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Brown University Provost Mark Schlissel selected as next University president

By Jennifer Calfas, Managing News Editor
and Sam Gringlas, Daily News Editor
Published January 24, 2014

Mark Schlissel, Brown University’s provost, will succeed University President Mary Sue Coleman as the University of Michigan’s 14th president. His term will begin July 1.

The decision was unanimously approved by the University’s Board of Regents at a special meeting Friday morning in the Michigan Union’s Kuenzel Room. The announcement arrives after a presidential search committee spent much of the summer and fall gathering input from faculty and students and the assistance of Russell Reynolds Associates, an executive search advisory firm.

Schlissel will receive a base salary of $750,000 per year with an annual increase determined by the regents. His contract runs for five years. Coleman currently receives $603,000 per year in her role, but has denied an increase several years in a row.

Schlissel began his term as provost at Brown in 2011 after serving as the University of California-Berkeley’s dean of biological sciences from 2008 to 2011. As provost, Schlissel serves as Brown’s chief academic officer and deputy to the president. In his current role, Schlissel manages the day-to-day operations of the institution and oversees Brown’s strategic planning.

In a press conference after the regents approved the appointment, Schlissel addressed the challenges he expects to face as the next president, including enhancing diversity on campus, increasing affordability and developing relationships with potential donors to the University.

Schlissel said his biggest challenge will be engaging with students, faculty and staff on campus, adding that he has a lot to learn since he has never worked at the University.

“In my experience, universities really don’t get led top-down,” he said. “The best ideas come from the people who do the teaching and the learning, so that’s why I need to do some listening first.”

While Schlissel will face many issues in his transition, one of the most prominent matters he will address is the demand for larger minority enrollment and inclusion at the University.

“You can’t achieve excellence as an academic institution without being diverse because we live in a world where people can look at the same set of facts and interpret them differently from each other,” he said.

In addition to diversity, Schlissel appealed to a wide scope of the constituencies, citing the University’s alumni and staff members as well as the Ann Arbor community, in addition to the expected listing of faculty, students and regents.

He also noted the University’s stature as a public institution — despite the challenges of declining state funding — as a key draw to the University.

“Another thing that made me say Michigan is a place I really have to look at is my feeling about the role education can play in solving society’s problems,” Schlissel said. “And it’s not that we don’t do this at great private university — we do — but there’s something about the openness and the accessibility of a public universities that’s really special and it drew at my heartstrings.”

Coleman lauded Schlissel’s experience and qualifications as the next president of the University.

“I’ve often said the job of being president at the University of Michigan is the best job in the country,” she said. “I couldn’t be more pleased to know that you, as the 14th president, will experience this firsthand.”

Before approving Schlissel’s appointment as president, each regent lauded his qualifications for the position.

“This is a great day for the University of Michigan. We go today from strength to strength; from one great leader, Mary Sue Coleman, to another, Mark Schlissel,” said University Regent Mark Bernstein (D–Ann Arbor).

Bernstein recalled Schlissel’s answer to one of the central questions that faced the search committee: What makes a great university president?

“You have to love and be amazed by students. You have to love and be amazed by faculty. You have to love and be amazed by research and discovery.”

In an interview after the press conference, University Provost Martha Pollack, who will perhaps work most closely with the new president, praised Schlissel’s academic record, as well as his interest in faculty and research and commitment to diversity and affordability.

“You heard the regents talk about him having great ethics, great values and a great heart — that’s just the combination you want,” Pollack said.

She added that she will have a one-on-one meeting with the president-elect Friday afternoon as she begins to share knowledge and understand how to best work with him.

Though this was her first introduction to the University’s 14th president, E. Royster Harper, vice president for student life, said she saw Schlissel as someone who could build on Coleman’s strengths.

“Regent Bernstein said it just right — we’re going from strength to strength,” Harper said.