Joel Michaelsen: All Star Athlete, Academic, and Administrator


Geography Professor Joel Michaelsen was one of four UCSB alumnae honored at the 2014 Annual Alumni Awards Luncheon on October 11. Joel was honored with the Graver University Service Award which was presented to him by Chancellor Yang for his exemplary service as a scholar, faculty leader, and distinguished administrator.

According to the Alumni Association: “In 1991, the Alumni Service Award, named after influential Association board member Chuck Graver, was created to honor those who demonstrated exceptional leadership and service to the University through involvement with the Alumni Association. In the last 50 years, the Alumni Association has honored more than 200 individuals. As the excellence of UC Santa Barbara and its alumni has grown, these awards have highlighted the men and women who have brought distinction to their alma mater” (source).

UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang made the following announcement about Michaelsen’s appointment as Interim Executive Vice Chancellor: “Following broad consultation with our Academic Senate and administrative and faculty colleagues, I am pleased to announce that Professor Joel Michaelsen has graciously agreed to serve as our Interim Executive Vice Chancellor, effective Friday, January 17, 2014, pending Presidential approval, until the next EVC is in place.

As a UCSB alumnus and distinguished faculty member since 1982, Professor Michaelsen has lent his wisdom and expertise to help our university in countless ways over the years, including as chair of our Academic Senate from 2006 to 2010 and as department chair of Geography from 1991 to 1997. He is an exemplar of the importance and value of shared governance at UC Santa Barbara and has chaired or served on a broad range of campus committees, including the Chancellor’s Coordinating Committee on Budget Strategy, Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Faculty and Staff Housing, Campus Planning Committee, Design Review Committee, Chancellor’s Campus Sustainability Committee, and many more.

Dr. Michaelsen is a dedicated teacher and mentor and an outstanding researcher, renowned for his expertise in climatology, climate change, and statistics. Within our Department of Geography, he founded the UCSB Climate Hazard Group, which specializes in looking at the climate-related components of food-security in developing nations through the lens of geography. We greatly appreciate Professor Michaelsen’s long-standing devotion to our campus and his willingness to help ensure a smooth transition by taking on this critical interim role.”

To quote Professor David Lopez-Carr regarding the Alumni Awards Luncheon: “Representing Geography, Dan Montello, Ray Smith, and I were at the table with Joel. The others seated with us, in addition to Joel’s wife, were Henry Yang and our new EVC David Marshall, which suggests how much Joel’s contributions are valued by our campus administration. Dan noted that the bottles of wine at our table were VIP level juice.” Dan commented: “Joel gave a very charming speech that was warmly received. We all felt proud and just a little sad at the passing of time marked by this ceremony. Yes, I could see that our table had some really nice bottles of wine (a little pricey), while the othertables had only serviceable bottles. Too bad I had to return to my office afterwards – nothing but ice tea for me!”

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Joel Michaelsen served as chair of Geography from 1991 to 1997, chair of the Academic Senate from 2006 to 2010, and Interim Executive Vice Chancellor for the past year. On top of his service to the University, he is a member of the National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Use of Remote Sensing for Human Welfare applications and on the proposal review panel of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Global Change

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Joel Michaelsen in his college days at UCSB. He earned his degree in geography in 1969. As a high school student, Joel was a decorated four-sport athlete and former student body president

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Joel Michaelsen during his graduate school years. He earned a master’s degree and a PhD from UC Berkeley

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Joel’s Climate Hazard Group, established in fall, 2002. The climate hazard group specializes in applying climatology to problems of food security: “We act as intermediaries between institutions specializing in forecasts, such as the NOAA climate prediction center (CPC ) and users of climate forecast and monitoring data, such as the agronomists and economists evaluating food security for the Famine Early Warning System Network (www.fews.net).