Shades of Gray
New executive vice chancellor and provost outlines academic challenges for campus

By D. Lyn Hunter Public Affairs


Paul Gray

Peg Skorpinski photo.
20 SEPTEMBER 00 | Though a life-long engineer, Paul Gray, 57, says he's never worn a pocket protector or a slide rule.

"The stereotype of engineers is very misleading," said the new executive vice chancellor and provost and former College of Engineering dean. "We've gotten a bad rap, I think."

Indeed, dressed in a crisp green suit, tasteful tie and tasseled loafers, Gray looks more like a distinguished corporate leader than a rumpled engineer.

Gray nearly did go down the corporate path when, after college in 1969, he went to Silicon Valley to work in the semi-conductor business.

"Many of my former colleagues went on to found multi-billion dollar companies," he said.

Instead Gray chose some 30 years ago to be an academician at Berkeley, rising from visiting lecturer to professor, then on to various administrative posts, including chairman of the electrical engineering and computer sciences department. He became dean of the college in 1996.

Married with two grown sons, Gray has now ventured out of his home turf to experience life in California Hall as the 'virtual partner' of Chancellor Berdahl and second-in-command of the campus.

"It's such a wonderful opportunity for me to give back to the institution that has given so much to me," said Gray.

And there couldn't be a better time to be an administrator at Berkeley, he says. The campus is located at the internet economy's 'ground zero,' and is perched on the edge of the Pacific Rim, "where much of the history of the 21st century will unfold," he said. And with state coffers full and a governor supportive of higher education, the future for Berkeley looks bright.

But while the university has many things going for it right now, there are several challenges to be faced, said Gray. Some of his top challenges include:

Improving the undergraduate experience. "We have to get undergraduates more involved in research, increase the advising and mentoring of undergrads and improve their access to impacted majors, such as computer science."

Enrollment growth. "We need to accommodate 4,000 additional students over next 10 years in a way that doesn't degrade, and may actually enhance, the learning process, all while respecting the concerns of the city of Berkeley. Creative use of Summer Session, distance learning and study-abroad opportunities are just some of the options available. Teaching off-campus would allow students to utilize their surroundings to learn more. For example, art students could take classes at UC Extension's Laguna Street center, and take advantage of museums and galleries located right there in San Francisco."

Faculty hiring. "The recruitment and retention of top faculty is the single most important task for ensuring the future excellence of the campus. One of the greatest obstacles for new and potential faculty is the Bay Area's high housing costs. We need to set up programs that help new faculty operate in the current housing market."

Instructional technology. "The advent of technology is really changing the way colleges do business. These advances can enrich the learning experience for students both on and off campus. But we have to make sure all faculty can take advantage of these opportunities, providing support for them through training and access. One of biggest problems is the limited availability of 'wired' classrooms. Hopefully, we can develop the resources needed to modernize more rooms."

Access: "By 2007, California's traditional minorities will be the majority and, in order to maintain legislative support, the campus must be reflective of that population. The unique thing about Berkeley is its combination of research excellence and diversity. For example, in Chem 1A, we have a world-renowned professor teaching, but 30 percent of the students in his class are from families making $30,000 and less a year. Providing a leg-up for those kinds of kids is what Berkeley is all about and what distinguishes us from other institutions."

A restructuring of the senior administration last spring gives Gray three new vice provosts to assist him with these and other challenges.

The vice provost for academic affairs and faculty welfare will play a critical role in recruitment and retention of faculty. The vice provost for undergraduate education and instructional technology will coordinate with deans and department chairs to develop teaching improvement initiatives, undergraduate enrichment programs and technology-based instructional enhancements. The vice provost for academic planning and facilities will coordinate and implement academic planning, with regards to space and capital planning for academic units.

While filling the role of executive vice chancellor and provost -s responsible for all academic programs and assisting the chancellor with other administrative duties - Gray will continue his work with engineering graduate students on the design of integrated circuit chips.

"Aside from his technical genius, Professor Gray has an enormous sense of ethics and fair play," said graduate student Chris Rudell, who has studied with Gray for nine years. "I think that's the biggest reason he has moved so far up the ladder."


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