Graduate Dean Marjorie Zatz has a new title, at least for now. Starting this summer, she is serving as interim vice chancellor for Research and Economic Development, filling the slot left open when Vice Chancellor Sam Traina stepped down to return to the faculty.
Zatz has been shadowing Traina since spring and said her primary goal in the new role will be positioning the campus to earn R1 research status. This status is given only to those doctoral-granting universities conducting “very high research activity” by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.
“Sam built a great foundation, and he got us to R2 in such a short time — it’s amazing,” Zatz said. “Now I want to help us get to R1. I want to create the structures that will enable us to triple our research expenditures within the next 10 to 15 years, and that will put us in line for R1 status.”
Zatz wants to make it easier for faculty to develop individual and center grant proposals, working in partnership with the Office of Research and Economic Development. She also wants to find ways to incentivize faculty and recognize them in real-time as they earn grants, awards and accolades, by giving them a visible sign of accomplishment they can proudly display. She is trying to learn what kind of display would be most meaningful to them.
“We’ve had a good success rate in attracting grants, and we’re now positioned to be able to go after some of the really large ones from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Health and others,” Zatz said. “The entire campus succeeds when the faculty succeed in research.”
Part of the transition into the interim position has been listening to faculty members’ ideas about how to enhance what Traina built in his 13 years in office. In 2007, Traina was named vice chancellor for research and dean of graduate studies, but the vice chancellor role shifted to include economic development when Zatz joined the campus in 2014 and was named graduate dean.
To prepare for her new role, Zatz has interviewed about 30 faculty across campus to learn about their experiences and to solicit their ideas for next steps forward. She is assembling advisory boards to ensure she continues to hear from faculty members and said she expects to be asking Traina for advice, as she always has.
"We’ve had a good success rate in attracting grants, and we’re now positioned to be able to go after some of the really large ones from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Health and others. The entire campus succeeds when the faculty succeed in research."
The transition takes place among many other changes at UC Merced — a new chancellor, a global pandemic, and the completion of the Merced 2020 Project campus expansion, just to name a few.
“I’m excited that on my first day on the job, we relaunched research in one of our new buildings,” she said. “The new BSL3 (biosafety) lab will enable us to do research that has never been done here before and will facilitate our efforts to get more training grants to provide even more research opportunities for undergrad and graduate students.”
Zatz brings a wealth of experience from different institutions. Before joining UC Merced, she was professor of justice studies at Arizona State University for 32 years. She held several administrative positions at ASU and served as program director for the Law and Social Sciences Program at the National Science Foundation.
She has published seven books and more than 50 articles and chapters on immigration policy; race, gender, and juvenile and criminal court processing; Chicano gangs; and the Cuban and Nicaraguan legal systems.
She is the recipient of grants from the National Science Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Henry Luce Foundation, the Hearst Foundations and the Council of Graduate Schools, among others.
Previous colleagues have likened her to the Energizer Bunny because she brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the job.
“But I expect a lot, too,” she said. “We have a great faculty and terrific staff. It’s time to pull together to help everyone reach their fullest potential. I know I have big shoes to fill in this role, and I will do my best.”