Chancellor’s Update – November 2020

November 25, 2020
Kim A. Wilcox
November 25, 2020

Dear Campus Community:

Like many holidays, Thanksgiving has a complicated history. Its existence suggests we pause, enjoy a meal with friends or family, and make a gratitude list—three behaviors routinely lauded by mental health experts for contributing to wellbeing. However, the storytelling and imagery about Pilgrims and American Indians is a lopsided narrative designed to distract from the trauma imposed on Indigenous people. Now, we add the challenges of a worsening pandemic to the mix. How do we approach this complex buffet?

Cautiously. As COVID cases rise again in California and reach crisis points throughout much of the country, we hope you will take seriously public health guidance or orders. If you work on campus regularly or occasionally and decide to travel, please be aware of the new procedures for sequester and testing.

“Public History as Practice”
This month Dr. Anthea Hartig, the Elizabeth MacMillan Director at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, presented the Chancellor’s Distinguished Lecture in a talk titled, “Public History as Practice.” Among the items she included in a collection of favorite things from the museum was artist Ed Drew’s tintype photography which she said, “challenges our preconceived notions of Native Americans and others.” She also referenced areas within the  “Girlhood (It’s complicated)” exhibit (found at the museum and online) that show photos from  American Indian boarding schools, recalling what she learned about these schools while studying at UC Riverside. In recognition of Native American Heritage Month in November, I hope you will take some time to learn more about our country’s Indigenous people. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian offers a variety of online exhibits. You can also read about UCR’s development of the Cahuilla language series.  

Provost appointment announced
Yesterday, I announced the appointment of Dr. Elizabeth Watkins as UCR’s next provost and executive vice chancellor. Dr. Watkins will join UCR on May 1, 2021 from UC San Francisco where she has served as dean of the graduate division, vice chancellor of student affairs, and professor of history of health sciences. As vice chancellor at UC San Francisco, Dr. Watkins oversees all student affairs functions, enrollment and financial aid, institutional research, education technology services, and the international students and scholars office. As graduate dean, her office supports 19 PhD programs, eight master’s programs, and 1,100 postdoctoral scholars. She is involved in seeking external funding for student support through individual philanthropy and competitively awarded grants and has worked to build the student body and postdoc population with an emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion. We look forward to welcoming Dr. Watkins to UCR.

To everyone who served as a member of the search committee or provided feedback, thank you for your participation in this important process. I am also grateful to Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Tom Smith whose leadership and service have supported us through a challenging period. He will continue in the role until Dr. Watkins begins.

Student Success Center
For months I have been watching the live feed of the Student Success Center construction and now, the final beam is in place. We recently celebrated the “topping out” with a video to show our progress. We look forward to completion and a chance to celebrate its opening when we have moved beyond the pandemic. Thank you to Planning, Design, & Construction and our dedicated construction crews who are helping us build capacity.

Budget adjustments and curtailment
Even as we grow, we face the difficult challenge of budget cuts. As I mentioned in a recent video message to campus, schools and departments are now doing the hard work of making strategic decisions. More detail is available in a written message and on the Budget Advisory Committee website

This week UCOP President Michael Drake announced the approval of a systemwide curtailment program as part of the efforts to address pandemic-related economic impacts. In his message, President Drake emphasized the desire to preserve jobs and avoid COVID-related layoffs to the extent possible. All campuses will utilize a common baseline, but each has discretion to implement the program in a way fitting its operational and budgetary needs.  At UCR, we are beginning the consultation process and intend to announce plans for additional curtailment days in January 2021.

Giving Tuesday is December 1
On Tuesday, December 1st, we invite you to join UCR in celebrating the international day of giving, Giving Tuesday! For 24 hours, alumni, parents, and friends will come together to support worthy UCR causes. If you’re in a place to help, visit to see if there is a campaign that you’d like to support. There will also be mini-challenges that will help build funds like the Employee Emergency Fund—keep an eye out for those challenges for your chance to double the impact of your gift.

The word “thank” derives from a Germanic noun meaning “to think.” Thanking, then, was originally intended as the act of thinking about something or someone fondly. As we head toward Thanksgiving, I am thinking of each of you. We are continuing to step through a difficult time together. As news of possible vaccines provides hope, I recognize that we are still navigating a tough road. Thank you for your resiliency, thoughtfulness, and efforts. Please enjoy a safe weekend knowing I am grateful for you.