The third finalist for the University of Wisconsin’s top job visited campus Monday and emphasized the importance of taking risks as a leader.
Kim Wilcox, current provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Michigan State University, said that there are major similarities between the two institutions in terms of academics and research, specifically with the medical and science fields, ranging from veterinary medicine to natural sciences. He also noted the joint collaborations the two universities have taken up with one another.
Wilcox said one advantageous difference was that while both are leading universities in the nation, Wisconsin is the leading university in the state. However, Wilcox said Michigan State is one of two top universities in Michigan.
“This provides a different level of instrumentality both in research and education, but also in an educational policy setting, which would provide… the next chancellor with the ability to be quite instrumental in shaping directions of higher education and research across the nation,” Wilcox said.
Wilcox also said by observing dynamic personalities and risk-taking changes from prominent Wisconsin political figures like Gov. Scott Walker, he sees the connection between risk-taking and moving policies and agenda onto the national stage.
In order to affect policies across the nation, the next chancellor would need to be willing to take those risks that political figures make in important debates, he said.
“We would have the potential to have our values be more real to the national conversation…when other universities shape national policies and conversations that means our values may not be as well represented as they should,” Wilcox said.
Regarding tuition increases, Wilcox said all revenue streams need to flow and work together. He said he would focus on raising funds from the private sector and work with it creatively in terms of developing educational and research programming.
He added the university must be willing to think of creative solutions across the board to help solve the problem.
Wilcox said as provost of Michigan State, he has had experience working with the student government there and understands the structure of shared governance UW has between students and faculty leadership.
He said having opportunities to sit down with both students and faculty members to try to understand how they view the university would be his main concern as chancellor.
“These are the times where I can learn a lot about the university from someone else’s eyes and an awful lot about the nature of the students and issues that affect them,” Wilcox said.
UW senior Ryan Morrissey, who attended the public reception, said he came because he wanted to be sure Wilcox was more than “a face in a suit.” Wilcox was much more than that, he added.
Morrissey said with the next chancellor, he wants the university to select someone who will continue the tradition of excellence at UW.
“I’m not going to have a lot of time to interact with [the finalists], but I want to make sure that they’re still pushing the university forward like previous chancellors have done so well,” Morrissey said.