|Janet Napolitano assumes the post of UC president today.|
The University of California today welcomed Janet Napolitano, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and twice-elected governor of Arizona, as its 20th president.
Napolitano, 55, is an accomplished public-sector leader with a long-standing interest in education. She is the first woman to hold the post of president in UC's 145-year history.
In a note to students, faculty and staff across the 10-campus system, Napolitano said she was both excited and humbled by her new role.
"It is my intent, beginning today, to serve as the strongest advocate possible for the University of California, ready to stand up at every opportunity on its behalf, in any venue that will have me," Napolitano wrote. "Together, let us strive not only to maintain UC's position as the world's premier public university, but also to push the University forward to ever new heights. The University of California, and California itself, expect and deserve nothing less from all of us."
In addition to her experience leading large, complex organizations, Napolitano's career has been marked by several firsts: She was the first female valedictorian at Santa Clara University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in political science; the first female attorney general of Arizona; and, during her two terms as Arizona governor, the first woman to chair the National Governors Association.
As chair of the Governors Association, she launched "Innovation America," an initiative to align K-12 and higher education curricula to better prepare students for a global economy and strengthen the nation's competitiveness by improving its capacity to innovate.
At the Department of Homeland Security, she supported cutting-edge research and development, investing more than $2.2 billion in state-of-the-art solutions at national labs and universities across the country to protect people and critical infrastructure. She also strengthened Homeland Security's outreach efforts to academic institutions by establishing the Office of Academic Engagement.
"I bring many things with me to California, beginning with an unshakeable belief in the transformative power of education," Napolitano said in her note to the UC community. "I also bring a deep appreciation for the greatness of this university, and for what that has meant, and will mean, for the past, present, and future of the state, the nation, and the world."
The UC Board of Regents appointed Napolitano in July following an extensive search in which she emerged as the unanimous choice from a field of more than 300 prospective candidates. She succeeds Mark G. Yudof as UC president.