Virginia ("Ginger") Hinshaw, currently dean of the Graduate School and vice chancellor for research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will join UC Davis July 1 as its new provost and executive vice chancellor. She's offered Dateline this week some insights into her decision to move west, her priorities once she's here, and the family and life experiences that have shaped and given meaning to her professional work.
Q: What was most attractive to you about the post of provost and executive vice chancellor – and about the UC Davis campus?
A: The strongest attraction was UC Davis itself, a great research university located in a small progressive community. I definitely was impressed by the people at the university and in the community, their plans for the future and opportunities for growth – plus they had a "can do" attitude which I really appreciate. The post of provost and executive vice chancellor appealed to me, because the position has the academic and financial authority to facilitate development of the people, plans and potential of the university. I quickly felt at home as I worked with the people there and visited the campus, so I decided that UC Davis and I were a great match.
Q: What do you think are the most striking similarities and differences between the University of Wisconsin-Madison and UC Davis?
A: There are surely more similarities than differences. Both are large, impressive, public, research land-grant universities with undergraduate, graduate and professional students on a campus located in a small city. Another rather unique, but shared, feature is that both have primate centers (there are only eight centers in the United States). Also, our missions are similar. I express that mission as follows: through research, education and public service, we create the jobs of tomorrow, educate people for those jobs and prepare them to be responsible citizens.
The differences are fewer, but UW-Madison is larger in scale in several ways, such as student population, extramural research support, technology transfer, fund-raising; however, UC Davis has strong activities and growth potential in all of those areas. An important difference right now is that Wisconsin has electricity!
Q: What do you expect to first turn your attention to once you've settled in on campus?
A: My first activity will be to listen and learn from a wide array of members of the university and the city of Davis community. Growth is definitely on the horizon, so a positive "town and gown" relationship is critical for the university to be successful. I plan on being highly visible and accessible because I believe that people need to meet and know me (and I need to meet and know them), so that we can work together most effectively in the future. A special interest of mine is mentoring, which I feel is a very successful strategy for faculty, staff and students, so I'm interested in learning rapidly about that activity at UC Davis.
Q: In what areas do you think you can contribute most substantially to UC Davis?
A: UC Davis is in great shape in many ways, thanks to the efforts of others, and I surely plan to build on that momentum. Maximizing potential during a period of high growth like UC Davis is facing requires effective planning, leadership, commitment and communication, and I believe that my experience and skills are well suited for that
endeavor. Also, my activities in teamwork, cross-disciplinary areas, strategic planning, fund-raising, technology transfer, and public communication about research should prove helpful to those activities at UC Davis.
During my career as a woman in science, I also have learned the challenges of being a member of an underrepresented group, so I am very committed to diversity and respect for others, in keeping with the Principles of Community endorsed by UC Davis.
Also I truly believe that research and education make our world a better place, so I am an active and effective advocate for those activities with external, as well as internal, audiences. Being enthusiastic about research and education, as I am, is often contagious and generates excitement about the future and people need to be excited about what they do and be appreciated for what they do.
I do respect the fact that change, including getting a new provost and executive vice chancellor, can be unsettling, but UC Davis and I are a great match so I'm convinced that together we will accomplish a great deal.
Q: Do you have observations about UC Davis' progress in research (particularly cross-disciplinary research) and in graduate education – areas of particular interest to you at Madison – and how both those areas might be further strengthened here?
A: Cross-disciplinary approaches are critical to solving the complex societal problems we face today. Clearly UC Davis has a long history of being strong in this approach and that will be a strength for the future. Extramural support in such areas is also growing so I look forward to helping UC Davis realize those opportunities. Both my scientific and administrative careers have been very dependent on other disciplines.
Clearly, many issues we face today must be addressed from several angles. For example, genetic engineering of food is not simply genetics, but includes ethics, economics, psychology, and many others. Aging is another example and involves the economics of an aging population, meaningful engagement to keep minds active, and medical care to keep bodies healthy.
As a scientist, I do know that the physical and biological sciences provide advances which make it possible for us to live; however, I also respect and appreciate the fact that the arts and humanities and social sciences make that life worth living. UC Davis has many strengths in cross-disciplinary efforts which will improve our lives, so I will work to ensure that the academic and financial infrastructure supports those areas.
Graduate students are the future of research and all universities need to use more effective recruitment strategies and provide stronger support (financial and professional development) to ensure that great students engage in research. In my position at UW-Madison, research and graduate education were always viewed together.
The integration of research and education in K-12, as well as undergraduate experiences, are also needed to build graduate education for the future. Having strong graduate students is clearly a major factor in faculty and staff satisfaction, so I look forward to working with folks at UC Davis on strategies to ensure that graduate education remains strong and grows in the future.
Q: The Davis campus has launched an initiative to encourage greater work/life balance among its faculty and staff. How do you keep your personal work/life scales in balance?
A: In my view, balance is critical in making all of us more effective contributors in both our personal and professional lives. Certainly, spending time with family and friends is at the top of my list. I also refresh myself through reading, massage, exercise, music, movies and sports (I enjoy golf, canoeing, rafting, fishing and snow skiing). Also, I have a strong sense of humor and laughter provides a critical balance in my life. As an elder in the Presbyterian Church, I also benefit from participating in their educational and charitable activities.
Q: Have you found a home here yet – and, if so, have you gotten over the sticker shock of West Coast real estate?
A: We are currently finalizing the purchase of a home in El Macero. Sticker shock is certainly a reality there and I now have a better understanding of the challenge facing UC Davis and the city of Davis in providing homes for the increased faculty, staff and student populations in the future.
Q: Is there anything not related to your work that you'd like the UC Davis community to know about you?
A: My husband Bill, my daddy Louis Snyder, and I are all delighted about Davis becoming our new home. We also appreciate all of the warm wishes we have received. Bill and I were high school sweethearts and have been married for 37 years; we have two sons, two daughters-in-law and three grandchildren who are the light of our lives.
Bill is a pharmacist with experience in retail, hospital and HMO settings; he has accepted the position of National Director of Contracting for Health Net Pharmaceutical Services and is very excited about that opportunity.
My daddy, Louis Snyder, is a wonderful person (and great parent); he is also an impressive golfer at 84, particularly in view of his poor vision due to macular degeneration.
I am a breast cancer survivor and "thriver"; my being open about this issue has been helpful to others and in generating support for cancer research. My goal in life is to be proud of both what I do and how I do it.
Amy Agronis, Dateline, (530) 752-1932, email@example.com