ORG CHART: Government Appointees and Student Farm Director

Admissions Exec Off to UCR, Alumna to Lead George Washington University



  • Michal Kurlaender, School of Education
  • Tonya Fancher, School of Medicine
  • Veronica Zendejas, Undergraduate Admissons
  • Carrie L. Byington, UC Health
  • Colin Dixon, Student Farm
  • Ellen Granberg ’84, George Washington University


Gov. Gavin Newsom recently appointed Michal Kurlaender, professor of education policy, to the Education Commission of the States, comprising governors and other representatives from the states, three U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. “Through our programs and services,” the commission declares on its website, “policymakers gain the insight and experience needed to create effective education policy.

Michal Kurlaender, UC Davis faculty, headshot
Michal Kurlaender

A member of the National Academy of Education, Kurlaender studies how education policies and programs can impact students' educational pathways and outcomes, focusing in particular on what types of policies can reduce socioeconomic and racial/ethnic inequalities in educational opportunities.

Kurlaender joined the School of Education in 2004 after having been a teaching fellow and researcher in the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, and researcher for the Civil Rights Project at Harvard. She holds two Harvard degrees: Master of Education in administration, planning and social policy, and doctorate in education policy.

She is the co-faculty director of Policy Analysis for California Education, or PACE, and the UC Davis-based California Education Lab; and lead researcher at Wheelhouse: The Center for Community College Leadership and Research, also based at UC Davis.

Her appointment to the commission does not require Senate confirmation. She receives no compensation as a commissioner.

Tonya Fancher headshot, UC Davis faculty
Tonya Fancher

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra recently appointed Tonya Fancher of the School of Medicine to the Advisory Committee on Training in Primary Care Medicine and Dentistry, part of the Health Resources and Care Administration at HHS. She is a professor of general internal medicine, associate dean for workforce innovation and education quality improvement, and director of the Center for a Diverse Health Care Workforce.

Read more in this UC Davis Health news release.

Veronica Zendejas, director of evaluation and policy for Undergraduate Admissions at UC Davis, will become the director of Undergraduate Admissions at UC Riverside effective March 1. There, she will be responsible for all aspects of first-year and transfer recruitment and admission.

Veronica Zendejas headshot
Veronica Zendejas

At UC Davis, Zendejas has overseen application review including the holistic review of first-year applicants, transfer evaluation and selection, athletics and special talent admission, and appeals.

“Veronica’s contributions to the Davis campus are hard to fathom for most,” said Robert Penman, executive director of Undergraduate Admissions at UC Davis. “Over nearly 10 years at UC Davis, Veronica has been instrumental in redefining how we conduct the business of the Undergraduate Admissions office.”

Last year alone, Penman said, Zendejas shepherded the work to review and deliver decisions to more than 110,000 applicants, and to finalize the admission for more than 9,000 newly enrolled students. Penman said Zendejas has been deeply involved in all aspects of Undergraduate Admissions work, from outreach to recruitment and yield, communications, systems, operations and more.

Zendejas’ last official day at UC Davis will be Feb. 28. Amelia Gray, associate director for admissions and recruitment, will serve as interim director of evaluation and policy until the director role is filled.

— Julia Ann Easley, senior public information representative, News and Media Relations

Woman in face mask gives vaccination to person in a car
Carrie L. Byington administers a COVID-19 vaccination at San Diego’s Petco Park in early 2021, at a drive-through clinic sponsored by UC San Diego Health. (UC photo)

Carrie L. Byington will step down as the leader of UC Health, effective June 30, President Michael V. Drake shared in a letter to the UC community before winter break. Byington holds the title of executive vice president of the division that comprises UC’s six academic health centers, 20 health professional schools, the Global Health Institute and systemwide services that improve the health of patients and the university’s students, faculty and employees.

Carrie L. Byington, UC Healtyh, headshot
Carrie L. Byington

“Her transition will allow her to better balance work with family and personal commitments,” said Drake, adding that he will launch a national search in January for her successor.

Byington, a physician, joined UC Health on Oct. 31, 2019, two months before COVID-19 emerged in China and subsequently spread to the United States. With training in pediatrics and pediatric infectious diseases, she brought invaluable expertise to UC’s pandemic response, Drake said.

“She established the UC Health COVID-19 Coordinating Committee which brought together hundreds of faculty researchers, clinicians and administrators to tackle challenges from testing and monitoring modeling and return-to-campus protocols, to vaccine distribution management, hospital crisis standards of care and long-COVID treatment,” Drake said. “This was an amazing body of work. It made a real, tangible difference for us and the people of California and beyond.”

The president also noted:

  • The key role Byington played in UC’s provision of shelter and care for unaccompanied minors at the border.
  • Her leadership and vision in UC Health’s ongoing work, including expansion of UC Programs in Medical Education, or UC PRIME, and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives; and development of systemwide data capabilities through the Center for Data Driven Insights.
  • Progress under her watch in health access and equity, cancer care and student health.

Drake said he has asked Byington to serve as a special advisor to him after she steps down as executive vice president of UC Health.

Read President Drake’s complete message, posted Dec. 5 on UCnet.

Colin Dixon, who has more than 20 years of experience in education and sustainable agriculture, is the new director of the Student Farm, as of December.

Colin Dixon, UC Davis, headshot
Colin Dixon

“Colin stood out in the hiring process due to his deep focus on experiential learning and his student-centered vision and practice,” said Ryan Galt, director of the Agricultural Sustainability Institute, which oversees the farm. “I’m confident he will continue and expand the excellent learning opportunities that exist at the Student Farm.”

Dixon worked at the Student Farm once before, in 2009-10, as a volunteer and part-time employee before turning his attention to his studies for a Ph.D. in the School of Education and working there as a graduate student researcher. He had come to UC Davis with his future wife, Susan Ellsworth, when she began a master’s program in Community and Regional Development, working on food systems and sustainable agriculture. She now works as the Capitol Corridor director for UC Cooperative Extension.

As a GSR, Dixon worked on a number of initiatives, including the Beta Lab (youth agency and equitable engineering education) and University-Community Links, or UC Links. He also played a role in the early stages of a project that become the Center for Community and Citizen Science.

His experience also includes starting an organic olive oil business, Flatlands Oil & Mill, between Davis and Winters, and working for two nonprofit educational organizations, The Concord Consortium and BSCS Science Learning.

“he UC Davis Student Farm is doing two things absolutely critical to our future: preparing people to participate in food systems that will sustain a changing world, and creating community. — Colin Dixon

“We are thrilled Colin is returning to UC Davis and the Student Farm,” said Helene Dillard, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “His wide range of experience and dedication to inclusive, hands-on learning will be of great benefit to the Student Farm, its employees and interns.”

Dixon voiced excitement about rejoining a community that is addressing society’s greatest challenges. “I don’t think there is any job more important than this one,” he said. “The UC Davis Student Farm is doing two things absolutely critical to our future: preparing people to participate in food systems that will sustain a changing world, and creating community.”

He has directed projects engaged with food, the environment and community from Northern California to Chicago to Uzbekistan, where he served with the Peace Corps as an education volunteer from 2003 to 2005. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in communications and English from Northwestern University.

Dixon succeeds Katharina Ullmann, who served as the farm’s director for five years. “I am extremely grateful for Katharina’s leadership over the last five years,” Galt said. “Among many other successes, she has worked hard to make the Student Farm a more welcoming place for students and people from a variety of backgrounds.”

Twenty-five student employees and more than 200 interns work on the Student Farm annually. Their responsibilities include the tending of nine acres for certified organic mixed vegetables and two acres for sustainably grown flowers, as well as maintaining a breeding program and an ecological garden.

The farm donates 10,000 pounds of produce each year to students in need and hosts thousands of visitors, including K-5 field trips.

Ellen Granberg headshot, UC Davis alumna
Ellen Granberg

Ellen Granberg, a 1984 graduate of UC Davis and a former editor-in-chief of The California Aggie, has been named the 19th president of George Washington University, effective July 1. She will be the first woman to lead the university.

Granberg is leaving the Rochester Institute of Technology, where she has been serving as the provost and senior vice president for academic affairs since 2018. Before that she was Clemson, where she rose from the faculty ranks to senior associate provost.

She received a Bachelor of Arts in history from UC Davis before turning to sociology for advanced degrees — master’s and Ph.D. — from Vanderbilt University. She is a nationally recognized scholar in the sociology of self, identity and mental health.

Dateline UC Davis welcomes news of appointments of various kinds for faculty and staff, for publication in Org Chart (formerly titled Transitions). Send information to

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Dateline Staff: Dave Jones, editor, 530-752-6556,; Cody Kitaura, News and Media Relations specialist, 530-752-1932,

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