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UW Madison Chancellor to Depart for Northwestern

October 12, 2021

Rebecca Blank, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, will step down this summer to take up the presidency at Northwestern University, the private research institution announced Monday.

Blank has a history with Northwestern -- she served as an economics professor at the university for 10 years during the 1990s. After nine years at UW Madison, Blank said she is “looking for another adventure.”

“It’s not that this is a push factor out of Wisconsin as much as it’s a pull factor to Northwestern,” Blank said. “It feels a little like coming home.”

While the roles share many core responsibilities, Blank said that transitioning from a public to a private research university will come with a learning curve. Northwestern, which is located outside Chicago in Evanston, Ill., faces more local competition in the health-care and higher education markets than UW Madison does, and its medical complex differs from UW Madison’s hospital system, she said.

Despite the adjustment, Blank said she’s looking forward to having more flexibility at the private university.

“I do look at Northwestern as a place where I have some of the freedom to lead more fully,” she said. “It’s not a state agency; it’s not managed by a publicly elected board.”

Blank will step into the presidency after Morton Schapiro, Northwestern’s current president, retires this summer. In the meantime, she’s hoping to wrap up some outstanding building projects and finish launching some fledgling programs at Madison.

“One of your jobs in your last year is to clean anything up that needs to be cleaned up, so that whoever your successor is can come in in the best possible situation,” Blank said. “We have a lot of good things happening, and more than anything else I want to make sure those keep happening.”

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