UCLA Law dean named next chancellor of UW-Madison

By: - May 16, 2022 1:16 pm
UW-Madison's Bascom Hall

UW-Madison’s Bascom Hall (Phil Roeder | Flickr)

The dean of the University of California, Los Angeles law school, Dr. Jennifer Mnookin, was chosen by the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents to be the next chancellor of UW-Madison. 

Mnookin has led the UCLA law school since 2015. She was unanimously approved to be the 30th leader of UW-Madison, replacing the outgoing Rebecca Blank who is set to become the president of Northwestern University. 

“I’m absolutely thrilled to have this opportunity to lead UW-Madison, one of our nation’s truly great public universities,” Mnookin said. “I deeply admire UW-Madison’s dual commitment to educational access and research excellence, as well as its mission to serve and to contribute to the state as a whole.”

Jennifer Mnookin was named the next UW-Madison chancellor on Monday. (UW System)

She added that she believes her legal training will help her in the new role overseeing more than 45,000 students, much more than the 1,350 at UCLA’s law school. 

“Lawyers have to listen carefully,” she said. “They have to think strategically. They are, fundamentally, trained as problem solvers and sometimes have to persuade people that don’t necessarily see the world the way they do. They also have to be willing to engage across difference and think seriously about alternative points of view. I do think those are qualities that I will bring to this role as chancellor.”

Mnookin, who will start serving as chancellor on Aug. 4, was a law professor at the University of Virginia and Harvard University before working at UCLA. She received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard, a law degree from Yale and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Members of the Board of Regents and the search committee said they were confident in Mnookin’s ability to lead the state’s largest campus. 

“I am excited to welcome Jennifer Mnookin to the UW-Madison campus,” said Regent President Edmund Manydeeds III. “Her energy is infectious, and her knowledge of Wisconsin and the Madison campus community is impressive. She is ready to be a Badger. Incoming Chancellor Mnookin is a dynamic leader, and I look forward to working with her.”

Yet Republicans in the Legislature, who have often criticized the UW System for how it teaches about race and other topics perceived to be too liberal, as well as for how students respond to conservative speakers on campus and the system budget, said they see Mnookin’s hiring as “partisan.” 

“I am disappointed in the Board of Regents’ blatant partisan selection of Dr. Mnookin as the next leader for UW-Madison,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said. “In doing a simple search, you quickly find she wholeheartedly supports critical race theory being taught on campus, is in favor of widespread vaccine mandates, and also met with Hunter Biden in 2019 to entertain a proposal that he join the UCLA faculty to teach drug policy.”

Chancellor Rebecca Blank, UW-Madison
Chancellor Rebecca Blank, UW-Madison

“We deserve campus leaders who will encourage healthy debate, diverse thoughts and freedom of expression,” he continued. “Given her obvious viewpoints and political donations, Dr. Mnookin needs to prove she supports free speech on campus and not politically correct ideologies. After all the work of Tommy Thompson and Rebecca Blank that attempted to strengthen relationships between the university and the Legislature, this is a step backwards. I strongly hope the Board of Regents will reconsider their selection.”

Blank is set to leave on May 31. UW-Madison Provost John Karl Scholz will serve as interim chancellor until Mnookin takes office.


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Henry Redman
Henry Redman

Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.