Monday, March 18, 2013

Welcome, Chancellor Rebecca Blank

This blog is called the Education Optimists and so it's with great hope and the strong desire to be pleasantly surprised that I am responding to the announcement that Dr. Rebecca Blank is the next chancellor of UW-Madison.

First, the good news.  With Blank at the helm, we can expect that the thoughtful scholars of the Institute for Research on Poverty and the La Follette School of Public Affairs will play an important role in the direction of our institution in coming years.  I suspect policy formation on affordability and tuition will be guided by Bob Haveman, Chris Taber, and Karl Scholz, efforts on diversity and access will be led by Bobbi Wolfe, and our interactions with social policies throughout the state will be shaped by Tim Smeeding. These labor economists are experts in their field, and will undoubtedly constitute a vocal cabinet for Blank.  

Second, the Social Sciences will flourish under Blank's direction. As a sociologist, that's nice to know.

Third, I expect Blank will surprise me by being an entirely different leader than Biddy Martin, stunning us all with her commitments to widening access to UW-Madison and keeping it affordable.  Her expertise is in poverty studies, and so I hope that under her policies, we will see far more students from low-income Wisconsin families take their places in our classrooms.   Twenty percent or more of our student body should receive Pell Grants, and the percent of students from first generation families must begin to rise.  If she can accomplish this, I will loudly applaud.

So- I'm pleased as punch to be putting the word Chancellor next to Rebecca Blank's name, especially given that the apparent alternative was Kim Wilcox.  I suspect Blank was the campus "pick," if that matters.  As for me, I hope that some day I will get to work with Michael Schill-- and at minimum I won't soon forget how sincerely he tried to serve Wisconsin by taking the helm. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to my coming sabbatical and the next many years freed from campus service;  with so many existing campus friends and experts in the relevant areas, Dr. Blank is well-equipped to decide how to achieve her goals. Godspeed, and On Wisconsin!