. In other words, if I can find external funding for the projects that we will do or bring together people who share that common interest so education studies, for example, the interactions we have with the Preuss School you know we’ll see. What advances we can make and whether I spend my life that way if that’ll make a difference or not. If not, I’ll take up more advanced courses, probably graduate classes and teach organic [chemistry]— the grad classes are easier.

    G: What will you miss most about being chancellor?

    F: The fact that I have access to students every day of my life, people who are well motivated and interesting to be with. You can’t do without great students. And that’s one thing we have here is great students. Almost equally at least, we have great faculty as well.

    G: What is the most important thing that Chancellor-Designate Khosla should know before he takes office in the fall?

    F: He’s coming from one of the world’s best universities in his discipline so he is a scholar in his own right so he should anticipate being challenged by the strong students and strong faculty that we have here. We have a strong form of shared governance; the faculty helps the university analyze decisions before decisions are made. And they make decisions on their own for example the procedures for admission, and what degrees are going to be offered and what options there are, electives… be prepared to have terrific colleagues and students and provide them with an environment where they can simply thrive.

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