"I did get arrested sometime," concedes Fong of his activities as a leader during the many student protests against abolishing the policy. "But it wasn't that day."
A 1998 UC Berkeley graduate in environmental sciences, Fong beat out eight other candidates to nab the prestigious position. For Fong, who had to field questions not only from a panel of UC students but also from the 26-member board, the victory was particularly sweet. He'd tried for the job once before in 1997.
Alas, the day the board confirmed him at its meeting in San Francisco, Fong wasn't there to enjoy it. "It was the middle of finals," explains the 25-year-old student. "I was involved in a group project, examining affirmative action practices in Los Angeles. I couldn't leave my group in the lurch."
Asked what he hopes to achieve during his one-year tenure, which began July 1, Fong is unfailingly modest.
"There's a huge learning curve," says the well-traveled student, who spent four years in China, where his father, then a mechanical engineer for AT&T, built the country's international telephone infrastructure. "There are large parts of the university, the business and investment side, that I need to learn more about."
Joshua Muldavin, assistant professor of geography, saw Fong's maturity firsthand when the student did fieldwork with him one summer in China. "Justin really is one of those rare Renaissance-like persons who is able to manage a whole range of different arenas, from political to social to academic," he comments.
Fong does not hesitate when asked about what issues he will take up with the Board of Regents. "Diversity is a major concern of mine, not only with undergraduate admissions, but with graduate programs and faculty and staff."