UMN Board of Regents approves new leadership

Regent Ken Powell will be chair and Regent Steve Sviggum will be vice chair of the University’s governing board.

Powell was up for reelection this year but was not recommended by the Regent Candidate Advisory Council.

Image by Jack Rodgers

Powell was up for reelection this year but was not recommended by the Regent Candidate Advisory Council.

by Katrina Pross

The University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents selected new leadership Friday.

Regent Ken Powell will be chair of the University’s governing board and Regent Steve Sviggum will be vice chair for the next two years. The board approved the new leaders at its Friday meeting following interviews conducted earlier by a nominating committee made up of several regents. Powell and Sviggum will assume their new roles on July 1.

Powell was the sole applicant for chair, and the committee selected Sviggum over Regents Darrin Rosha and Janie Mayeron, who also applied for vice chair. 

Powell was appointed chair by the board with a 11-0 vote and Sviggum was appointed with a 8-3 vote. Sviggum was absent from the vote due to a family emergency.

Regents Randy Simonson, Michael Hsu and Rosha himself voted for Rosha as vice chair after Simonson nominated him during the meeting. 

“I’m confident this team will be effective in leading the board,” said current board chair David McMillan at Friday’s meeting. 

New board leadership

Powell and Sviggum said they hope to work closely with President-designate Joan Gabel as she enters her new position this summer.

“Our immediate goal is to help President Gabel to settle into her role and get off to a really strong start … we also want to help her build relationships that she will need across the state whether it’s students, faculty, business communities or the legislature,” Powell said. 

The new chair and vice chair will work with the full board and Gabel to identify several priorities that they want to focus on and address. 

“I look forward to supporting [Powell] and especially our new president coming in … and working with them to enhance the best interests of the University. I think if we enhance the best interests of the University we’re enhancing the best interests of the state of Minnesota,” Sviggum said. 

Powell and Sviggum said that they were satisfied with University President Eric Kaler’s leadership, but that there is always room for improvement. 

“The University has performed well, but we have some headroom and we’re looking to [Gabel] and her team to capitalize on that headroom,” Sviggum said. 

Role of the chair and vice chair

The chair and vice chair work together to lead the board and ensure that it’s functioning properly.

McMillan said it’s important to note that the regents don’t run the University, but rather oversee the president. The board instead has an oversight role and approves or denies the president’s recommendations. 

“That doesn’t mean we’re not curious,” McMillan said. 

All 12 members of the board give input in decisions, and the board often works with University stakeholders like the legislature and business communities to get input. 

The chair has extra responsibilities, such as leading and moderating regent meetings, establishing which committees the board will have and appointing the chairs of those committees. Further, it’s the chair’s responsibility to work with the board office to call special board meetings, such as the special meetings called during the presidential search process last fall. 

As chair, McMillan also helped Kaler present his Driven campaign to the University. 

The vice chair’s main responsibility is to step in if the chair is unavailable, and to work together with the chair in leading the board. 

It’s common for the vice chair to later become chair, McMillan said. McMillan served as vice chair from 2015-2017 prior to becoming chair and said that it’s “almost always” the case that the chair was vice chair at some point. 

For example, Dean Johnson, whose regent term just ended this year, was the board chair before McMillan, and also served as vice chair prior to becoming chair.