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UC Riverside Names System’s First Latina Chancellor

UC Riverside Names System’s First Latina Chancellor


Dr. France A. CĂłrdova, a former National Aeronautics and Space Administration chief scientist, is the first Hispanic woman to lead a University of California campus.

CĂłrdova, who was sworn in as chancellor of UC Riverside last month, said her goal is to make the campus a leader among research universities and a catalyst for social, cultural and economic development.

“With its star on the rise, UCR’s mission is clear to achieve world-class status in key areas of interdisciplinary research,” Córdova said during the ceremony.

Córdova, 54, takes the helm of one of the most diverse campuses in the nation. Nearly 70 percent of Riverside’s students are people of color. According to fall 2002 figures, the student ethnic breakdown was: African American, 5.7 percent; Asian American, 42.2 percent; Chicano/Latino, 23 percent; Native American, 0.5 percent; White, 23 percent; other, 1.6 percent. (Figures do not include those who declined to state ethnic background.)

Located in the heart of the rapidly expanding inland region east of Los Angeles, UC Riverside is one of the fastest growing among the UC system’s 10 campuses. Its roughly 16,000 student-population is expected to jump to 25,000 over the next decade.

Former colleague and fellow physicist Steven Beckwith says that Riverside’s diverse student population represents the future of higher education throughout the country.

“France, your task is a warm-up to the task that faces all the leaders of our nation’s high institutions of learning,” says Beckwith, director of Johns Hopkins University’s Space Telescope Science Institute in Maryland.

Córdova is the oldest of 12 children born to a Mexican father and Irish-American mother. She was the first Latina from her high school to be accepted at Stanford University, where she received a bachelor’s in English.

California Gov. Gray Davis lauded Córdova’s academic achievements.

“Much will be made of the fact that today France Córdova will become the first Latina to serve as chancellor of a UC campus,” Davis said. “But anyone who has read her stellar resume knows we have picked the best chancellor for the job.”

Córdova earned a doctorate in physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1979. After receiving her degree, she became a staff scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. In 1993, she was named chief scientist at NASA. She was also named one of “America’s 100 brightest scientists under 40” by Science Digest magazine in 1984.

Before coming to Riverside, the astrophysicist was vice chancellor and professor of physics at UC Santa Barbara. CĂłrdova replaces former Chancellor Raymond Orbach.

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