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Nicholas Dirks

Nicholas B. Dirks, PhD

President and Chief Executive Officer

The New York Academy of Sciences

Nicholas B. Dirks, PhD, is an internationally renowned historian and anthropologist, and a leader in higher education. As an academic administrator, Dirks has been known as a strong advocate for accessible, high-quality undergraduate education, and for the globalization of universities. He is a lifelong supporter of interdisciplinary studies, across the humanities, social sciences, and natural and physical sciences.

Dirks was awarded a PhD from the University of Chicago, and taught at the California Institute of Technology, the University of Michigan, and Columbia University. Dirks was recruited to Columbia to chair the anthropology department. Later he moved into senior leadership, becoming the executive vice president for the arts and sciences and dean of the faculty.

Dirks then served as tenth chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley. At Berkeley, Dirks improved facilities and programs for undergraduates, including new courses in data science. He strengthened alumni relations and presided over record-breaking fundraising. Dirks also invested in major research collaborations in neuroscience and genomics, developed a close working relationship with the University of California San Francisco, and helped negotiate Berkeley’s participation in the $600 million Chan Zuckerberg BioHub. Other accomplishments at Berkeley included new global partnerships with universities in the UK, China and Singapore.

Dirks has also held the position of chancellor and vice-chairman of Whittle School & Studios.

Dirks has published four major books, including Castes of Mind, about changes to the caste system in India under British colonial rule. The book won several major awards, including the Lionel Trilling Award, and is widely taught in graduate curricula in the U.S. and India. Dirks has also edited several other books, and written numerous essays, articles and papers.

Dirks has held many fellowships and scholarships. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and MacArthur Foundation residential fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. He has received honorary degrees in Beijing, China, and Madras, India. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.


For more information about Nicholas Dirks, see this profile.