A Whirlwind First Two Days for New UCR Chancellor Kim Wilcox

UC Riverside's leader meets with students, staff and faculty and tours campus facilities

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — The four weeks between the announcement of Kim Wilcox’s appointment as the ninth chancellor of the University of California, Riverside and his arrival on campus went by in a blur. He was announced as the chancellor-nominee in late July, was appointed as chancellor-designate on August 8th during a special meeting of the UC Regents, and then started work just 11 days later, on August 19.

So it should come as no surprise to anyone that Wilcox’s first 48 hours as chancellor were a whirlwind as well, as he crisscrossed the campus to take tours of academic and research facilities and meet with students, staff and faculty.

Wilcox said that his excitement of seeing much of the campus for the first time reminded him a bit of Christmas morning.

“You are opening a package that you have never seen before, but you expect good things,” he said. “That is what this has been like. I hadn’t seen much of the campus physically, but I knew about the university and I expected good things. And every time I pulled another ribbon off of a package, I found a good thing.”

eating at table

Chancellor Kim Wilcox shares lunch with UCR students Allison Chan and Greg Chambers in the Highlander Union Building on his first full day on campus. Photo by Carlos Puma

Wilcox started his tour on Monday morning, touring the Student Services Building and Highlander One Stop Shop with Associate Vice Chancellor Enrollment LaRae Lundgren and Vice Chancellor Student Affairs James Sandoval. He later toured through Costo Hall and the Highlander Union Building (HUB), where he had lunch with some students. Finally, he visited the Genomics Building and Keen Hall to tour labs and meet with College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences faculty and administrators, including Dean Marylynn Yates and Distinguished Professor of Plant Cell Biology and Director of the Institute for Integrative Genome Biology Natasha Raikhel.

After his first day, Wilcox reflected upon what he had seen.

“The HUB, the Student Services Building and the Highlander One Stop Shop are emblematic of the priority that we put on undergraduate students and their success,” he said. “I had a chance to see some of our great infrastructure investments, but also a chance to appreciate that we have work to do to provide both the physical support systems, libraries and equipment and the technical expertise in terms of staff, to make this the kind of world class university that it aspires to be.”

“It has just been one rewarding reassurance after another about the University of California, Riverside,” he added.

On Tuesday he was out and about again, visiting the Bourns College of Engineering, participating in a meeting with BCOE faculty and administrators and members of the Siemens Corporation, then taking a tour of the facilities of the College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT).

Wilcox said that the meeting allowed him to share his vision and be introduced into the world of university and corporate relations. “It was a chance to think about how the private sector and the university can think creatively about the future,” he said.

Associate Chancellor Cindy Giorgio, who has been at Wilcox’s side for most of the tours, said that while the first two days were hectic, they were rewarding for both the new chancellor and herself.

“Chancellor Wilcox has wanted to get out and see things. He’s gotten a glimpse of things related to students, faculty research, the way the campus functions,” she said. “It has been a neat opportunity for me to see those things as well through a new pair of eyes.”

Giorgio said there is strategy involved in introducing a new chancellor to a campus.

“It is a matter of finding the right balance. You want him to have a strong knowledge of the campus, of how it works, but you also want to get him out there quickly to meet with different groups of people because everyone wants to meet the ‘new guy,’” she said. “Luckily he is a quick study so we can move pretty fast.”

She added that Wilcox’s schedule is booked through the end of 2013.

“There will be some full days, maybe not quite as much fun as the first two days,” Wilcox said, smiling.

He said that one of the highlights of his first week on campus has been the opportunity to speak to UCR’s students.

“Every single student that my wife, Diane, and I have met has been really impressive. So that has been reassuring about the state of the university as well as the state and the nation,” he said.

One student even surprised him with a request.

“She asked to have her picture taken with me because getting a picture with the chancellor was on her ‘bucket list,’” he said with a laugh. “I’ve never been on someone’s bucket list before.”

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