As Wisconsin struggles to find its way forward from a four-decade pattern of economic slippage compared to other states, the choice of a new chancellor for UW-Madison looms large.
It is beyond debate that flagship universities play a pivotal role in today’s economy, often dubbed the “Innovation Economy” or the “Knowledge Economy.”
Ideally, then, the next Madison chancellor should know how to play in that new economic world, especially in light of the state’s lagging job and wage growth.
The four finalists for the leadership position offer different backgrounds, not all suited to the challenge of linking the intellectual muscle of the Madison campus to the prosperity of the citizens of the state.
There is a law professor, an economist who is acting U.S. Secretary of Commerce, a poverty expert and an engineering dean.
My vote goes for the economist or the engineer. They are the ones most likely to come up with a delivery model for an R&D university that produces more pay-offs for the citizens/taxpayers. UW-Madison does pretty well on patents and licenses, but it far the top ranks on startup companies, the source of job creation. Even Madison is lagging its peer cities on economic growth. UW’s huge foundations have not stepped up.
The economic malaise affects the whole state, including a dampening effect on the tax revenues that support the UW System. In other words, the UW has an existential need to make the right choice for chancellor.
Help me with this one: Why don’t the regents even look at the chancellors of the 12 other four-year universities in the UW System as a farm club for the Madison job?
UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mike Lovell, an engineer, has shown exemplary leadership in linking his campus with the Innovation Economy of Southeastern Wisconsin.
UW-Stout Chancellor Chuck Sorenson has proven to be a real leader in matching education to jobs. Stout has a 97% placement rate for its recent graduates, and 79% are working in their field of study.
UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Rick Wells has tied his campus closely to regional economic development in Northeastern Wisconsin.
All three of those chancellors could handle the Madison job. They all get the need for graduates who are ready and able to get right to work on graduation and the imperative to launch more high-growth start-ups, the source of all job growth.
They know the state needs a prosperity strategy, not just poverty abatement programs.
When times are flush again, we can go back to a chancellor with a liberals arts background.