UW System president and UW-Madison chancellor departures leave room for uncertainty


Last week, the University of Wisconsin-Madison community was informed of Chancellor Rebecca Blank’s departure from Northwestern University this summer after nine years at the helm. Blank will be the first woman to serve as president of Northwestern University.

Blank was an incumbent in Northwestern’s economics department and was director of the Joint Center of Poverty Research before joining UW-Madison as chancellor.

“I have a lot of connections with Northwestern and I am excited about this new opportunity,” Blank said on Oct. 11. university press release.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel speculates that his leave probably comes with a big pay rise. They report that Blank was paid just over $ 606,000 in 2020, the highest paid chancellor in the entire UW system.

Last summer, the search to replace interim UW System president Tommy Thompson began.

Former Governor of Wisconsin, Thompson assumed this role in July 2020 after seeking a permanent replacement for his predecessor, Ray Cross, failed. Thompson was chosen by Board Chairman Andrew Petersen because of “his heritage of bringing people together and finding common ground.”

Both positions will become vacant in early summer 2022, leaving room for uncertainty for the future of UW and its flagship school in terms of leadership.

Besides Blank and Thompson, there are also five recently vacant leadership positions in the 12 other UW schools.

UW spokeswoman Meredith McGlone assures us that these departures are not at all correlated.

“Fortunately Chancellor Blank and her team have put the university on a very stable footing,” said McGlone.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has its highest graduation rate, has 4,000 students under the Bucky’s Tuition Promise program as well as the widest variety of diversity throughout Madison’s history.

“My goal has always been to leave this university stronger than when I arrived and I believe that together we have made it,” said Blank.

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The search for both positions will be overseen by the UW System and the Board of Regents with more details to follow as they become available.

“In the case where [Blank’s] successor has not yet been chosen at this point, an interim chancellor could be appointed to ensure continuity until the successor arrives, ”said McGlone.

In an interview conducted by the Wisconsin State Journal with consultant Anne Coyle of recruitment firm Russell Reynolds Associates, Coyle said that “candidates can see jobs together as a real opportunity to bring new ideas to the table.”

Coyle recognizes that research must adhere to a long list of rules and regulations, as they work with state government and have a much smaller budget than typical research for a private institution.

The concerns are shared by some, including former UW System president Katharine Lyall. With six years of experience, she told the Wisconsin State Journal that the departure of the two characters “complicates the choreography a bit.”

“It just adds another dimension to the UW System President’s search to find someone who can attract good candidates for Madison’s job,” Lyall said.

Retired UW-La Crosse professor Joe Heim expressed concern about how a potential candidate’s perspective might change based on UW System’s recent history of budget battles, political challenges and mandate changes that have attracted national attention.

“I wonder what kind of message it sends to applicants that both positions are vacant,” Heim said. “This could cause a little hesitation on the part of the best candidates. “

“No matter who the next chancellor is, we hope they will share our goals of promoting the voice of students and making the campus a fair and inclusive environment,” Madison’s student associates said in a statement. October 11 statement.

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