Rebecca Blank recommended for UW chancellor post

Board scheduled to vote April 5

Published On: Mar 18 2013 12:13:25 PM CDT   Updated On: Mar 18 2013 01:00:00 PM CDT
Rebecca Blank
MADISON, Wis. -

Rebecca Blank, acting U.S. Secretary of Commerce, has been recommended as the next Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin.

UW System President Kevin P. Reilly said Blank is well-qualified for the job.

“Blank is uniquely prepared to lead UW-Madison, coming to us with broad national and international experience in roles where big science and big research intersect with job creation and commercialization," Reilly said. "She also has a strong track record of educational innovation, having created interdisciplinary graduate programs, and a new undergraduate public policy major, at the University of Michigan.”

Blank praised the school and said she was honored to be offered the job.

"One of the many attractions of this job is the school's strong commitment to the Wisconsin Idea of engaging the state and its communities," she said. "The University is integral to the economic future of the state and must continue to be a strong partner in the effort to create jobs and stimulate economic growth.”

According to UW officials, Blank has been with the U.S. Department of Commerce since 2009, serving first as undersecretary for economic affairs, then as deputy secretary and acting secretary. Prior to joining the Commerce Department, she served as a fellow at the Brookings Institution. From 1999-2008, Blank was Dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, where she also worked as a professor of public policy and of economics. Before Michigan, she was a faculty member at Northwestern University and served as a member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors from 1997-99.

Blank holds a doctorate in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She earned her undergraduate degree, also in economics, from the University of Minnesota.

The UW System Board of Regents is scheduled to vote on the appointment April 5 and Blank is expected to start in July. If confirmed, she will succeed interim Chancellor David Ward, who has served in the position since July 2011.

Blank was among four chancellor candidates who visited the UW campus in March.

Andrew Bulovsky, chairman of the Associated Students of Madison, said he's excited about the chancellor choice.  He expected Blank's background in economics to lend itself to a focus on efficiency. He said he believes collaboration between administration and students will be improved under her leadership.

"I hope that she expands on shared governance and really focuses on reaching out to the students and connecting with the average student and truly understanding the student experience," Bulovsky said.

Bulovsky said he wants to see any leader maintain that position for at least a decade.

"You do have this high turnover rate right now where chancellors are coming in with these great ideas, and before they can implement them, they're on with the next part of their lives," Bulovsky said. "I'd really like to see some more consistency from the chancellor."

Reilly said Blank has stressed the importance of UW-Madison as part of the greater UW System and wants to visit all of the campuses across the state. He said there's no indication that pulling the university out of the system is in the scope of Blank's plans.