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Rebecca Cunningham named as 18th University president

The announcement was made after the Board of Regents selected finalists in mid-February and conducted public interviews on Feb. 26.
Image by CJ Bonk
Dr. Rebecca Cunningham at a press conference following the Feb. 26 Board of Regents meeting.

After a lengthy search process, Rebecca Cunningham was selected by the Board of Regents to serve as the 18th president of the University of Minnesota during a special board meeting Monday afternoon.

The Board unanimously voted to appoint Cunningham as the next president of the University. Before a motion to appoint Cunningham was presented, she received 7 nominations from the 12 regents. Laura Bloomberg was the runner-up with 5 nominations. James Holloway received no nominations.

“She really expressed an appreciation for the attention that is needed across the system,” said regent Kodi Verhalen. “She wants to emphasize preparing teams on the issue of the day so it doesn’t become the crisis of the day.”

Cunningham was chosen from three total finalists who were asked to visit the University. Before being selected for the position, Cunningham served as the vice president of research and innovation at the University of Michigan and brings experience from 25 years of working in healthcare.

During a conference held shortly after the announcement, Cunningham said she was feeling excited and relieved to be chosen for the position.

Cunningham said she was excited to transition to the University, and her first priority is to fully immerse herself in the culture by meeting people and forming connections. She said she hopes to foster a community where students can do their best work and thrive in the University environment.

“Students are central to everything we do and I’m so excited to get to move forward as your president,” Cunningham said.

Though it previously cited concerns over its exclusion in the presidential search process, the University Undergraduate Student Government (USG) is pleased with this decision, USG President Shashank Murali said in an emailed statement to The Minnesota Daily.
“The Undergraduate Student Government was very pleased to see three fantastic finalists who decided to go public and engage with students, staff, and faculty throughout the lengthy interview process,” Murali said. “President-Designate Cunningham’s record on tackling food insecurity, housing insecurity, and mental health is fantastic and we look forward to working with her to improve the student experience on campus.”

Mark Bee, chair of the Faculty Consultative Committee, said in a statement Cunningham’s past experiences in leadership at the University of Michigan made her an excellent fit to lead the University of Minnesota. He said he looks forward to Cunningham’s development of a new strategic plan past MPact 2025.

“I think the Board had a really tough decision today between three excellent candidates,” Bee said. “I certainly look forward to working with Dr. Cunningham through our strong system of shared governance here at the U.”

Minnesota State House Rep. Mohamud Noor (DFL-Minneapolis) congratulated Cunningham in a statement on her new role and said Cunningham would help the University in its educational mission.

“The University of Minnesota is a tremendous asset to our state, and stalwart leadership is required to continue its mission of providing world-class education, groundbreaking research, and community-engaged outreach,” Noor said. “I wish Dr. Cunningham the best of luck, and look forward to working with her at the Minnesota Legislature.”

Interim President Jeff Ettinger will remain in his current position until the end of June, and will work closely with Cunningham as she transitions into her new position. Cunningham will fully assume the role of president on July 1.

This article has been updated. Reporter Georgia Jensen contributed to this report, as well as editors Olivia Hines and Jack O’Connor.

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