The University of the Arts has named a new president. David Yager, who holds several positions at the University of California, Santa Cruz, including dean of the arts division, starts the job Jan. 15.

With a background as a visual artist, Yager, 66, has been dean at Santa Cruz since 2009, after spending 23 years at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, as art professor and founder/director of its Imaging Research Center, Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture, and Innovation Design Lab.

Yager said he was drawn to the new post because of the city's support of the arts, and the quality of the school and its "incredible faculty."

He was chosen, according to university board of trustees chairman Jeffrey A. Lutsky, because "he's been innovative in thinking about the application of art to design and to the world."

Yager follows Sean T. Buffington, who left the 1,800-student university in January to become vice president for planning and strategic initiatives at the Henry Luce Foundation in New York City.

A strategic planning process to begin after Yager's arrival will ponder projects that would require fund-raising, including potential renovation of existing facilities, but "nothing specific has been sketched out," said Lutsky.

Yager was born in the Bronx and raised in Elmont, on Long Island. As an artist, his focus has been on painting, printmaking, photography, and film and video. While at UC, he initiated two doctoral and two master's degree programs, and new undergraduate majors in gaming and playable media. He has a B.A. from the University of Connecticut, and an M.F.A. from Florida State University.

In addition to art, he has been deeply involved in design issues, specifically at the intersection of design and health care. For 13 years he has worked with the Children's Center and the department of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, where he holds a faculty position in pediatrics. "For years I taught innovation and design," said Yager, "and my students would come to the hospital with me and I would say, 'Look around and tell me what's not working,' and then we would vote on what's the most interesting projects and all the students would work on the project. For me it's about real-world problems."