News On Campus

UWEC’s Schmidt One of Two Finalists to Lead UW System

decision expected by end of January, Board of Regents says

Tom Giffey |

Chancellor James Schmidt might not be palling around with Blu the Blugold much longer. (UWEC Photo)
HEADED FOR THE TOP? Chancellor James Schmidt might not be palling around with Blu the Blugold much longer. (UWEC photo)

UW-Eau Claire’s “Chancellor Jim” could become “President Jim” in the near future.

The University of Wisconsin System announced Friday that UWEC Chancellor James Schmidt was one of two finalists who will be interviewed next week for the job of system president. Whoever is chosen will fill the shoes of interim President Tommy Thompson, who announced recently he will step down effective March 18.

Schmidt became UWEC chancellor in 2013. Before that, he served as vice president for university advancement at Winona State University in Minnesota. His term at UWEC has been marked by consistently high rankings of the university, the construction of the Pablo Center at the Confluence, the formation of a unique partnership with Mayo Clinic Health System, and planning for the forthcoming Sonnentag Events Center.

The other finalist for UW System president is Jay O. Rothman, chairman and CEO of Foley and Lardner, a Milwaukee law firm, a job he has held for more than a decade.

Schmidt and Rothman will be interviewed next week by a special committee of the Board of Regents. 

“We have identified two excellent candidates, each of whom would be an outstanding leader for our university system,” said Edmund Manydeeds III, president of the Regents and chairman of the special committee. “We believe their qualifications and experience provide the committee a great opportunity to pick a future leader for the UW System.”

The new president will lead a system with more than 165,000 students, 13 universities, 26 campuses, and an annual budget of $6 billion.

Here are more details from the Board of Regents’ announcement:

The finalists will interview Tuesday with the Special Regent Committee and other groups, including shared governance representatives, chancellors, and UW System executive leaders. Manydeeds and Search and Screen Committee chair Karen Walsh, the Regent Vice President, announced that because of the extraordinary public input in the process so far, there will be no public session with the finalists.

“Our diverse 21-member Search and Screen Committee included representatives from all universities and all campus constituencies, which helped us identify a list of viable candidates to forward to the Special Regent Committee,” Walsh said. “We also held numerous valuable listening sessions at all of the universities and with all constituencies – often more than one. We look forward to the Special Regent Committee completing its work.”

After the interviews, the Special Regent Committee will forward a recommendation to the full Board of Regents, which will make the final decision on hiring a new UW System President. A decision is expected by the end of January.

Learn more about the finalists and the search progress on the Board of Regents’ Presidential Search website.

UPDATE: Schmidt sent the follow message to UWEC students and employees Friday afternoon:

Dear faculty, staff and student leaders,
Today UW System announced that I am a finalist for the presidential search. As one of two finalists, I will be meeting with Regents, Chancellors and members of UW System and shared governance leadership next week. Regent President Ed Manydeeds has indicated he hopes to have a decision on the next UW System president by early February.  System’s announcement can be found here.
The decision to apply for the presidency is not one that I made lightly. The past eight and a half  years at UW-Eau Claire have been the most rewarding of my career and I know that we have many more opportunities for our university in the years to come. At the same time, I know that higher education in Wisconsin is at a crossroads. If we are to serve our students and our state more effectively, we need to re-envision what our statewide System can and should be. I would like to be part of those changes.
Regardless of the final decision, the future of UW-Eau Claire will remain close to my heart.
Chancellor James C. Schmidt