Dr. Michael Drake became UCI’s fifth chancellor in July 2005. Previously, he served as University of California vice president for health affairs, overseeing UC’s 15 health sciences schools; vice chair of the UC San Francisco Department of Ophthalmology; and senior associate dean for admissions and extramural academic programs for the UCSF School of Medicine, where he also served as clinician, physician-scientist and teacher. He and his wife, Brenda, have two sons: one attending Stanford University, the other Harvard Law School. In his spare time, he enjoys cycling, travel, music, track and field, and stargazing. Chancellor Drake spoke with uci.edu earlier this fall.

What are the major issues facing America today, and what role should the university play in addressing them?
MVD: A key issue is how to continue competing effectively in our global economy. The United States traditionally has had two significant advantages in setting the standard in that area: our political system, which fosters freedom and creativity, and our university system, which produces the people who can effectively carry these ideals forward. Our primary challenge will be maintaining support for our major universities at a level that allows them to work as well in the 21st century as they have in the 20th and even 19th centuries.

What do we need to do internally to meet that challenge?
MVD: We must continually be creative. We have to raise our sights above the street in front of us and look beyond the horizon to see what’s coming next – then determine how we can be a vital part of these trends. As a research university, that’s the business we’re in; we have to continue to do that better and better.

What distinguishes UC Irvine from other UC campuses and peer institutions?
: Our vitality and the incredible level of support from the surrounding community. People in the region are interested in taking great things and moving them forward. Orange County is a developing community, and UCI is an outstanding university with a bright future. We’re a perfect match.

What steps will you take to continue raising the prominence of UCI nationally and internationally
: We will continually improve on the outstanding quality of the campus’s existing research, educational and cultural programs, and create new ones to take advantage of new opportunities.

Will a law school be one of these new programs?
: Part of our strategic plan is to grow the ratio of graduate to undergraduate students, and within that to grow the ratio of professional students. Within that context, we’re looking carefully at the idea of a law school here on campus.

How are current budget constraints affecting your goals for UCI?
: The budget is a challenge in two ways. First, we have more good ideas than we have funding to support, so we have to carefully prioritize, and that can be challenging. Second, it means we have to rely more heavily on student fees to maintain quality. This is a national phenomenon; it’s happening at all universities, but I’d like our fees to stay as low as possible while we continue to push our excellence. We are, however, over the worst of the budget cuts, and the compact with the governor this year has allowed us – for the first time in four years – to move ahead. We look forward to continuing that.

You have expressed your desire to see UCI as a values-driven campus. What are these core values?
: The values fall into four broad categories. Respect and appreciation – for one another, for people of different backgrounds and cultures, and for ideas and positions that may be different from our own. Intellectual curiosity – the continual expansion of our minds and our knowledge base. Honesty and integrity – telling the truth, standing for something and having our lives mean something to us. Passion and commitment for our work – whatever our roles are on campus. And finally, fun must be part of the equation as well; we need to enjoy ourselves as we move forward.

You’re an avid cyclist. What role does bicycling play
in your life?
: Well, I like riding. No matter how good or bad I feel before I ride, I always feel better afterward.

Tell us about the new hospital currently under construction at UCI Medical Center.
: I have grown up around medicine, and I’ve trained at some of the world’s outstanding institutions. It’s been a great privilege. I have many colleagues who are among the leading physicians in the world. That they’ve been able to practice at an extremely high level and deliver such high quality care despite the limitations of their current facility is amazing and inspiring. The new hospital is going to be a great accelerator … it’s like having an outstanding driver who is about to get a new race car. The sky’s the limit.

What is your vision for UCI over the next four years –
and the next 40?
: UCI in 2045 – that’s a long view. Fundamentally, I see the university playing a significant role in shaping our region, our nation and our world. Four years from now, I would expect to look back and be able to say we have improved the quality of our programs across the board, that we have several new and exciting programs that are national leaders, and that our community is more broadly aware of the things we’re doing. I also want to increase the sense of community among our students, to make their college years among the very best of their lives, and to send them out of here with the knowledge and inspiration to make the future brighter for all of us.