UCSF Names Francesca Vega as Vice Chancellor for Community and Government Relations

By Lisa Cisneros

UC San Francisco has named Francesca Vega, a civic leader with a passion for community engagement and advocacy for public higher education, as vice chancellor for Community and Government Relations.

portrait of Francesca Vega
Francesca Vega

A California native, Vega brings a vast network of contacts at all levels of government and extensive community leadership experience, including serving on the Los Angeles Commission on the Status of Women, the Child Development Institute, and the Los Angeles County Business Federation, to name just a few.

UCSF will be Vega’s third university in her 18-year career in community and government relations, working the past 11 years as an adviser, ambassador, and coalition builder at California State University Northridge and UCLA. She has made it her mission in life to strengthen communities through advocacy, public policy, community outreach and mentoring efforts.

“The more I learned about the impact of UCSF – not just regionally, but nationally – the more I realized I wanted to be part of this great institution,” Vega said. “I am particularly excited about UCSF’s efforts in the community around achieving health care equity. I believe UCSF needs to be part of this discussion if not lead the national discussion.”

Vega will report directly to Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS, and serve as a member of the Chancellor’s Cabinet when she arrives to UCSF on August 26.

“Francesca’s in-depth knowledge of the complex dynamics of a robust higher education institution and record of building strong relationships with the community make her well suited for this inaugural vice chancellor position,” said Chancellor Hawgood.

Mirroring Diverse Perspectives

As the first Latina appointed in the role of vice chancellor at UCSF, Vega fully embraces efforts focused on diversity, equity and inclusion. “It is critical for large institutions of higher education to mirror diverse perspectives of where they reside,” she said. “I know that I will bring a well-rounded understanding voice to the table that captures the needs and goals of the university leadership, while being strategic and thoughtful about the needs of external entities.”

Francesca’s in-depth knowledge of the complex dynamics of a robust higher education institution and record of building strong relationships with the community make her well suited for this inaugural vice chancellor position.

Chancellor Sam Hawgood

Vega will work closely with the new vice chancellor of Communications Won Ha, who will also join UCSF next month. The two positions were established from the previous responsibility of vice chancellor of University Relations Barbara J. French, who retired after 14 years of service in June. Chancellor Hawgood decided to create two robust offices for communications and community and government relations in response to UCSF’s expanding reach into new communities through its UCSF Health system affiliation strategy and our growing research footprint.

“I am looking forward to collaborating with the new vice chancellor of Communications, working together as partners,” Vega said. “I am excited to help tell the UCSF story to raise its visibility as a strategic partner with the community.”

After six years as director of Government and Community Relations at California State University Northridge (CSUN), Vega was promoted to her current position as assistant vice president last year. At CSUN, she led the successful effort to engage faculty and students, regional business organizations, and elected officials to secure a $180 million line item in Measure M, a transportation ballot initiative to address campus transit needs.

Prior to her tenure at CSUN, Vega was assistant director for UCLA’s Government and Community Relations office, where she cultivated relationships between state elected officials, community groups, and UCLA External Affairs; managed legislative strategy and advocacy efforts; and mobilized support among alumni, donors, and allies to advance UCLA’s priorities. Vega collaborated closely with the UC Office of the President and the Office of the Chancellor to ensure consistency and coordination of advocacy and policy research, analysis and development efforts.

Seizing Every Opportunity

Born and raised in a working class family in Yuba City, a small agricultural town 40 miles north of Sacramento, Vega is the third born daughter of a Choctaw Native American and French Creole mother and a Mexican-American father, who passed away when she was 12.

“I was surrounded by incredibly strong, supportive women in my family, especially my mother and grandmother who were my role models,” she said. “The fact that both of these women changed the trajectory of their family through vocational education, hard work, and seizing every opportunity afforded them, has always been something I recognize and value.”

Vega and her sisters were the first in their family to attend and graduate from college. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in government and a minor in sociology from California State University in Sacramento. “As a product of California’s public higher education system, I have experienced firsthand how access to and affordability of public higher education is critical to economic mobility and community development,” she said.

Vega’s upbringing planted the seed of what has become her lifelong commitment to ensuring access to quality education for all. She now passes on her life lessons as a mentor to the next generation, working across diverse ethnic, socioeconomic, cultural and geographic communities. For the past six years, Vega has served as a member of the board of directors for the Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project, a statewide volunteer-run organization that develops the leadership potential of California’s Latino youth.

“I am passionate and value-driven in my work,” Vega said. “Caring for the community and giving back are very important parts of my life. Mentoring people of color inspires me. When I talk to young women, I tell them to lean into their core values in ways that will motivate them to achieve their potential.”

During her first 100 days as vice chancellor for Community and Government Relations at UCSF, Vega says she will be “hitting the ground running” by meeting with internal and external stakeholders “to get a better sense of the community’s needs, what we are doing right and what additional opportunities we can pursue.”

“UCSF is at a very exciting place given campus growth, Chancellor Hawgood’s ambitious goals, and long-term community engagement planning. I embrace all that this entails and the many opportunities on the horizon.”

Related story:
UCSF Names Won Ha as Vice Chancellor for Communications