The University of California Office of the President has begun to implement changes to its administration this academic year as Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Lawrence Pitts announced his permanent retirement Sept. 8 while UC Berkeley professor Barbara Allen-Diaz took over the role of Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources on Sept. 15.

Pitts, who will officially step down in February, was appointed interim provost in 2009 and permanent provost in 2010 after returning to the position for three years after a brief period of retirement. Allen-Diaz was appointed to a three-year term beginning Oct. 1 to head the university’s research and outreach activities in food systems, environmental sciences, nutrition, family and consumer sciences.

Pitts said he is glad to have postponed his permanent retirement and welcomed the various challenges that came with the role of provost.

“I found the job fascinating and rewarding, [although] certainly stressful to some degree just because university problems are so large,” Pitts said. “I appreciated the opportunity to work on such complex problems [with] the skill and dedication of University of California faculty and leaders. Not many people get the chance to do such an interesting job.”

According to Pitts, he is maintaining the three-year extension in order to fully enjoy the benefits of his retirement.

“I was very close to being retired when I took this job, and my wife wasn’t very happy because we like to spend time together and travel,” he said. “This is a very labor-intensive job, so it seems that agreeing to three years at the front end was a sane thing to do, and it still seems like a sane thing to do [so that] I can enjoy my retirement time with the family.”

Being the highest-ranking academic officer at UC, the provost is responsible for system-wide academic affairs. Duties include setting academic policies on student admission, retention and graduation, developing academic priorities and planning long-term measures to maintain the UC’s image and service to the public.

UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang said Pitts has been highly influential in the UC community and is committed to maintaining students’ quality of education.

“In his position as Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Pitts brought his rich experience serving as the Chair of the UC Systemwide Academic Senate and as Faculty Regent, and his extraordinary academic vision, as well as his unwavering, dedicated service to the University,” Yang said in an e-mail. “His leadership has been a blessing to the whole UC system, especially during this extraordinarily difficult time of budgetary challenges. Our gratitude to him is more than words can describe, and we wish him all the best in the next stage of his life.”

Pitts’s many contributions to the University of California system include his campaign for the online education pilot project while maintaining UC standards for students, promoting diversity among campuses, reorganizing the UC to a single system-wide program serving all campuses and addressing the issue of indirect cost recovery.

Pitts, a professor emeritus of neurosurgery at UC San Francisco and former UC Academic Senate member, said it will be prudent for his successor to encourage cooperation between different groups and campuses, though it may prove to be a difficult task.

“I think that the most important challenge is for him or her to be able to find collaboration on tricky ground and to foster collaboration across different constituencies,” Pitts said.

UC President Mark G. Yudof will initiate a national search for the next provost in the coming weeks, and Pitts has agreed to retain the position until his successor takes office.

This change to UC administration couples with the announcement of a new UC vice president for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Barbara Allen-Diaz.

Allen-Diaz, who was previously the office’s associate VP for Academic Programs and Strategic Initiatives, said that ANR will continue following their Strategic Vision with focus on sustainable food systems, sustainable natural ecosystems, water quality, managing endemic and invasive pests and diseases and promoting healthy communities and families.

“We as a division put together a strategic vision four years ago when we saw [the budgetary issues] coming,” Allen-Diaz said. “We have to look to the future and where the division is going to be 10, 15 years down the road. If we only dwell on day-to-day problems then we can never move forward.”

The first female appointed to the position, Allen-Diaz plans to maintain the same goals she has sought in her past four years’ experience in the UCOP.

“My philosophy is that I intend to continue in all the administrative roles I’ve had,” Allen-Diaz said. “I want to empower people to do the work that they do and to provide resources to enable them to do [that].”

The UC Berkeley professor will succeed current ANR vice president Daniel M. Dooley, who is also senior vice president for External Affairs.