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November 7, 2005

Denton formally invested as chancellor in nontraditional ceremony

Chancellor Denton at her investiture

UC President Robert C. Dynes prepares to present Denice D. Denton with the Chancellor's Medal.
Photos: UCSC

By Jennifer McNulty

In a ceremony that cast aside pomp and circumstance in favor of multiculturalism, Denice D. Denton was formally invested as the ninth chancellor of UC Santa Cruz on Friday, capping a two-day symposium on excellence and diversity.

Chancellor Denton at the lectern

Chancellor Denton outlines her priorities at her investiture address in the Music Center Recital Hall.

Chancellor Denton with UC President Dynes

UC President Dynes and Chancellor Denton relax at the University House after the investiture.

"UC Santa Cruz does things differently but for a purpose," said Denton, whose choice of a nontraditional inauguration was in keeping with the campus's reputation for innovation.

As he prepared to present Denton with the Chancellor's Medal, UC President Robert Dynes acknowledged the milestone--and the campus's recent change of status within the UC system.

"On Labor Day this year, Santa Cruz ended its 40-year stint as the young kid on the block," said Dynes. The campus, with its unsurpassed physical beauty, highly regarded programs, and commitment to public service, "exemplifies why the UC system is the premier university system in the world," he added.

Describing Denton as forthright, honest, direct, and a "trailblazer in pursuit of equity and multiculturalism," Dynes said she has the "capability to raise this campus to the next level. It will be my pleasure to watch her, help her, advise her, and cheer."

Denton received a standing ovation from the near-capacity crowd in the Music Center Recital Hall as she took the podium. Sprinkling her remarks with Japanese, Arabic, Spanish, and Swahili, Denton pledged her commitment to the campus and hailed UCSC's leadership in interdisciplinary research. She praised her predecessors, as well as the students, staff, faculty, and administrators "on whose achievements we build."

Denton challenged the campus to "lead at the edge" and outlined six priorities that will guide decisions and the distribution of resources.

  • Expand educational opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, establish professional schools, refine the mission of the colleges.
  • Build on the quality of existing academic programs, particularly interdisciplinary programs.
  • Bolster fundraising by increasing productive partnerships among campus units and externally with companies, educational institutions, and governments in the Silicon Valley and Monterey Bay regions.
  • Renew the campus's commitment to the local community, working with local government on issues such as affordable housing, transportation, and the economy, while underscoring UCSC's contributions to education, volunteerism, culture, and economic stability.
  • Showcase the excellence of students, staff, faculty, and alumni who are "making a difference in our world."
  • Develop new strategies to attract, recruit, and retain exceptional students, staff, and faculty from diverse backgrounds and support the efforts of the UC Office of the President and the UC Regents to ensure they receive "appropriate salaries and compensation."

Reflecting on the theme of "excellence through diversity" that inspired two days of formal discussions on campus, Denton said her own notion of excellence is achieving the best possible results by engaging the talents of a diverse group of people.

Her goal is to create a campus climate in which difference is "welcomed and celebrated," and she mentioned specifically differences of ethnicity, race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, culture, religion, academic discipline, class, ability, nation of origin, perspective, age, and socioeconomic status.

The institution will benefit by gaining "the full spectrum of strengths" of a diverse group of people, positioning UCSC to "transform lives and improve our society."

"We are poised to address these challenges in ways no other great university can do," said Denton. "Although we are a relatively young and small campus, we can prove mighty."

While hailing the campus's strengths, Denton reported issues she'd heard raised during the two-day focus on diversity and excellence, including a campus climate that doesn't tolerate disagreement, student discomfort in classroom situations, conversations that do not reach across to engage students, staff, and faculty, and a focus on "obvious differences," such as race and class, that eclipses attention to other differences.

"These conversations are difficult, and we do have to find ways to work together," said Denton, quoting a Swahili proverb that she translated as, "Step by step, we will achieve our goal."

The ceremony--which began with music by the UC Santa Cruz Gamelan, violinist Rebecca Jackson and pianist Felix Lawi, and the UCSC Chamber Singers, conducted by music professor Nicole Paiment--ended with a performance by Taki Ñan, a student Latin American ensemble, conducted by music instructor Diana Nieves.

Chancellors Emeriti Karl S. Pister and Robert L. Sinsheimer attended the event, which was emceed by Faye Crosby, professor of psychology and chair of the UCSC Academic Senate. Alumna Adilah Barnes (Cowell College, '72) shared her perspective on excellence and diversity, and UC Regent George M. Marcus presented greetings from the Board of Regents.

Watch video of symposium, investiture

Read Chancellor Denton's inaugural address

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