The interim executive vice-chancellor and provost of the University of California, Berkeley has been named the institution’s next chancellor.
Carol Christ was selected as the university’s next leader by the University of California president Janet Napolitano. She will be the first woman to serve in the role from 1 July if the university’s board approves the decision at a vote on 16 March.
Nicholas Dirks announced in August that he would step down as chancellor of the university once a successor was in place following criticism of his handling of the institution’s budget and of sexual harassment cases involving high-profile academics.
Professor Christ, a scholar in Victorian literature, first worked at Berkeley as an assistant professor in 1970, at a time when only 3 per cent of the faculty were women.
Since then she has held a number of senior roles at the institution including chair of the English department, dean of humanities and provost and dean of the College of Letters and Science.
She left Berkeley in 2002 to become president of liberal arts institution Smith College but returned to the Californian university in 2015 as director of the campus’s Center for Studies in Higher Education.
In May 2016, she took up the role of executive vice-chancellor and provost on an interim basis.
Professor Christ said she felt "honoured and privileged to lead the campus at this challenging time”.
“It is a small way to give back for everything the university has given me," she said. "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'.”
Ms 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.”
Last month, US president Donald Trump appeared to suggest that he could take away Berkeley's federal funding in a tweet sent hours after the university cancelled a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, technology editor of the right-wing news website Breitbart.