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New Provost and EVC at UC Merced

August 15, 2012

Dear UC Merced Colleagues:

Following an extensive nationwide search, I am delighted to announce the appointment of Thomas W. Peterson, assistant director of the Engineering Directorate at the National Science Foundation and former dean of the University of Arizona College of Engineering, to the position of provost and executive vice chancellor for UC Merced.

Dr. Peterson will join us officially on Dec. 3, though we hope to have him on campus several times before then.

Sam Traina will continue to hold the position on an interim basis until that time.

Dr. Peterson's long and distinguished career in higher education and with NSF makes him exceptionally well suited to the vital role he’ll assume at our rapidly growing campus. He served for 32 years as an engineering faculty member, department head and dean at the University of Arizona before assuming his current position at NSF, a $7 billion agency providing critical support to the nation’s engineering research and education capabilities, in January 2009.

As assistant director of NSF’s Engineering Directorate, he leads an organization that provides support for frontier research, enhances technological innovation and integrates those activities with the education of young engineers. He has been particularly interested in integrating research and education investments, and in recognizing and supporting interdisciplinary research contributing to the solution of grand challenge problems. He also served as NSF’s acting chief operating officer from June to October 2010.

In his new role at UC Merced, Dr. Peterson will serve as chief academic officer with principal responsibility for the planning, development, implementation, assessment and improvement of all academic programs, policies and supporting infrastructure, including facilities and information technology.

He will ensure academic excellence through effective faculty recruitment, retention and renewal processes as well as rigorous review of faculty appointments, tenure and promotion. The provost is also responsible for planning, quality and delivery of student education, working in close consultation and collaboration with the UC Merced academic senate division.

In addition, Dr. Peterson will oversee the overall budgeting and planning function and work closely with the campus community to forge a clear and compelling academic vision and plan for our future.

Dr. Peterson began his academic career in 1977 as an assistant professor in the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Arizona. He rose steadily through the faculty ranks until assuming the position of department head in 1990. In that capacity, he oversaw the merger of the Chemical and Environmental Engineering departments into a single unit and initiated named graduate degrees (MS and PhD) in environmental engineering.

In 1998, he began an 11-year tenure as dean of the university’s College of Engineering, where he promoted many cross-disciplinary collaborations, including a management and technology program with business, an optical science and engineering program with optics, and a biomedical engineering program with medicine. He was responsible for 18 undergraduate and 15 graduate-degree programs, a state budget of $18 million and external research support of $30 million annually. In his final four years there, donor support totaled more than $20 million.

Dr. Peterson is a distinguished research engineer and widely published author and lecturer in the field of aerosol dynamics. He has served on numerous boards and commissions in his area of expertise at the state, national and international level and has established extensive affiliations with professional and academic institutes, councils and societies throughout his career.

He holds a bachelor’s degree from Tufts University, a master’s degree from the University of Arizona and a Ph. D. from the California Institute of Technology, all in chemical engineering.

UC Merced will benefit enormously from Dr. Peterson’s rich background in academics and research and his knowledge of the critical support role played by major grant-making organizations such as NSF. He is an effective and seasoned leader, a successful fundraiser and a skilled collaborator whose talents will serve our campus extremely well as we move into the next major phase of our development.

Please continue to give Sam your full support as he executes the duties of this critical position. Both leaders will collaborate closely in order to enable us to move forward on some critically important matters prior to Dr. Peterson’s arrival in December.


Dorothy Leland

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