Steady Hand in Texas

Following period of governance turmoil, new of U of Texas System chancellor -- after a decorated military career -- discusses the transition to higher ed, the roles of the system and chancellor, and "chain of command."

April 22, 2015
William H. McRaven

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.

Podcast Interview

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.

Share Article

Doug Lederman

Doug Lederman is editor and co-founder of Inside Higher Ed. He helps lead the news organization's editorial operations, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Doug speaks widely about higher education, including on C-Span and National Public Radio and at meetings and on campuses around the country, and his work has appeared in The New York Times and USA Today, among other publications. Doug was managing editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education from 1999 to 2003. Before that, Doug had worked at The Chronicle since 1986 in a variety of roles, first as an athletics reporter and editor. He has won three National Awards for Education Reporting from the Education Writers Association, including one in 2009 for a series of Inside Higher Ed articles he co-wrote on college rankings. He began his career as a news clerk at The New York Times. He grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and graduated in 1984 from Princeton University. Doug lives with his wife, Kate Scharff, in Bethesda, Md.

Back to Top