Year of Bruininks

Soon after University President Mark Yudof announced he would leave for Texas, the Board of Regents quickly installed Executive Vice President and Provost Bob Bruininks as interim University president. Although the search for Yudof’s long-term replacement will be challenging, the University is fortunate to have Bruininks during the one-year interim, as he is almost ideally prepared to continue Yudof’s mostly successful agenda.

In theory, the transition from Yudof to Bruininks should be quite seamless, as the two have worked closely together for Yudof’s five-year term. In a recent interview, Bruininks said that the two “helped rebuild and reorganize the central administration” and hired “at least two-thirds of the senior leaders” at the University. In addition to his time working with Yudof, Bruininks also has a considerable amount of experience at the University, as he served for many years as the dean of the College of Education, and as a professor in educational psychology, for a total of 35 years of service.

As one of the largest institutions of higher education in the nation, the University must constantly adapt to new challenges and reassess its priorities. Since Bruininks is not presently willing to be considered to fill the position permanently, it is more appropriate for the permanent successor to develop long-term vision. He is an excellent selection as interim president, though, because in addition to his experience, he shares many of Yudof’s priorities. He will continue to prioritize the University’s partnerships with medical institutions, investments in digital technologies and media, as well as newfound strengths in design and molecular and cellular biology. Bruininks does differ from Yudof, though, as his style is more casual and certainly more Minnesotan, which could serve the University well at the Legislature.

Even as interim president, however, there are some long-term institutional priorities that he must make progress on, especially raising undergraduate graduation rates, ensuring a scandal-free athletics department, getting more money from the Legislature and increasing faculty salaries. While he understands the importance of many of Yudof’s ambitions, it is equally important that during his one-year term he also makes his own contributions in these areas.