Dorothy Leland is the third chancellor of the University of California, Merced. She was appointed to her position by the UC Board of Regents on May 18, 2011, and began her term on July 1. An accomplished institution builder and educator, Leland was tapped to lead the next major phase of development for the newest UC campus, which opened in September 2005.
Leland has excelled in the field of higher education over a career spanning more than 30 years. For most of those years, she held faculty or senior administrative positions at two of the nation’s leading public research universities, Purdue University and Florida Atlantic University. She is a strong proponent of the University of California research mission and expects to make it a top priority at UC Merced throughout her tenure as chancellor. In addition, she has launched several initiatives to sharpen the university’s strategic academic focus, expand graduate programs and re-imagine the campus’s physical development to ensure optimal use of the physical and financial resources.
Prior to joining UC Merced, Leland served for seven years as the 10th president of Georgia College & State University (Milledgeville, Georgia). In that capacity, she launched a set of strategic initiatives that greatly enhanced the academic reputation and the physical facilities of the 6,700-student liberal arts college. In addition, she oversaw significant improvements in academic competitiveness, student success and federal funding for research and sponsored projects, and she also strengthened relations with the surrounding community through a series of education and economic initiatives.
As a result, Georgia College is now recognized as one of the top public colleges in the country, earning a spot on Kiplinger's Top 100 Public Colleges and a citation in US News & World Report’s annual college issue as one of a handful of public universities "with a strong commitment to teaching."
Leland grew up in the rural Southern California community of Fillmore. She attended Purdue University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1971, a Master of Arts in American studies in 1973 and a doctoral degree in philosophy in 1979.
She began her university career as a visiting professor at California State University, Northridge (1977-81). She held similar positions at the University of California, Santa Cruz (1981-82) and California State University, Chico (1982-83).
She returned to Purdue University in 1983 as assistant professor of philosophy and, a year later, was named co-director of the doctoral program in English and philosophy.
In 1993, she was named the first full-time director of the Women’s Resource Office. In addition, she co-directed a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute on the "Linguistic Turn in Continental Philosophy" and led significant initiatives in the human relations area.
Leland's work at Purdue won her awards for excellence in teaching, and she was tenured and promoted to the rank of associate professor of philosophy.
In 1995, Leland joined Florida Atlantic University as associate professor of philosophy and director of the Women’s Studies Center. She later served as chief planning officer and associate provost for the university before becoming vice president and chief administrative officer of the institution's 17,000-student Boca Raton campus.
During her eight-year stay at Florida Atlantic, she was promoted to professor of philosophy and received the President's Leadership Award for outstanding contributions to the university. She left at the end of 2003 to become president of Georgia College.
Leland once served on the Board of Directors for both the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA, and was a member of the NCAA’s Division II President’s Council, president of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges and a recent past president of the Southern University Conference.
Among the many honors and awards she has received during her career are a "Distinguished Alumna" award from Purdue University and the 2006 Governor’s Award (Georgia) for Excellence in Historic Preservation for her comprehensive approach to the adaptive re-use and rehabilitation of historic buildings on the Georgia College campus. She was recognized as one of the "100 Most Influential Georgians" and one of four Georgia "Power Women" by Georgia Trend Magazine.