As soon as Kim A. Wilcox was chosen to serve as the ninth chancellor of the University of California, Riverside, he acted.
And he hasn’t slowed down since. Within his first four weeks, Wilcox had already visited each of UCR’s seven schools and colleges; toured student services; met with center directors; lunched with students; participated in meetings with industry leaders; welcomed international students; hosted a faculty and staff picnic; attended his first UC Regents’ meeting; spoken before the Riverside County Board of Supervisors; met with other elected officials; gone to a UCR cross-country meet; served as the keynote speaker for Good Morning Riverside; and driven to Los Angeles for a meeting of the NCAA Big West Board of Directors.
“We are a top-ranked research university with great students, faculty and staff. But our best still lies ahead. Together we are going to get there.”
That’s just a partial list. In between, he met individually and collectively with campus leadership, led two search committees and grappled with all the day-to-day issues that confront a chancellor.
The ease with which he hit the ground running was typical Wilcox. The former Michigan State University provost and executive vice president was lauded for taking immediate action — a trait his constituents appreciated greatly, and one that has served him well throughout his career.
Wilcox, who was also a professor of communicative sciences and disorders at Michigan State University, served as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Kansas from 2002 to 2005, and as president and chief executive officer of the Kansas Board of Regents from 1999 to 2002.
Wilcox’s academic career began with an interest in communication disorders — a field that was “based on science but had a human element to it.” For Wilcox, working with children and their families in ways that made a difference to their lives — combining the science and research with the personal — was very rewarding. That same interest in the personal also led him to UCR.
“UCR has a unique combination of diversity and excellence. A first-generation student from a low-income family has the chance to learn through engagement in discovery, which is the very essence of a research university,” said Wilcox.
Public universities, he said, also feel a commitment to their communities and state economies. This ethos benefits everybody. “We want the Inland Empire to succeed as much as we want our freshmen to succeed. We want the state of California to be an economic dynamo as much as we want our seniors and graduate students to be successful in their careers. That’s what makes public universities unique — not just in America but in the world.”
And his impressions of Riverside so far?
“Never have I seen a community embrace its university to the extent this one does. In return, UCR is making a difference in our state and region — from our roots in agriculture to our new schools of medicine and public policy.”
He is also staunchly supportive of the campus’ strategic plan, “The Path to Preeminence: UCR 2020.” Yet Wilcox is realistic about what it will take to achieve the ambitious goals enumerated in the plan. “We have to challenge ourselves to do more. We are a top-ranked research university with great students, faculty and staff. But our best still lies ahead. Together we are going to get there.”
Given the pace Wilcox has established in his first weeks in office, it won’t take long to arrive.