UW-Madison will look outside the state for its new chancellor, choosing from a list of four finalists announced Thursday, including the acting U.S. Commerce secretary, a law school dean, an engineering school dean and the outgoing provost at Michigan State University.
The four finalists — three men and one woman — include no politicians, business officials or other nontraditional leaders and only one candidate with known previous ties to the university. Rebecca Blank, a top Commerce Department official since 2009, was a finalist in 2008 for the Madison chancellor job, which went to Biddy Martin.
Other than Blank, the finalists include Nicholas Jones, dean of the Whiting School of Engineering, Johns Hopkins University; Michael Schill, dean of the University of Chicago law school; and Kim Wilcox, provost and vice president for academic affairs, Michigan State University.
The candidates are "distinguished," but the list offers no clear clues on priorities chosen by the search and screen committee, said Aims McGuinness, an expert on university system governance and a senior associate with the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems in Boulder, Colo.
"There doesn't seem to be any theme linking these candidates," he said.
The University of Wisconsin System released the finalists' names Thursday. They were selected by a 25-member committee chaired by history professor David McDonald. On Monday, McDonald's committee met in closed session with a smaller committee of Regents headed by system President Kevin Reilly. The smaller committee is charged with paring the list to one pick, who is scheduled to be voted on by the full Board of Regents at its April meeting.
More information about each candidate, collected from university biographies, submitted resumes and press reports, follows.
Rebecca Blank has been with the U.S. Commerce Department since 2009 and in her current job as acting secretary since last June. Prior to that she was a top-level economist, serving as a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and dean of the Gerald Ford school of public policy at the University of Michigan. From 1997 to 1999, she was part of President Bill Clinton's three-member Council of Economic Advisers. Prior to that she was economics professor at Northwestern University.
A Missouri native, Blank earned her bachelor's degree in economics at the University of Minnesota and got her doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Nicholas Jones has been dean of the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University since 2004. He was a professor of civil engineering at Hopkins starting in 1986 before being named chairman of the department in 1999. He did a stint at University of Illinois-Champaign/Urbana from 2002 to 2004 as dean of the civil and environmental engineering department before returning to Johns Hopkins.
A New Zealand native, Jones earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Auckland before getting a master's and doctorate from the California Institute of Technology, commonly referred to as Caltech. His research interests include structural dynamics and wind engineering.
Michael Schill has been dean of the University of Chicago law school since 2010. He held the same job at UCLA for five years before that. He previously taught law at New York University and the University of Pennsylvania. He's considered a national expert on real estate and housing policy, deregulation, finance and discrimination.
Schill graduated with a bachelor's degree from Princeton University and a law degree from Yale.
Kim Wilcox is outgoing provost at Michigan State University, where he has served since 2005. He has announced plans to step down from the job in July. Last year he was a finalist for the chancellor job at University of Hawaii-Manoa. He's currently spending the spring semester in Washington, D.C., on special assignment with the nonprofit Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa.
Prior to his current job, Wilcox was at the University of Kansas, serving for a decade as chairman of the department of speech-language-hearing before being named dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.
A Michigan native, he earned a bachelor's degree in audiology and speech sciences from Michigan State and a master's and doctorate from Purdue University in speech and hearing sciences.