U of M closer to naming Joan Gabel as its next president

Last Updated by Peter Cox on
Dateline: Minneapolis
A week of interviews, handshakes, car rides and public forums at all five University of Minnesota campuses is over, and now Joan Gabel awaits a decision on whether or not she'll be the next president of the University of Minnesota.

Gabel, the current provost of the University of South Carolina, had her final interview with the board of regents Friday morning.

The two hour interview was wide-ranging. She took questions on campus safety, the university's role in state agriculture, how the university system should function and what bridges it could build with the Minnesota State two-year system, and how she would address student mental health, among other things.

Gabel had the chance to show her experience related to a wide variety of issues that a university president will face — from budgetary issues to crisis management.

She also explained why she wants this job.

"So the position is really strong, it's incredibly attractive for someone like me who has made their career in higher education and is compelled to work in a mission-driven environment," she said. "And it really gives me a continued deepening of my optimism of what this university can do," Gabel said.

She spoke about the need to address student debt and address public safety concerns.

Gabel, a philosophy major, was also asked about the liberal arts, an area of study that has suffered drops in enrollment recently. She said companies are seeking the critical thinking skills that come from a liberal arts education.

"I think we all, even if it wasn't our own area study, appreciate the value of a robust and comprehensive portfolio of education opportunities and how could that not include the liberal arts," she said.

Regent Darrin Rosha said months ago he hoped the next president would accept lower pay than Eric Kaler's current $625,000 a year salary.

Rosha asked Gabel about the rising costs of running a university.

"How do we make a case to a legislature that struggles to fund social workers and public defenders, support for seniors and so on," he said.

Gabel, who makes $400,400 a year according to South Carolina state records, would be the first woman to head the University of Minnesota. She said there are many more demands on universities than there were 25 years ago. She also says the market has changed.

"I'm a believer in markets, I come up from the business school world and I believe that things are valued based on what supply and demand dictates and I think that would apply here as well, and is explainable, it can be benchmarked, it can be compared across peer institutions," said Gabel, the former dean of the University of Missouri's business school.

Things looked bright for Gabel as the meeting neared its end. Regent and former chair of the board Dean Johnson said he was inclined to vote for her once a compensation package was worked out.

"So at least you've got one vote, you've got to get six more," he said, smiling.

A full final vote on Gabel and her contract, will happen on Tuesday morning at 10
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