Chancellor Rebecca Blank gave her final State of the University address to the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents Feb. 10.
In her address, Blank offered several suggestions to the Board of Regents about UW-Madison specifically, such as the approval of borrowing authority for capital projects and an active engagement with leadership when they criticize UW-Madison.
“For a person leaving for a new leadership position, she was very proactive,” Regent Rodney Pasch said in an interview with The Badger Herald.
Pasch said he believes the Blank offered these recommendations because she wants to help the university grow and succeed, even in her absence.
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Regent President Edmund Manydeeds III — a member of the new chancellor search committee — said he believes Blank made the recommendations out of love for the UW-Madison campus and in good hope for its future.
Manydeeds appreciated Blank’s recommendations but said he didn’t believe they held much weight because the most pressing concern currently for the Board of Regents is finding the next chancellor.
“What’s the next chancellor going to think about those things?” Manydeeds said.
Manydeeds said the board will wait to see what the new chancellor thinks about these recommendations, but critical voices for him now are those of the university staff, community and students who all have different expectations for the new chancellor.
Pasch said he hopes the next chancellor uses the important resources at UW to further cement the school’s legacy as a world-class university.
“I hope they continue to give leadership in a changing world with a lot of new dynamics,” Pasch said.
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The Board of Regents announced the chancellor search in December and held listening sessions in January to hear from any students and staff about their expectations for a new chancellor.
Now, the search committee is receiving applications through March 11, after which they will start reading applications and hold interviews for promising candidates through April. In May, they will interview the finalists from that interview pool and then select a final candidate to hire.
“We want someone who is going to represent the university,” Manydeeds said.
Manydeeds said he’s hoping for a diverse pool of candidates, saying he assumed most will come with high qualifications. Manydeeds also said he’d like to have a chancellor with strong communications skills, which Pasch highlighted as something he noticed in particular about Blank. Pasch said she is a brilliant and smart leader and really helped students learn and grow during her time at the university.
In her speech, Blank shared several achievements during her time as chancellor, including creating a more diverse student body, strengthening financial aid and significantly increasing the number of National Merit finalists who attend the university.
“These institutions are fragile, particularly at a high level of quality,” Blank said. “If we aren’t working every day to maintain and grow this quality, it will erode.”
The Cap Times reported Blank said the university should grow their research enterprise in order to strengthen UW-Madison financially and to prevent decrease in revenue. This is something Blank said she focused on during her time at the university, and she hopes that the Board of Regents and the new chancellor will continue to improve this area.
Manydeeds said he has been a major advocate of Blank and is curious about finding out new chancellor’s pursuits on campus will be like.
“If we’re going to maintain our reputation and our quality, we need to continue to invest and grow in the right ways,” Blank said. “To do that, we need resources – and we will help generate those — combined with a smart strategy for the future. That will be the job of the new chancellor.”
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Pasch said while he is also a fan of Blank, he’s optimistic about the future. According to him, state legislature and the governor have been very proactive in supporting education in Wisconsin, but did not go into detail how.
Manydeeds talked about the role of the search committee and said that they were listening to the opinions of the whole community in their search for a chancellor.
“I want the students to know that we have valued everything we’ve heard from them and their representatives who came to the listening session,” Manydeeds said.