Janet Napolitano is resigning as Secretary of Homeland Security to become the president of the ten-campus University of California System, including UC Merced.
After a high profile career as Arizona Governor, U.S. attorney under President Clinton and current Homeland Security Secretary under President Obama, Janet Napolitano is set to become the University of California's President, becoming the first woman to hold the position.
In a letter to colleagues, the 55-year-old democrat said if confirmed: "I will accept the privilege of leading one of the finest university systems in the country."
Napolitano is an unconventional pick, outside the world of academia. To former UC regent Delaine Eastin, it signals the desire for change.
"She may not have such an appearance of being in an ivory tower. You see how the pope is changing things in Rome. Well, it may be time to change some things in the president's office," Eastin said.
UC has been under fire in recent years. Because state funding has diminished, students saw tuition double to more than $12,000 under the out-going president. But Napolitano brings with her some star power that is expected to bring in more research money and her political acumen could help change priorities in Sacramento.
"She'll be able to stand before the legislature without flinching and say, 'the constitution of the state of California says the most important priority shall be the education of our children through the university," Eastin said.
Napolitano actually has some California roots. She attended Santa Clara University and was the first female valedictorian there. UC students worry, though, about hiring outside the academic world.
"We have so many different components to us. Our structure is really unique and the way we work. That's what we're skeptical about," said Raquel Morales UC student Assn. President
In a meeting with Napolitano next week, they will discuss their priorities of boosting racial diversity, keeping tuition affordable and admitting more California students.