The University of California Academic Senate has awarded UC Davis Distinguished Professor Robert Powell as the 2020 co-recipient of the prestigious Oliver Johnson Award for Distinguished Leadership in the Academic Senate. This award, named after late Senate activist Oliver Johnson, is given biennially to two UC faculty members who have contributed in outstanding and creative ways to the Academic Senate and shared governance.
Powell, a distinguished professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and the Department of Food Science and Technology, has an extensive Senate service history. His service has focused on university research, instructional, and budgetary matters, as well as executive recruitments.
Powell began his Senate career in 1988-89 as a member, and later chair, of the Davis Division’s Committee on Research. He served as vice chair of the Davis Division in 2006-07 and as chair from 2008-2011, during which he led the Senate through the transition of a new UC Davis chancellor and provost. He then progressed to vice chair and chair of the systemwide Academic Senate in 2011-12 and 2012-13 where, as the faculty representative to the Board of Regents, he assisted in recruiting a new UC president and helped create UC’s Innovation Learning Technology Initiative. Most recently, Powell served from 2016-18 as chair of the Davis Division’s Committee on Planning and Budget, during which he helped lead the Davis Division’s review of UC Davis' incentive-based budget model.
With his positive and friendly attitude, backed by deep knowledge of and commitment to UC, Powell has built and maintained bridges between faculty, administration, and even government representatives. UC Davis Professor Jim Chalfant, a former UC senate chair, commends Powell as “a true shared-governance star and fully deserving of this honor; he moves with ease between administration and Senate roles, and does so because of his fundamental decency, honesty, and devotion to the University (and its students, faculty, staff, and administrators). He has made countless contributions in both types of role, but notably, as a Senate leader.” Likewise, Professor Emeritus Linda Bisson, who chaired the Davis Division after Powell, remarks how Powell “leads from thoughtfulness and respect for all present and makes sure each person has a voice. He has always put the welfare of the students and the institution first.”
Professor Powell is a true asset to the UC system. The Davis Division of the Academic Senate commends him for this well-deserved honor.