University of Alaska’s President Jim Johnsen is the only finalist for the opening of president at the University of Wisconsin System, the University of Wisconsin announced today.
Johnsen will be interviewed on June 9 by the UW search committee, which will make a recommendation to the system’s board of regents.
“The candidate pool was very deep and strong, and included a number of impressive and qualified candidates. The Search Committee unanimously agreed to advance Dr. Jim Johnsen, President of the University of Alaska system, as a finalist for this critical position. As noted, when the search began, we are seeking an exceptional leader who will leverage our strengths and help us navigate the challenges facing institutions of higher education today and into the future,” said Regent Vice President Michael Grebe, who chairs the university system’s presidential search committee.
Johnsen has been president of the University of Alaska System since 2015 and has a background in higher education, including with the University of Minnesota from 1992 to 1996.
He served in various roles in the Alaska System between 1996 and 2008, including vice president for administration and chief of staff.
He was chair of the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, vice chair of the Alaska Student Loan Corporation, vice chair of the University of Alaska Foundation, and commissioner on the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education. He was founding chair of the Alaska State Committee on Research and an executive at Alaska Communications, overseeing recruitment, compliance, and labor relations.
In his current role as president, he oversees a system of three universities and 13 community campuses, with an annual operating budget of around $900 million, 7,000 faculty and staff, and nearly 30,000 students.
He has also been facing a shortfall of funding and a declining enrollment, as the university system is having to respond to low oil prices and an economic decline in Alaska.
The Associated Press blames the University of Alaska woes on Republican legislators:
“If he’s hired as the Wisconsin system’s leader, Johnsen would inherit a much larger university system — the system enrolled about 167,000 students as of last fall — that’s struggling with a host of issues, including declining enrollment, dwindling state aid, animosity from Republican legislators and deep questions about how the pandemic will reshape operations,” the AP wrote.