Ranging from a new chancellor to a new college dean, University of Wisconsin’s faculty is set to see some new faces in the coming months. Here are three of the biggest changes students can expect this fall.
Chancellor Rebecca Blank
After UW Interim Chancellor David Ward delivered his last commencement addresses in May, incoming Chancellor Rebecca Blank is preparing for the start of fall semester.
As former Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Blank, who has taught at several universities throughout the country and directed research centers, said running the federal department is not much different from running a large university.
“My work here has required creating an agenda, communicating that internally and externally, and thinking strategically about how to move the department forward toward specific program and policy goals, while working in a political environment and dealing with some very real budget challenges,” she said in a statement.
UW System President Kevin Reilly agreed, noting in a statement Blank is “uniquely prepared” to lead the university having come with broad national and international experience in roles where big science and big research intersect with job creation and commercialization.
According to Blank, two agendas will take precedence with the start of her term as UW’s chancellor: teaching and preparing the next generation of citizens and workers and staying at the forefront in a number of areas of innovation and research.
“Keeping our economy on the front edge of innovation is important not just for the state, but for the nation and the world,” Blank said.
UW spokesperson John Lucas expressed his excitement for Blank’s new role.
“All of us are anxious for Chancellor Blank to join our campus community and begin her efforts to advance UW. She is clearly a very qualified candidate [with] a background very suitable to this type of position [and] well-respected in so many different areas and we anticipate great things for her as she assumes her new role,” Lucas said.
Vice Provost Damon Williams
After serving since 2009, University of Wisconsin Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer Damon Williams announced he would be stepping down from his role Aug. 2.
During the past five years, Williams has worked to advance campus diversity, helping institutionalize several campus programs and initiatives such as the Division of Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievements.
Willie Ney, founder of the Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives and the First Wave Spoken Word and Urban Arts Learning Community, said Williams was able to make strides in diversity at the university.
“When Williams came in, the diversity programs on the UW campus were very much scattered in different areas of campus for no strategic reason,” Ney said in an email to The Badger Herald. “So what he did was he brought these units together in a very strategic way…he was very transparent and open about how we were kind of re-imagining what the division would look like and they were very much involved in shaping the new division of the diversity, education and equity achievement.”
According to a statement from UW, Williams was also nationally recognized for his diversity work as the recipient of the Inclusive Excellence Award for Leadership by the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, which recognizes leaders who have made contributions in research, administration, practice and policy to the understanding of diversity in higher education.
However, in his farewell statement, Williams noted despite his achievements, there is still work to be done to improve campus climate.
“We do not have nearly enough diversity in our student, faculty, or leadership ranks, and far too often, these communities are not embraced as full participants in our campus environment,” he said.
Moving forward, Williams will serve as the senior vice president of programs, training and youth development with the Boys and Girls Club of America.
A new vice provost has not yet been chosen but Williams will work with members of senior leadership and colleagues on campus and in the community to ensure a smooth transition after he leaves office, according to a statement.
College of Letters and Science Dean John Scholz
University of Wisconsin Professor John Scholz, former chair of the UW’s economics department began his new position as College of Letters and Sciences dean this summer and looks forward to supporting and continuing the college’s already standing agenda.
“The faculty and staff at L&S do great things,” Scholz said. “Through research proposals, we bring in an extraordinary amount of money. L&S is a remarkable place, and I don’t come in with an agenda for change as much as to support and try to continue the remarkable things that go on here every day.”
However, Scholz is looking to place more focus on certain areas within the college, including his desire to maintain and enhance excellence in research and scholarship.
Scholz added he also hopes to place more emphasis on the college’s career initiatives, so departments will be able to better help students find employment, become lifelong learners and live successful and satisfying lives after graduating.
Coming from an economics background, Scholz also said he wants to strengthen the financial model of the college to ensure it remains a remarkable place in the future.
Although he does not think his economic knowledge will play a big role in his new position, he said he thinks it may help in some aspects of his new job.
“Economics provides a useful way for thinking about how people, our governments, our firms, systematically go about trying to achieve a set of objectives given the constraints they face, and that way of thinking can potentially be useful in academic administration,” Scholz said.
He said he looks forward to working with all the departments within Letters and and Science, which are full of faculty and staff who are excited about working with students and providing a “remarkable” education.