University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce today named Mark Richards provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. The appointment is effective July 1, 2018.
Richards, a geophysicist, is a professor of Earth and planetary science at the University of California, Berkeley, where he previously served as dean of mathematical and physical sciences from 2002 to 2014, and simultaneously as executive dean of the College of Letters and Science from 2006 to 2014.
“Our University is gaining an outstanding academic leader. Mark has a deep appreciation for the role public universities play in providing access to an excellent education for students from all backgrounds,” UW President Ana Mari Cauce said. “He’s also an accomplished scientist who has made it a mission to expand the diversity of the STEM fields. I look forward to welcoming him back to the UW and to all the advances we’ll make together with our students, faculty and staff.”
Richards succeeds Gerald Baldasty, a long-time UW faculty member and administrator, who is retiring as provost and executive vice president on June 30. Richards’ appointment as the University’s chief academic and budgetary officer and leader culminates a national search that began in May 2017. An 18-member search advisory committee including administrators, faculty and student representatives was selected to identify and recommend candidates. Five finalists for the position were named and visited the UW to conduct presentations and participate in Q&A sessions.
Pending the Board of Regents’ approval, Richards will also hold a faculty appointment in the Department of Earth and Space Sciences in the UW’s College of the Environment. Faculty in the College voted Friday to approve his appointment.
Richards teaches courses at all levels, including an experimental course on the subject of “Time” as part of UC Berkeley’s Big Ideas Courses, a program he helped establish as executive dean of Letters and Science. He also worked to establish Berkeley’s Teaching Excellence Colloquium, which is now required of all new faculty, and collaborated with Berkeley’s graduate and undergraduate student associations to establish the UC system’s first academic honor code.
Richards’ research is focused on dynamic processes in the interior of the Earth and the terrestrial planets, and how these processes affect geological phenomena such as plate tectonics and volcanic eruptions. His work includes observational, experimental and computational methods. Richards is currently leading an international team exploring the enormous Deccan Traps volcanic eruptions in India 66 million years ago, which coincided with the great Chicxulub (Yucatán, Mexico) meteor impact and the mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs.
“It says so much about our future as a public university to have Mark Richards – our top choice and an intellectual academic leader who has actively engaged in shared governance as a faculty member and as dean – join us as provost,” said Thaisa Way, chair of the UW Faculty Senate. “He will bring remarkable energy and insights into our efforts to build a supportive community for a diverse faculty that excels as researchers, scholars and teachers. His background in a major public research university will serve him well in this role alongside his deep respect for UW’s unique strengths.”
In addition to full-time teaching and research at UC Berkeley, Richards serves as Berkeley’s special assistant for diversity in the mathematical and physical sciences. He is the principal investigator on several major federal and private foundation grants supporting STEM diversity, and created the California Alliance program – an NSF-supported collaboration among Berkeley, Stanford, Caltech and UCLA to promote diversity among Ph.D. students, postdocs and faculty in the STEM fields. For this work he has received Berkeley’s two highest awards for contributions to diversity: the Academic Senate’s Leon Henkin Citation, and the Chancellor’s Award for Advancing Institutional Excellence.
After receiving his bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, Richards earned his master’s in applied physics and a Ph.D. in geophysics from Caltech, followed by a postdoc at the Australian National University. He served on the faculties of the University of Oregon and, in 1993, at the UW, and has been at Berkeley for most of his academic career.
Richards is married to Dr. Sarah Noonberg, who holds both a medical degree and a Ph.D. in bioengineering and is currently the chief medical officer of Prothena Corporation, plc, a biotechnology company developing protein immunotherapies. They have three children — twins Haley and Noah, who are college juniors, and Lily, who is a high school sophomore.