Leaders discuss preferences for new chancellor

Area legislators and business leaders say they want a chancellor at UW-Eau Claire who can communicate with constituencies outside the university, in addition to act as an effective administrator.

“He or she can do a lot to facilitate those relationships,” said Sen. Dave Zien, R-Eau Claire.

That ability, most agreed, will require an understanding of budgetary concerns, legislative issues and the needs of Eau Claire and its business community.

Legislators
Handling budget cuts, repairing a “strained relationship” between the UW System and the legislature and engaging the surrounding community are all challenges area legislators outlined at a Search and Screen Committee listening session Monday.

Asked whether a chancellor with an academic, business-related or political background would be best suited to address those issues, Rep. Terry Moulton, R-Chippewa Falls, said he would favor a well-rounded candidate.

“I think the person needs to have a balance,” he said.

Sen. Ron Brown, R-Eau Claire, said while a chancellor needs to be equipped to handle issues outside of the university, his ideal candidate would have an academic background.

“If I had my choice … I’d prefer frankly that (the new chancellor) be more of an academian,” he said. “I’d rather we focus on students.”

The chancellor’s relationship between the UW System and the legislature still remained the key factor in their decisions.

The source of much of the distress, they agreed, originates from Wisconsin’s difficult fiscal situation and the controversy over back-up positions in the UW System.

Another contributing factor, Zien said, is a general criticism of the predominantly Republican legislature.

“You don’t burn bridges,” he said. “We’re all trying to do as good of jobs as we can.”

All three legislators agreed that the challenges facing the new chancellor, in relation to the legislature, are largely out of their control. But forging favorable relations from the beginning, they said, will prepare the university for future issues.

Brown said former Chancellor Donald Mash set a good example of the type of communication a chancellor needs to employ.

“He was not confrontational, but he did confront issues,” he said.

The legislators also said it’s important for the new chancellor to surround him or herself with administrators who also can communicate

effectively.

They also emphasized having the ability to conduct effective relations with the business community.

The business community
Area business leaders have defined an effective chancellor as someone who understands the needs of the business community and who can run the university effectively in the face of budget cuts.

“These people need to be involved in the community,” said Charlie Grossklaus, Search and Screen Committee member and president of Royal Credit Union. “The university is so much a part of the community.”

The university and Eau Claire, he said, have a reciprocal relationship in that the university supplies an educated workforce and the city’s business community provides career opportunities.

A chancellor who is visible in the community and has a good relationship with area businesses is necessary to facilitate that relationship, he said.

Bob McCoy, CEO of the Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce, echoed Grossklaus.

“The university has a major economic impact on the community,” he said.

While having an academic background would be favorable, Grossklaus said a chancellor who can run the university in an efficient, business-like style is more essential.

“Personally, I would like to see someone who has that academic background, but also can run a big business,” he said. “Overall management of the organization is probably more important.”

McCoy agreed, saying the university community should be open to the possibility of a successful chancellor coming from the business sector.

“I wouldn’t rule out at least looking at some candidates that have (a business) background,” he said. “At least broaden the base to look.”

While running the university “all comes down to dollars and cents,” he said, the new chancellor still should be able to recognize and address student, staff and faculty needs.