Named as University of Wisconsin-Stout's new chancellor on Tuesday, Robert M. Meyer has a pretty good handle on what the job will be like when he takes over on Aug. 16.
"I am absolutely thrilled, privileged and honored to be identified as the next chancellor to succeed Chancellor Sorensen, who's done an amazing job at UW-Stout," he said via telephone during a news conference on Tuesday afternoon shortly after the UW System Board of Regents confirmed his appointment as Stout's seventh chancellor. Sorensen announced that after 26 years at the helm, he will retire on Aug. 15
"Chancellor Sorensen probably established a new high bar as far as longevity, but also in terms of vision and transforming the university," Meyer said. "[He] has done a remarkable job in keeping the technology current, the processes current, the distance delivery that he's fostered, the digital campus."
Excited about the new challenges, Meyer added, "I think there are some opportunities that I can bring my skill sets to to advance the university even further."
Meyer not only graduated from Stout with both a bachelors and a masters degree, he also worked there for 25 years in a wide variety of positions. He started as a professor and finished his tenure there as assistant to the chancellor for state and federal relations before taking over as chief executive officer of Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in 2008.
"I wanted to test myself," Meyer said about making the move to WITC. "I also wanted to experiment with an institution-wide version of strategic planning which I used at the College of Technology, Engineering and Management as well as the Tech[nology] Transfer Institute while I was there [at Stout]."
He said he's always looked at how much he could impact someone else's growth as a teacher or as a leader -- and how he could find opportunities to grow as well. "That's the way I'm looking at this new challenge: How can we grow UW-Stout so it's an even more exceptional university?," Meyer said. "And how can I help others at the university to grow and aspire to be leaders as well?"
During his student days, Meyer was a residential advisor and served on the Stout Student Senate. In those days, he said that never in his wildest dreams did he ever envision himself leading the university he describes as having transformed his life.
Like the late Robert Swanson, Meyer is a true product of Stout. He remembers the university's fifth chancellor with genuine fondness and admiration. "He was a fantastic leader," he said. "I was one of thousands of students at the university. If Bob Swanson met you, he remembered your name -- and he took a special interest in what you were interested in. That's a heckuva role model to follow, some more big shoes to fill."
Meyer said he started thinking about what it would take to be a chancellor when he was a dean at Stout from 2000 to 2008. "I thought I could do it. That's really why I went on to WITC was to take on a CEO challenge because I wanted to test myself," he noted.
In his presentation to the campus as a finalist for the chancellor's position, Meyer described himself as "an insider with an outsider's perspective" and feels he has the maturity needed as a leader to navigate the challenges of budgeting and finding other sources of funding in difficult economic times.
"I'm tickled to be able to come back and contribute as a leader," Meyer said. "I think I'm coming back with even more ammunition, having had a great experience here at WITC for the past six years, implementing strategic planning that's very robust in terms of how we do it and involving all of our stakeholders in putting together a common vision."
Petre (Nelu) Ghenciu, associate professor of mathematics, is the char of Stout's faculty senate. He also served as the chair of the 21-person campus search and screen committee.
In that capacity, he conducted a series of campus and community forums to help the group determine what people were looking for in UW-Stout's new chancellor.
"We as a campus grew up as part of this process," he said. "I think the campus is ready for the new chancellor."
After extensive screening, the committee came up with five finalists, who visited Menomonie and Stout. Each gave a presentation and answered questions during a forum during their visit. Gateway Technical College president and CEO Bryan Albricht withdrew his application, leaving Meyer and fellow candidates Richard Lapidus (dean of the College of Business Administration at California State Polytechnic University), Margaret Madden (provost and vice president for academic affairs at the State University of New York at Potsdam), and D.C. Coston (president of Dickinson State University in Dickinson, N.D.) in contention for the chancellor's post.
Chaired by Regent Drew Peterson of Madison, a special Regent committee that included Margaret Farrow (Pewaukee), Tim Higgins (Appleton), and Edmund Manydeeds (Eau Claire) along with UW System President Ray Cross interviewed the remaining four candidates on May 21. The group recommended Meyer for approval to the full Board of Regents on Tuesday. According to market-based guidelines approved by the Regents last fall, Meyer will earn $230,000 a year as chancellor.
Manydeeds thanked the search and screen committee, noting, "It was clear to us that as a group, they grew closer and even bonded. That was essential in helping us in determining how we were going to approach each candidate during the interviews."
In the end, Manydeeds said that despite a strong candidate pool, "The new chancellor distinguished himself from everyone else. ... There was just something about new Chancellor Meyer that stood out from the rest of the during the interview process."
Ghenciu said what stood out about Meyer was his dedication to the polytechnic mission of Stout -- and his boldness when it came to a new way to approach strategic planning and doubling the UW-Stout Foundations existing funds. "We like challenges," Ghenciu said. "Stout is known for being successful in taking on challenges. We're ready for that -- and we'll hold him to that!"
Manydeeds agreed with Ghenciu's assessment and added, "For us also, it was his personality and his ability to work with people and collaborate. We really know that the city of Menomonie is seeking someone that's going to build on the relationships that they've had with this campus over the years and make them deeper, more interactive between the campus and the community."