UC Berkeley News


AnnaLee Saxenian appointed dean of SIMS

| 21 January 2004


AnnaLee Saxenian
Peg Skorpinski photo

AnnaLee Saxenian, a Berkeley professor whose research on Silicon Valley has shaped the way policymakers and scholars around the world think about regional economic development, will become dean of the School of Information Management and Systems (SIMS) on Feb. 1.

“AnnaLee Saxenian has precisely the kind of understanding and appreciation of the role of information technology that is essential for this position,” said Chancellor Robert Berdahl in announcing her appointment last week. “I am delighted she has accepted the deanship of SIMS.”

Saxenian, a political-science professor by training, has been a professor of city and regional planning since 1989, as well as a professor at SIMS. She has spent the past two decades studying the organization of production in California’s Silicon Valley and other technology regions.

Her 1994 book, Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128, argues that Silicon Valley surpassed its East Coast counterpart in the 1980s because the region developed an industrial system that enables businesses to be more flexible, adaptive, and innovative. More recently, she has chronicled the impacts of highly skilled immigrant engineers and scientists on the high-tech industry in the United States as well as their contributions to the growth of high-tech regions in Taiwan, China, and India.

SIMS, Berkeley’s newest school, was founded in 1995 to develop a better understanding of — and better tools for — information management. Hal Varian, the Class of 1944 Professor at SIMS and a professor in the Haas School of Business and Berkeley’s economics department, served as dean of SIMS from 1995 until last year. David Messerschmitt, a professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences, has served as interim dean since then.

A focus on collaboration
Because SIMS is small, Saxenian says, it must focus on its strengths to have an impact. Her near-term goals include strengthening the school’s connections to other academic units on campus through joint research and teaching. She also wants to deepen the school’s exchanges with public- and private-sector producers and users of information and with the developers of information-related technologies and policy.

SIMS also has a unique opportunity, Saxenian adds, to collaborate with Berkeley’s Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) because of their shared commitment to using information-technology research to address social problems.

Messerschmitt, SIMS’ interim dean, says Saxenian “brings a stellar scholarly reputation, a level head, strong administrative capabilities, and a cheerful demeanor” to her new position. “[She] is an internationally recognized scholar, but more importantly exhibits outstanding people and leadership skills. She will do much to advance the cause of SIMS, both internally and externally.”

As dean, Saxenian says, she hopes to continue her research. She will continue to hold a joint appointment at SIMS and in the Department of City and Regional Planning. She said she admires the ability of former Berkeley chancellors Chang-Lin Tien and Clark Kerr to both lead and publish.

“They were strong, principled, humanitarian leaders who made important contributions to this institution and managed to publish research of lasting importance at the same time,” Saxenian said. “They set a standard for academic leaders everywhere.”

Saxenian received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Williams College in 1976, a master’s in city and regional planning from Berkeley in 1980, and a Ph.D. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1989. She has served as a member of the California Council on Science and Technology, an adjunct fellow at the Institute for the Future, and a senior researcher at the National Entrepreneurship Research Center at Tsinghua University in China.

Saxenian lives in Oakland with her husband and two school-age sons.