UW-Madison Chancellor Blank headed to Northwestern

By: - October 11, 2021 11:18 am

Rebecca Blank will be leaving UW-Madison at the end of the school year to become President of Northwestern University. (Bryce Richter | UW-Madison)

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank is leaving her post at the end of this school year to become the president of Northwestern University, the Evanston, Ill. school announced Monday. 

Blank, who was a member of Northwestern’s faculty from 1989-99, will be the university’s first female president. She has been the chancellor at UW-Madison since 2013.  

“Leading [UW-Madison] and serving the people of Wisconsin has been an honor and a privilege,” Blank wrote on Twitter. “It was always my goal to leave [UW-Madison] stronger than when I came and I believe that, working together, we have achieved that.”

Blank was at the helm of UW-Madison as the state’s higher education system and its funding became a target for Republicans in control of the state Legislature and the university budget. She also led the university through nearly two years of pandemic-altered learning

In a news release announcing her departure, UW-Madison highlighted some of the success Blank had in her eight years in Madison, including increased graduation rates, more diverse students and faculty and growing enrollment. 

Blank’s tenure at UW-Madison also included a growing number of out-of-state students attending the university. In 2015, the UW System Board of Regents lifted a cap on how many out-of-state students could attend the school. For likely the first time in the school’s history, less than half of this year’s freshman class is from Wisconsin.

Over the last year, Blank frequently clashed with student activists hoping the university would take a stronger stand against racism on campus. 

The leadership at the UW System praised Blank’s tenure in Madison. UW System, which is already in the midst of its second attempted search for a new president, will now have to find a new leader for its flagship campus. 

“Chancellor Blank is an extraordinary leader whose commitment to the Wisconsin Idea, including her efforts to expand the University’s outreach to every corner of the state, have UW-Madison well-positioned for success in the future,” UW System Regent President Ed Manydeeds said in a statement. “The impact of her leadership has been felt throughout the UW System and entire state, and she will be sorely missed. I appreciate that she will continue as chancellor through this academic year as we prepare for a transition and know she will continue her record of excellence at Northwestern.”

Blank will assume her role at Northwestern in summer 2022.


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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.