Rebecca Blank Chosen As Next President Of Northwestern University

By Michael T. Nietzel, Contributor


Rebecca Blank has been selected to be Northwestern University's 17th president. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg) ASSOCIATED PRESS

Northwestern University announced today that Rebecca M. Blank will become its next president, beginning in the summer of 2022. Blank is currently the Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a post she has held for eight years. She will succeed Morton O. Schapiro, who has been Northwestern’s president since 2009.

Blank’s selection as Northwestern’s 17th president represents something of a homecoming for her. She served on Northwestern's economics faculty from 1989-1999, where she was named the first tenured woman in the economics department. Her appointment will establish another record - she will be Northwestern’s first woman president.

“I am honored and delighted to accept the job as Northwestern’s next president,” Blank said in the university’s news release. “Northwestern is a school that I have known and admired for years.”

“Becky is an experienced administrator and a highly accomplished scholar,” President Schapiro said. “I look forward to watching her take Northwestern to ever greater heights.”

Blank earned her bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Minnesota, after which she completed her Ph.D. in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

She has been widely recognized as one of the nation’s leading economists. Her scholarship has examined interactions between labor markets, individual behavior, government policy and the macroeconomy. She has published extensively on the topics of poverty, low-income workers and inequality. 

Her work has led her to be named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and she was recently recognized with a lifetime achievement award as a 2021 Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association. 

Following her faculty service at Northwestern, Blank was named to be the first Joan and Sanford Weill Dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan where she was also on the faculty in the Economics Department. She also has spent time on the faculty of Princeton University.

As chancellor at Wisconsin, Blank was widely praised for enhancing the university’s outreach to communities and businesses around the state, strengthening its research portfolio, effectively managing relationships with the legislature, protecting faculty tenure when it often came under fire, and safeguarding the institution’s finances despite multiple budget cuts.

“My goal was to leave UW-Madison stronger than when I arrived,” Blank said. “I believe I’ve accomplished that.”

Blank has served in the administrations of three presidents. She was acting secretary of commerce and deputy secretary of commerce under President Barack Obama. She was a member of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Bill Clinton. And she served as a senior staff economist on the Council under President George H.W. Bush.

According to the university, Blank was the unanimous choice of the 34-member search committee, comprised of Northwestern trustees, faculty, students, staff and alumni leaders.

“As part of our process, we heard from all segments of the University community, and I believe Chancellor Blank’s deep experience and talents will support our current needs and position us for a promising future.” said Peter Barris, chair of the Presidential Search Committee and a vice chair of Northwestern’s Board of Trustees.


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