Tuesday, the University of Wisconsin Presidential Search Committee announced their one finalist moving forward to the next phase of the selection process.

UW System president Ray Cross announced his retirement in October, once the search committee finds his replacement.

The UW System said in a press release that University of Alaska System President Jim Johnsen will move forward as a finalist for UW System President. The search committee will conduct finalist interviews June 9, according to the press release.

The UW System said many candidates removed themselves from the selection process — some feared being named publicly as a finalist during the COVID-19 pandemic. For UW System president searches, state law allows for the identities of the applicants to remain anonymous to the public except for the final five candidates for the position.

Regent Vice President and Chair of the Presidential Search Committee Michael Grebe spoke about the decision in the press release.

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“The candidate pool that was developed and reviewed by the committee was very deep and strong, and included a number of impressive and qualified candidates at each step of the process,” Grebe said.

The release said the search committee unanimously agreed on Johnsen as their top candidate for the position.

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Johnsen has been president of the University of Alaska System since 2015 and has worked in higher education positions at University of Alaska and University of Minnesota, according to his resume. Additionally, Johnsen has worked in the private sector in communications, and serves on the National Association of System Heads, the Alaska Aerospace Development Corporation and other organizations in Alaska.

Johnsen received his undergraduate degree from the University of California-Santa Cruz, a graduate degree in social work from the University of Chicago and an education degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

The UW System will post a video of Johnsen’s finalist interview June 10 and the video and comment box will be available until the end of the business day June 11, according to the press release.