Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

A Chancellor's Choice

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

A Chancellor's Choice

Article excerpt

Ask the University of California, Merced chancellor whether he misses teaching day to day, and his answer leaves no doubt:

"Yes, I definitely do," says Dr. Sung-Mo "Steve" Kang. "But we're here to make contributions in many ways, and to a greater society. As leaders, we have influence."

An electrical engineer by training, Kang hopes greater numbers of Asian American college faculty will aspire to executive positions such as his. Asians made up 7 percent of the professoriate in 2005, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, but by the following year, they made up less than 1 percent of college presidents. "Some of the most out standing scholars are Asian but they're often very humble, and don't seek the spotlight," Kang says.

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Yet Kang, who has held the top job Merced since 2007, insists career ladder climbs can still off routes alongside one's academic passions.

For instance Merced, the newest of the 10 UC campuses having opened in 2005, offers engineering only as an interdisciplinary graduate-level program. Kang currently supervises a small group of postdoctoral researchers, an endeavor he cheerfully describes as his "moonlighting hobby." And, during six years as engineering dean at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Kang served as faculty sponsor of the National Society of Black Engineers student chapter at one point because UCSC lacked a Black engineering professor who could fill the role.

"It's true, there's a self-satisfaction one gets from research or academics or art" says Kang, who holds 15 U.S. patents in electrical engineering and has written or co-authored nine books. "But as professors, we have to ask ourselves, what impact am I making?"

As UCSC engineering dean, he grew a nascent program into a well-respected school, doubling the size of the faculty and increasing the volume of scholarships and research grants. …

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