To the Faculty, Staff and Students of the University of Nebraska at Omaha:
Seven months ago, Chancellor John Christensen announced his plans to step down after more than a decade of leadership at UNO. I knew we would have our work cut out for us in finding a successor who could continue the remarkable trajectory that John, together with all of you, has established at Nebraska’s metropolitan university.
Today I am writing to tell you that I have indefinitely paused the chancellor search and asked University of Nebraska Medical Center Chancellor Jeff Gold to assume leadership duties of UNO on an interim basis. Pending Board of Regents approval, Dr. Gold will lead both campuses effective May 8.
This is not an outcome I anticipated at the outset of this process. We conducted a truly national search for Chancellor Christensen’s successor, evaluating candidates from across the country as we looked for exactly the right mutual fit. Our search advisory committee, co-chaired by Associate Dean Theresa Barron-McKeagney and Mr. Michael Yanney, devoted countless hours to this task and I am grateful for their service. I’m also indebted to all of you for the feedback you’ve provided throughout the search.
Ultimately the right mutual fit did not emerge – the result of a number of factors, not the least of which is an extraordinarily competitive market for higher education leadership. But as I considered the opportunities before us – both fiscal realities that will require us to be creative and bold with our resources, and the growth potential of two NU campuses less than 3 miles apart – it became clear that the appointment of Chancellor Gold is a strategic and sound solution. Put simply, Jeff is the right person, at the right time, to lead our Omaha-based campuses. This appointment makes financial sense. It makes sense for our faculty and staff, who are already collaborating beyond campus borders in areas where we can lead the way nationally and internationally. It makes sense for our students, to whom we have a responsibility to expand educational opportunities. And it makes sense for Nebraskans, who expect us to think innovatively about how we can best serve this state for the future.
This is a new approach for the University of Nebraska and it will not be without challenges. Jeff and I are pleased that Chancellor Christensen has agreed to serve on a transition team that will include key UNO stakeholders. This team, whose members I will announce in the coming weeks, will assist Chancellor Gold in getting to know the UNO community more deeply and will help ensure a seamless transition of leadership.
I know you will have questions. Chancellors Christensen, Gold and I hope you will join us at an open forum today (April 27) at 1:15 p.m. at the Strauss Performing Arts Center. Chancellor Gold is planning other campus visits and will extend invitations to you soon. We’ll have questions, too – which is why Jeff and I will be in constant evaluation mode, asking ourselves what’s working with this new approach and what feedback we’ll need from the transition team and all of you to help us operate as effectively as possible. Based on your input and our experiences, we’ll decide at a later date the appropriate time and approach for resuming the chancellor search.
UNO and UNMC are two extraordinary institutions, each with a unique mission, but each with the opportunity to do more with its partners than it could do alone. The University of Nebraska has a long history of taking advantage of that kind of opportunity. Now we’re deepening our collaboration even further. I hope you are as excited as Chancellor Christensen, Chancellor Gold and I are about the potential that UNO and UNMC have to grow their impact on Nebraska and the world – potential that exists because of your good work.
We hope to see you at 1:15 p.m. today (April 27) at the Strauss Center.
Thank you for all you do for UNO and the University of Nebraska.