Rebecca M. Blank
Rebecca Blank has been recommended by a Board of Regents committee to become the next chancellor of UW-Madison.
In her own words:
I have been a researcher and a teacher most of my life. As an academic economist, I have had the privilege of working in a number of top research and educational institutions. I’ve taught at Princeton, MIT, Northwestern and Michigan. I’ve run research centers, and most recently I’ve been dean of the public policy school at the University of Michigan.
For the last four years I’ve been out of the academic world, serving in the Department of Commerce as a senior political appointee. In the last couple of years, I’ve been in one of the two senior leadership positions at Commerce, serving either as deputy secretary, which is the chief operating officer for the department, or as acting secretary and member of the cabinet, a job which I’ve filled for an extended period while we’ve been without a confirmed secretary.
Commerce is a very large and complex organization. It has almost 45,000 employees and — between appropriated and unappropriated dollars — it’s about a $10 billion organization. Most people do not know that a good part of the Department of Commerce is devoted to science and data. Among our bureaus is the National Institute of Standards (NIST), a research center that competes for engineers and nuclear physicists with the top research universities around the country; it has four Nobel Prize winners on staff. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has some of the best researchers in atmospheric modeling and coastal environmental research. The Census Bureau has top survey statisticians and economists. Both the Census Bureau and the National Weather Service have a lot of big data. The Patent and Trademark Office puts us at the center of debates on intellectual property.
So, running Commerce is not entirely unlike running big and complex universities. 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.
In short, I would bring multiple skills and interests to the chancellor job. I have substantial experience in the academic world, both as a teacher and as a researcher who understands what motivates, attracts and retains research faculty at a first class institution. At the same time, I’ve had experience as a leader and administrator both at the University of Michigan as well as in the Department of Commerce, and know how to operate inside large and complex organizations.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison is a great public university. It is big and diverse, with multiple colleges and lots of majors. I have been on the Madison campus many times and you can feel the energy from both students and faculty. Your alumni are loyal. And you have one of the most beautiful campus settings in the country.
UW-Madison is at the center of two important agendas. One is teaching and preparing the next generation of citizens and workers with the skills they need in a rapidly changing and global economy. The second agenda is 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.
Wisconsin has a global reputation and presence, but it’s very serious about not just being an academic institution. It reaches out to the community around it, both in the state of Wisconsin as well as in service to the nation.
I find this institutional mixture of research, teaching and service, which characterizes Wisconsin as a public university, incredibly attractive. I’m very interested in being part of this place, which has a great history, an enormous amount of promise, and some real challenges in front of it. I’ve been in government for four years and I’m ready to come home again to a university community and apply my skills in leadership at an academic institution. UW-Madison offers an exciting opportunity.