William H. McRaven isn't easily intimidated.
Not that he thinks he'll be tested, mind you: the University of Texas System's new chancellor doesn't expect to face the same pressures his predecessor faced from some regents to dump the president of its flagship campus, among other things.
But as he takes the reins of the university after several years of turmoil in governance, McRaven is persuasive when he says nonchalantly, “I'm not somebody who is easily pressured when it comes to making decisions.”
He's persuasive in part because of his background -- 37 years in the military, the final 10 or so in special operations, where, among other things, he designed and executed the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. And, in part, because he speaks with a mix of confidence and self-awareness about what he knows and still needs to learn just three months into his new role.
A podcast interview with Chancellor McRaven is available here.
“I wouldn't be the right person to manage a campus,” he said in an interview at Inside Higher Ed's Washington office. “I don't know how to run a university. I know how to lead a large organization” like a university system, “but I don't know how to run a university.”
In an interview -- a podcast of which is available here -- McRaven discussed a wide range of topics: the parallels between his military career and his job as chancellor (the U.S. Special Operations Command he oversaw had 67,000 employees and a $10 billion budget, and the UT system has 91,000 workers and a $14.6 billion budget), the enormous breadth of what the university does (from educating 160,000 students and treating six million patients a year at its 15 institutions to leasing 2.1 million acres of oil fields), and how a public university system and its chancellor can help -- and potentially interfere with -- the work of its institutions and their presidents.
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