University of Wisconsin System’s president and a special committee recommended Rebecca Blank, acting U.S. Secretary of Commerce, as UW’s new Chancellor in an announcement Monday.
The UW System Board of Regents will vote on the recommendation by UW System President Kevin Reily and the special committee on April 5. If approved, Blank, who was one of four finalists for the position, will replace Interim Chancellor David Ward in July.
In a UW statement she said she is honored to be recommended for the position. She is currently in Brazil as U.S. Secretary of Commerce.
“I am honored and delighted to be offered the job of Chancellor at UW-Madison,” Blank said in the statement. “This is a world-class school, and I have been continually impressed by the caliber, dedication and enthusiasm of its students, faculty and staff.”
By taking the position, Blank will leave her cabinet position under President Barack Obama’s administration.
According to a statement released by The White House, Obama finds Blank to be a strong recommendation for the position.
“A tireless advocate for American businesses, Becky has helped increase our competitiveness, and bring good-paying jobs back to our shores,” Obama said in the statement. “I know the University of Wisconsin Badgers will have an outstanding chancellor to come.”
Blank’s recommendation also received Gov. Scott Walker’s attention, who said Blank was a “great pick” for the university due to her strong credentials, in statement. Walker added Blank’s knowledge of economic issues will help UW “promote great prosperity in the state.”
“Through all the interviews and interactions with the Regents and the UW president, people came to the impression that Dr. Blank is someone who brings a very special skills set to this job,” Giroux said. “If you think about the work that needs to be done at this university in terms of advancing our educational mission and creating a stronger state economy, she is really uniquely prepared to do both.”
In the UW System statement, Reilly said Blank’s past roles were a main reason behind the recommendation, adding that she has “broad experience in roles where big science and big research intersect with job creation and commercialization.”
Outside of economic experience, David McDonald, chair of the Chancellor Search and Screen committee, said Blank also has a strong history in the academic realm as well as a “strong Midwest root.”
“She understands the importance of public universities and more specifically she understands the Wisconsin Idea,” McDonald said. “My committee colleagues are very enthusiastic about her decision to apply to the position.”
During a visit to UW campus last week, Blank said her objective for the university is to ensure the university has the funding to maintain its excellence.
Specifically, Blank emphasized the university’s budget.
“The first priority for any chancellor has to be dealing with the balance between getting the budget of this university together and making sure there is access for all students, particularly students in the state,” Blank said.
During her visit, Blank did not rule out raising out-of-state tuition but also advocated for more outside fundraising sources from the Wisconsin Alumni Association and UW Foundation.
Andrew Bulovsky, Chair of Associated Students of Madison also commented on Blank as a candidate for the position in a statement serving as the summation of students’ impressions.
According to Bulovsky, Blank was a pleasure to meet with and seemed to understand the importance of shared governance. However, students raised concern over whether she will address the accessibility of UW, a crucial issue for many Wisconsin residents.