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UW System takes first steps towards finding its next president

A Search and Screen Committee has been formed and will begin its work next month.
A Search and Screen Committee has been formed and will begin its work next month.(WEAU)
Published: Jul. 9, 2021 at 9:34 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WEAU) - UW System leadership is taking a first step towards finding its new president.

The UW System Board of Regents is searching for a new UW System president to take over for Tommy Thompson, who has been serving in an interim role since the retirement of Ray Cross in June of 2020.

UW System Board of Regents President Edmund Manydeeds III appointed 19 people to a committee tasked with finding the next UW System president.

Regent Vice President Karen Walsh will serve as the chair of the group, named the Search and Screen Committee.

Other members of the committee are:

  • Warren Anderson, Senior Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Officer, UW System
  • Robert Atwell, Regent
  • Rebecca Blank, Chancellor, UW-Madison
  • Amy Blumenfeld Bogost, Regent
  • Johannes Britz, Provost, UW-Milwaukee
  • Michael Falbo, Regent President Emeritus
  • Deborah Ford, Chancellor, UW-Parkside
  • Rob Manzke, Chief of Staff, Chancellor’s Office, UW-Stevens Point
  • Sabrina Mueller-Spitz, Associate Professor of Biology, UW Oshkosh
  • Geoffrey Peterson, Professor of Political Science and American Indian Studies, UW-Eau Claire
  • Ashok Rai, Regent
  • Glendali Rodriguez, Interim Provost, UW-Stout
  • Corey Saffold, Regent and Student, UW-Whitewater
  • Paul Shain, Vice Chair, Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association, and President/CEO, Singlewire Software, LLC
  • Jon Shelton, Associate Professor, and Chair, Democracy and Justice Studies, UW-Green Bay
  • Dennis Shields, Chancellor, UW-Platteville
  • Artanya Wesley, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, UW-Whitewater
  • Olivia Woodmansee, Regent Emeritus and Student, UW-La Crosse

The committee begins its work in August, beginning with an explanation of procedures and the start of a national search. Listening sessions will be held at all 13 of the UW System’s campuses in September with faculty, staff, and students able to participate in the process. Additionally, a subcommittee will be formed to guide the group on changes or information as a result of the UW System’s experience in navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.

A national search firm will be enlisted to assist in finding and screening candidates. Once the Search and Screen Committee has completed its work, finalists will be reviewed by a new committee to be appointed later this fall. The Board of Regents will then need to approve the candidate picked for UW System president.

This latest round in the search for a new president comes after the previous search ended in what Regent President described as “a dark day for the UW System.”

In June, the presidential search committee narrowed its list of prospective candidates down to a single name, then-University of Alaska System president Jim Johnsen. When announcing Johnsen as their sole finalist, the search committee noted several other potential candidates had withdrawn their names over concerns about being named as a finalist during the coronavirus pandemic.

Then, just over a week later and hours before the search committee was set to meet to discuss hiring Johnsen, the UW System released a statement announcing Johnsen had notified the committee that he no longer wanted the job.

Within ten days of that announcement, Johnsen found himself without a job as well, having resigned as president of the University of Alaska System following a demand a week earlier by the faculty union that Johnsen, whose term has been marked by no-confidence votes from the faculty amid deep budget cuts, step down. His decision to resign was a mutual agreement between its Board of Regents and Johnson, the University of Alaska System stated.

The Board of Regents expressed gratitude for Thompson’s work as interim president in the past year.

“President Thompson has reminded us of the power of the Wisconsin Idea,” Manydeeds said. “We saw this during the height of the pandemic, when we opened campuses to community testing and vaccinations. Our next president should keep that focus while meeting the many challenges ahead.”

“We are grateful for the leadership of President Thompson, who provided exemplary guidance during the pandemic and has positioned us for future success,” Walsh said. “I’ve often said that the next UW System president is watching us, and our progress during Covid-19 will no doubt be noticed by potential candidates.”

The 19-member Search and Screen Committee is expected to convene next month.

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