UCSF Appoints Elizabeth Watkins as Vice Chancellor of Student Academic Affairs

Elizabeth Watkins, PhD, dean of the UC San Francisco's Graduate Division, has been named Vice Chancellor of Student Academic Affairs, effective August 1.

Watkins will succeed UCSF Vice Chancellor of Student Academic Affairs Joseph Castro, PhD, who has accepted the position as the next president of California State University in Fresno. Castro’s last day at UCSF will be July 31.

Watkins, who joined UCSF in 2004, will retain her academic appointment as dean and professor, and will fully assume the vice chancellor responsibilities.

In this expanded position, Watkins’ responsibilities include overseeing all student and graduate affairs. She will lead strategically important educational initiatives and partnerships for UCSF, acting as primary advisor to the Chancellor and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Jeff Bluestone, PhD, on all matters related to students.

“Liz is perfect for this role,” said Bluestone. “Above all, Liz cares deeply about students and is committed to ensuring their well-being and success at UCSF and beyond. She has a history of working with and across diverse and varied disciplines and areas. The depth and diversity of her personal and professional experience will be invaluable as Vice Chancellor-Student Academic Affairs.”

Watkins began her career at UCSF as a professor in the Department of Anthropology, History, and Social Medicine and director of Graduate Studies for the History of Health Sciences program. She has served as the dean of Graduate Division since April 2012. The Graduate Division offers top-ranked programs in basic biomedical, translational, social and population sciences.

Watkins’ experience working with and on behalf of graduate students and postdocs, building community within the Graduate Division, and developing programs for enhancing diversity and student support, is highly valuable for the Student Academic Affairs role and environment.

In her first year as dean, Watkins improved graduate student funding opportunities, including securing gifts for and creating new annual fellowships. She and her staff conducted a comprehensive career outcomes study of all PhD graduates since 1997, as part of the effort to enhance career exploration and planning for students and postdocs. They also developed an exit survey for students to report and reflect on their experiences at UCSF, with the goal of providing feedback to programs and administration for continual improvement. Under Watkins’ leadership, the Graduate Division is now offering child care grants for doctoral students.

After reviewing the organizational structure of the vice chancellor of Student Academic Affairs function, UCSF leaders determined that the campus would benefit from integrating the Vice Chancellor-Student Academic Affairs role with the academic Dean-Graduate Division position.

“This is a stellar opportunity for our campus,” said Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH. “With a solid understanding of UCSF’s graduate student culture and operations, not only will UCSF benefit from having someone of such high caliber and integrity to serve in this role, along with the willingness, the blending of these two positions into one promotes Operational Excellence through cost-savings to the University.”

The campus will save money on the recruitment process as well as expenses related to moving, house-hunting, temporary housing, and ongoing expenses related to a full-time salary with associated Senior Management Group (SMG) benefits.

Professor Emeritus Cliff Atkisson, PhD, had served in both positions years ago at UCSF.

Watkins earned her BA degree in biology and her PhD degree, both at Harvard University. She is the author of On the Pill: A Social History of Oral Contraceptives and The Estrogen Elixir: A History of Hormone Replacement Therapy in America and co-editor of Medicating Modern America: A History of Prescription Drugs and Prescribed: Writing, Filling, Using, and Abusing the Prescription in Modern America. She has also publsihed articles on the history of birth control, the history of male menopause and testosterone, and the history of stress. She continues to supervise PhD students writing dissertations in the history of health sciences at UCSF.