UC Merced

Recommendation made for new UC Merced chancellor

A woman with executive experience at two public universities and called one of the "100 Most Influential Georgians" may be headed west to take the helm at UC Merced.

University of California President Mark Yudof said Tuesday that he will ask the UC regents to select Georgia College and State University President Dorothy Leland as UC Merced's next chancellor.

The board is expected to vote on Yu-dof's recommendation May 18. If approved, she would begin her new job July 1, succeeding Steve Kang, who will step down June 30.

A national search was conducted to fill the position. A 63-year-old native of Southern California, Leland has been president of Georgia College and State University since 2004. She holds a doctorate from Purdue University.

It's not the first time she's applied to lead a Central Valley university. In 2009, she was one of three presidential finalists at University of the Pacific in Stockton, according to the Stockton Record newspaper.

Leland thought it was inappropriate for her to comment before the board's vote, said Harry Battson, Georgia College spokesman. In Yudof's announcement she said she deeply appreciated the president's recommendation. Board members and Yudof aren't commenting further until next week.

Josh Franco, a UC Merced alumnus and member of the chancellor's search advisory committee, said some of Leland's qualities remind him of the UC Merced founding Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey. "Her personality, her approach to leadership and lastly her desire to build an institution," he said. "I think she will be an excellent fit, not just for the campus, but for the community and the region."

Leland has solid ideas for the university's future growth, Franco said. Part of her vision is to help everyone be the best they can be, given the resources the university has, he said. She recognizes the UC system faces budget challenges but doesn't see that as an obstacle, but "as something to overcome," he said.

Leland is a successful administrator and a leader in higher education, said Evan Heit, a UC Merced professor and member of the advisory committee. She's been a successful leader at two public universities, Heit said, in terms of growth in academic resources, campus size and reputation.

It remains to be seen how effective Leland can be in leading UC Merced, said Lamar Williams, president of the Associated Students at UC Merced. He was among a few students who were involved in the search process.

Some of the top issues that have been presented by students -- and that Williams said he hopes Leland will address -- are campus diversity and improving services, such as expanding hours at the student health center and having more campus space for tutors.

Students hope she'll follow Kang's lead in spurring campus growth, Williams said.

The institution will dramatically influence the future of the Central Valley, Franco said. "UC Merced represents the future of the region, and having a leader who understands that is critical," he said.

William Covino, provost and vice president for academic affairs at California State University, Fresno, worked with Leland from 1998 to 2005. He was the dean of arts and letters and she was a vice president at Florida Atlantic University. "Dorothy has always been a visionary leader and is always well tuned to the needs of the community and the region," he said.

During the years they worked together, Covino said he was impressed with her creative and innovative thinking. He said that under her leadership, there will be opportunities for CSU Fresno and UC Merced to develop partnerships to meet emerging challenges in the Central Valley.

Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, said in a statement that UC Merced and the Valley would benefit from Leland's expertise. He said he hopes to collaborate with her to develop UC Merced as one of the leading institutions in the state. "I welcome Dr. Leland home to California, and will be by her side as she takes us to new heights," he said.

Leland received the 2006 Governor's Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation for her "comprehensive approach to the adaptive re-use and rehabilitation of historic buildings on campus," according to a release from the UC Office of the President.

She was recognized as one of the "100 Most Influential Georgians" and one of four Georgia "Power Women" by Georgia Trend magazine.

Steve Montiel, spokesman with the UC Office of the President, said Leland's compensation will be discussed by the board in a closed session and the board will vote on it May 18 during an open session.

After being hired, Kang was paid a relocation allowance of up to $10,000 and an annual salary of $295,000, along with an annual automobile allowance of $8,916.

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 388-6507 or yamaro@mercedsun-star.com.