UPDATE: December 20, 2018: The University of Minnesota Board of Regents this week appointed Joan Gabel as its 17th president by a unanimous vote and approved a five-year contract, according to a press release. Gabel, currently provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of South Carolina, is set to begin at U of Minnesota in July 2019. She is the first woman to serve as president of the 167-year-old university. She will earn an annual salary of $640,000, more than current President Eric Kaler's $625,250, according to the Star Tribune.
- U of Minnesota's Board of Regents narrowed the search for a new president to a lone finalist, Joan Gabel, currently the provost of the University of South Carolina. If chosen, Gabel would be the first female president in the university's history, according to the Star Tribune.
- The board voted 11 to 1 to name Gabel as the finalist after "considerable discussion" of three candidates and others in a pool of 67 applicants, according to a university press release. Two other candidates remain in the pool but didn't want to be named publicly until they were named as finalists.
- Gabel is expected to visit the campus Dec. 14 for interviews with the board, after which it will vote on her appointment if it "is confident she will succeed as our next president," Board of Regents Chair David McMillan said in a statement. Amid enrollment declines, the number of applicants for the president spot this year were fewer than half of what they were when the position was previously open, in 2010.
Gabel is set to make the rounds of the five U of Minnesota campuses this week to interview for a job that far fewer people want today compared to nearly a decade ago.
She currently oversees graduate and undergraduate academic programs at USC's Columbia campus. Previously she was dean of the University of Missouri's Trulaske College of Business, following several years as a faculty member and in various faculty leadership roles at Florida State University and Georgia State University.
Board Regent Abdul Omari, who chaired the presidential search committee, told the Star Tribune the time was right for a woman to lead the university. "First and foremost, we're looking for a certain energy, and she had a high level of energy," Omari was quoted as saying in another publication, Minnesota Daily. "It was an easy decision to name her a finalist."
Meanwhile, Regent Darrin Rosha, the lone vote against naming Gabel as the only finalist, expressed concern in bringing in only one candidate for the final interview phase.
The last time around, the open president spot drew in 150 interested applicants. That was eight years ago. Since then, U of Minnesota has had its share of challenges, including a roughly 25% drop in out-of-state students, which is largely attributed to tuition increases of around 15%. State legislators earlier proposed a considerably lower salary for the university's new president, in part to signal to students and families that they weren't alone in bearing the costs of higher education.
Figures kicked around earlier this year would have cut the new president's salary potentially by half or more compared to the previous president's. In October, before any candidate identities were known, a faculty senate leader in the U of Minnesota system questioned the message it would send to offer significantly lower pay should the regents hire the university's first female president, according a Star Tribune report from the time. With Gabel as the lone candidate, that now appears quite possible.
The university's drop in applications for the position could be a reflection of the changing nature of the job. The average tenure for a college president fell from 8.5 years in 2006 to 6.5 years in 2016, according to the American Council on Education and the TIAA Institute. Other research has shown the rate of involuntary departures has been increasing at a faster clip than voluntary ones, with economic pressures, financial impropriety, political controversy, fissures with the board and dissatisfaction on campus as factors.