Board of Regents fills top staff position

by Kristin Gustafson

ROCHESTER, Minn. — After the abrupt departure of the regents’ corporate secretary one month ago, the Board of Regents filled the vacancy Friday during their monthly meeting in Rochester, Minn.
The board unanimously voted to appoint Ann Cieslak, currently a regent policy and project assistant, to the top regent staff position.
Cieslak replaces Andrea Turner, who was selected during a four-month national search last spring. Turner resigned Sept. 17 after serving as the regents’ corporate secretary and executive director for only five months.
When Turner was chosen from a pool of about 100 candidates last spring, Cieslak was the board’s second choice, said Patricia Spence, the regents’ chairwoman.
Since Turner’s departure, Cieslak informally filled the position as interim secretary, a position to which she was expected to be formally named on Friday.
But Spence requested Cieslak’s permanent election as secretary, saying, “we believe she has more than proven her ability to lead in this position.”
“Instead of having an interim position,” Spence told the board, “it is important to make the decision now so she can have the power to move forward with all the leadership decisions.”
The executive director works behind the scenes to support the Board of Regents. She supervises the board’s office and staff, keeps board meeting minutes and serves as liaison between the board and University administrators.
The board is comprised of 12 state Legislature-elected members who serve without pay for six-year terms. University President Mark Yudof and his administration create University policy for the board’s review. Upon board approval, administrators implement those policies throughout the University.
Cieslak, who found out just before the board meeting that her regent appointment would be permanent, said the job is an enormous responsibility. Because regents are part-time volunteers, they rely on support staff to connect with administrators and communicate with other regents, she said.
Prior to serving as a regents’ policy and project assistant for two years, Cieslak worked for four years as a legislative aide for the St. Paul City Council. She also served seven years as executive director of a nonprofit community council.
Cieslak, a St. Paul resident, holds a bachelor’s in English from Manhattanville College in New York and a certificate in nonprofit management from the University of St. Thomas.
“I have spent my adult life, both as a volunteer and a professional, encouraging citizens to participate in decision-making, whether it is at the community level or school level or any kind of government level,” Cieslak said after the appointment.
“There is no higher position than being asked to staff the citizen board that governs the University of Minnesota,” she continued. “I’m deeply honored by their confidence in me.”
Spence said Cieslak brings excellent communication and “quiet strength” to the board. “She is always working behind the scenes to anticipate what needs to be done.
“She also is highly respected within University administration and has a great work record with the chief of staff and the president, and that’s important,” Spence added.
Carol Kraus, the regents’ administrative director, said she was unaware of the board’s decision to make Cieslak’s job permanent until Friday’s meeting.
The regents’ staff is pleased with the appointment, said Kraus, who has worked in the regents office for 21 years. The board’s decision to make the position permanent offers continuity to the office, she added.
Cieslak agreed that her appointment offers continuity for her six-person staff and the University.
“I know all the regents; I have worked at the University two years; I understand the process of how board meetings work,” she said. “I know my own board staff as well as other staff I have to work with. It eases the transition when you change the head.”
As for future plans, Cieslak said she is grateful the planning for the regents’ Rochester meeting is completed, “and Monday morning, I’ll start to work.”

Kristin Gustafson covers University administration and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3211.