Picture of Dean Watkins

Watkins Appointed Vice Chancellor of Student Academic Affairs


Elizabeth Watkins, PhD, Dean of UCSF’s Graduate Division, has been named Vice Chancellor of Student Academic Affairs. She succeeds UCSF Vice Chancellor of Student Academic Affairs Joseph Castro, PhD, who accepted a position as the next president of California State University in Fresno. Watkins, who joined UCSF in 2004, will retain her academic appointment as dean and professor, and will fully assume the responsibilities of vice chancellor.

In this expanded position, Watkins’ responsibilities include overseeing all student and graduate affairs. She will lead strategically important educational initiatives and partnerships for UCSF, acting as primary advisor to the Chancellor and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Jeff Bluestone, PhD, on all matters related to students.

“Liz is perfect for this role,” said Bluestone. “Above all, Liz cares deeply about students and is committed to ensuring their well-being and success at UCSF and beyond. She has a history of working with and across diverse and varied disciplines and areas. The depth and diversity of her personal and professional experience will be invaluable as Vice Chancellor-Student Academic Affairs.”

Watkins began her career at UCSF as a professor in the Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine and director of Graduate Studies for the History of Health Sciences program.

She has served as the dean of Graduate Division since April 2012. The Graduate Division offers top-ranked programs in basic biomedical, translational, social and population sciences.

Watkins’ experience working with and on behalf of graduate students and postdocs, building community within the Graduate Division, and developing programs for enhancing diversity and student support, is highly valuable for the Student Academic Affairs role and environment.

In her first year as dean, Watkins improved graduate student funding opportunities, including securing gifts for and creating new annual fellowships. She and her staff conducted a comprehensive career outcomes study of all PhD graduates since 1997, as part of the effort to enhance career exploration and planning for students and postdocs.

After reviewing the organizational structure of the vice chancellor of Student Academic Affairs function, UCSF leaders determined that the campus would benefit from integrating the Vice Chancellor-Student Academic Affairs role with the academic Dean-Graduate Division position.

“This is a stellar opportunity for our campus,” said Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH. “With a solid understanding of UCSF’s graduate student culture and operations, not only will UCSF benefit from having someone of such high caliber and integrity to serve in this role, along with the willingness, the blending of these two positions into one promotes Operational Excellence through cost-savings to the University.”

The campus will save money on the recruitment process as well as expenses related to moving, house-hunting, temporary housing and ongoing expenses related to a full-time salary with associated Senior Management Group (SMG) benefits.

Professor Emeritus Clifford Atkisson, PhD, served in both positions at UCSF in the 1990s.

Watkins earned both her BA degree in biology and her PhD degree at Harvard University. She is the author of On the Pill: A Social History of Oral Contraceptives and The Estrogen Elixir: A History of Hormone Replacement Therapy in America and co-editor of Medicating Modern America: A History of Prescription Drugs and Prescribed: Writing, Filling, Using, and Abusing the Prescription in Modern America.

She has also published articles on the history of birth control, the history of male menopause and testosterone and the history of stress. She continues to supervise PhD students writing dissertations in the history of health sciences at UCSF.