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UC Berkeley Press Release

AnnaLee Saxenian appointed dean of SIMS

– AnnaLee Saxenian, 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 University of California, Berkeley's School of Information Management & Systems (SIMS) on Feb 1.

AnnaLee Saxenian
AnnaLee Saxenian
(Peg Skorpinski photo)

"AnnaLee Saxenian will bring impressive expertise and great energy to the school. She has precisely the kind of understanding and appreciation of the role of information technology that is essential for this position," said Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl, in announcing her appointment today (Thursday, Jan. 15). "I am delighted she has accepted the deanship of SIMS."

Saxenian, a UC Berkeley professor of city and regional planning since 1989 and a professor at SIMS, has spent the past two decades studying the organization of production in California's Silicon Valley and other technology regions.

Her book, "Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128," (1994) 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.

A political scientist by training, Saxenian recently chronicled the impacts of highly skilled immigrant engineers and scientists on the high tech industry in the United States as well their contributions to the growth of high tech regions in Taiwan, China and India. Her publications on this topic include "Silicon Valley's New Immigrant Entrepreneurs" (1999) and "Local and Global Networks of Immigrant Professionals in Silicon Valley" (2002).

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

Saxenian said she is excited about leading SIMS, a school with a "first-rate faculty." Because it is small, she said, SIMS needs to focus on its strengths to have an impact.

Near-term goals, she said, include strengthening the school's connections to other academic units on campus through joint research and teaching. She also wants to deepen SIMS exchanges with public and private sector producers and users of information, and the developers of information-related technologies and policy.

"Our ties to business, nonprofit and public organizations are critical to staying apace of a very fast-changing economic and technological landscape," Saxenian said.

Saxenian noted that the work done at SIMS on the dynamics of information exchange has applications ranging from customer-supplier relationships and non-profit management to economic development and intellectual property rights.

SIMS has a unique opportunity, Saxenian said, to collaborate with UC 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 said Saxenian "brings a stellar scholarly reputation, a level head, strong administrative capabilities and a cheerful demeanor."

"(She) is an internationally recognized scholar, but more importantly exhibits outstanding people and leadership skills," he said. "She will do much to advance the cause of SIMS, both internally and externally."

Harrison Fraker, dean of the College of Environmental Design, called Saxenian "a brilliant scholar about the evolution of Silicon Valley and the dot.com revolution. She will bring intelligence, energy and critical insights to the position."

Saxenian will continue to hold a joint appointment at SIMS and in the Department of City and Regional Planning.

As dean, she hopes to continue her research. She said she admires the ability of former UC 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 UC 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.