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New president Sarah Mangelsdorf receives high praise from students, staff, faculty

December 18, 2018
Sarah Mangesdorf in a arge crowd of people, speaking with one studentSarah Mangelsdorf, right, speaks with Jamal Holtz '20, vice president of the Students' Association, at a reception for the University and local community following her announcement as the next University of Rochester president. (University of Rochester photo / Adrian Kraus)

From the beginning, the search for the University’s 11th president was designed to include the voices of as many constituencies as possible—from college students and staff members as well as from top faculty, administrators, and trustees.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that as University of Wisconsin–Madison provost Sarah Mangelsdorf prepares to take the helm as Rochester’s next president this summer, she enjoys broad and deep support across the institution.


WATCH: Highlights from the announcement of Sarah Mangelsdorf as Rochester’s next president


Take, for example, Prajita Shrestha ’22, who smiled Monday morning when she opened her Twitter feed to see the announcement of Mangelsdorf’s selection.

“I read her bio after seeing the news,” said the epidemiology and economics dual major from Nepal. “I feel like she has done so much in her life and is the perfect choice. She’s a woman, and that’s a very big step for Rochester.”

Students’ Association vice president Jamal Holtz ’20 echoed those remarks. “This is a historical moment for the University, to have the first woman president,” said Holtz, a political science major from Washington, D.C. “I think she brings a lot of perspective, coming from the field of psychology with a career ranging from professor to administrator. She’ll bring new ideas, and that’s what we need.”

Among those who played a role in the search process was Sarah Walters, a doctoral student in optics. Walters cochaired the Student Advisory Committee, made up of undergraduate, graduate students, and postdocs across schools and units of the University. She was also a member of the University Advisory Committee that participated with the trustees’ search committee in evaluating prospective candidates.

“You can tell she is a genuine person of high integrity, and she’ll be all in and 100 percent invested,” said Walters. “She’ll pour her heart and soul into this University.”

Sarah Mangesdorf smiling before news conference

“The University of Rochester is a very special place, and I am terribly honored to be trusted with its stewardship and its continued forward trajectory,” Sarah Mangelsdorf told those gathered in Rush Rhees Library as she was introduced as the next president of the University of Rochester. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

people seated in a row, smiling and applauding.

Mangelsdorf, seated next to her husband Karl Rosengren, receives applause after she’s introduced as the University’s next president. (Credit: J. Adam Fenster / University of Rochester)

Mangelsdorf, who in her role as provost oversees 12 colleges and schools at Wisconsin as well as several university-wide administrative units, was introduced Monday as Rochester’s next president. She will succeed Richard Feldman, who has led the University since February.

Following a ceremony hosted by University Trustee Cathy Minehan ’68, (who co-chaired the search with Trustee Danny Wegman), Board Chair Richard Handler ’83, and Feldman, Mangelsdorf was the guest of honor during a reception and other activities, where she met with members of the University community.

Jeffrey Tucker, an associate professor of English and a member of the University Advisory Committee, said it became clear during the process that Mangelsdorf was the ideal choice.

“We had an online survey that allowed the University community to give expression to what they wanted in the next president,” he said. “We asked, ‘what personal characteristics are you looking for?’ The top answers were ‘trustworthiness, integrity, and collegiality.’ All of those traits are evident in Sarah.”

Tucker says Mangelsdorf’s references—from previous faculty and leadership roles at the University of Illinois and Northwestern, in addition to Wisconsin—were impeccable.

“People who worked with her and under her all spoke very highly of her ability to recruit talented people and leaders of the university,” he said. “We want someone who will work with the deans and have an ear for what they have to say. She will do that.”

Gloria Culver, dean of the School of Arts & Sciences, and Jeffrey Runner, dean of the College, are both confident that will be the case.

“She’s an exceptional choice who articulated a clear sense of what Rochester is all about,” said Culver. “I’m very excited.”

Runner said Mangelsdorf’s involvement in student life and efforts focused on diversity and inclusion will be important for the University.

“She seems very open to working with others,” Runner said. “We’re a large community, and it’s important that voices from the community are part of the decision-making process.”

Mangelsdorf’s experience at Wisconsin working with a major academic health center makes her particularly suited to leading Rochester, said Mark Taubman, dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry and chief executive officer of the Medical Center.

“I think she has a wonderful sense of what it means to be a research-intensive university,” Taubman told the Democrat and Chronicle. “She has, I think, a very good understanding of what some of the challenges are for supporting research in the current environment, the importance of research in terms of the reputation of the institution and also for what it does nationally.”

Sarah Mangesdorf standing at a podium with the MELIORA carving behind her

In her remarks, Mangelsdorf stressed the fundamental importance of the academic enterprise. “Higher education should and does change people’s lives.” (University of Rochester photo / Adrian Kraus)

Sarah Mangesldorf shaking hands with students

Mike Arinarkin ’21. center, and Alec Tapia ’21 meet with Mangelsdorf and she introduces herself to members of the campus community. (University of Rochester photo / Adrian Kraus)

Mangelsdorf comes to Rochester not only with deep experience as an administrator, but also as a professor of psychology who is a noted scholar of emotional and personality development.

Melissa Sturge-Apple, dean of graduate studies and associate professor of psychology, has often cited Mangelsdorf’s research and believes her background in family dynamics will serve her well as president.

“If some part of the family isn’t working well, that family breaks down,” she says. “It’s the same at the University, where there are a lot of moving parts. I think she’s exactly what we’re looking for.”

In her introductory remarks, Mangelsdorf highlighted her appreciation for the role that research universities play in the lives of faculty, students, alumni, and staff, as well as in their home communities and in the larger society. Universities are places that change people’s lives, she said, noting that the scientific discoveries, clinical treatments, humanistic scholarship, and performing and visual arts that grow out of academic communities enrich the experiences of people well beyond campus.

Jessica Guzman-Rea, director of the Paul J. Burgett Intercultural Center, said she was particularly touched by Mangelsdorf’s comments about the contributions of staff employees.

In her remarks, Mangelsdorf said, “Although universities may exist largely to educate students and support faculty in their scholarship, universities would simply cease to exist without the staff that maintain the buildings and grounds, prepare the food, organize the meetings, scrutinize the contracts, pay the bills, comfort the patients, lobby the politicians, counsel the job seekers, promote the research, curate the collections, and raise the funds to do all of that.”

Guzman-Rea said those remarks made her cry.

“Many times, historically, faculty and students are raised to the top,” Guzman-Rea said. “This is the first time I’ve heard substantive information regarding the importance of staff, and how part of her platform is she will support the staff that makes this University run. It was poignant.”


WATCH: The complete announcement of Sarah Mangelsdorf as the next University president


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