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Wisconsin Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf named University of Rochester president

December 17, 2018
(University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Sarah C. Mangelsdorf, an experienced academic leader recognized for her work on issues of academic quality, educational access, and diversity and inclusion at some of the nation’s leading public and private institutions, has been named president of the University of Rochester.

Currently the provost at the University of Wisconsin­–Madison, she is also a professor of psychology who is internationally known for her research on emotional and personality development. Mangelsdorf will be the first woman to lead the University when she formally takes office in the summer of 2019. She will succeed Richard Feldman as the University’s chief executive.



University of Rochester Board Chair Richard Handler ’83 praised Mangelsdorf as a leader.

“We were in contact with more than 200 people in developing the pool of possible candidates to find the very best person to be the next president of the University of Rochester. I am thrilled that Sarah Mangelsdorf is that leader. Sarah is super smart, an empowering, compassionate, and kind leader, is expert at managing complexity and overcoming challenges, and will work tirelessly in tandem with our students, faculty, staff, and trustees to make the University of Rochester the best it can be. When people meet her, there will be no doubt why she was the unanimous choice of every constituency on the search committee as well as the entire Board of Trustees. I can’t wait to work with her!”

University Trustee Cathy Minehan ’68, who with Trustee Danny Wegman co-chaired the Trustees’ Presidential Search Committee (TPSC) that oversaw the process for identifying a new president, said Mangelsdorf clearly stood out from a large and diverse pool of impressive candidates.

“Sarah has a breadth and depth of experience that equips her well to be successful as the University of Rochester’s president,” Minehan said. “Throughout her career, colleagues have praised her as a collaborative trust-builder who works hard to understand how to help every part of her institutions succeed. She immediately stood out to the search committee as an exceptional candidate for our next president.”

Current President Richard Feldman also hailed Mangelsdorf’s appointment. “I’m delighted that the Board of Trustees has selected Sarah Mangelsdorf as my successor,” he said. “My four decades as a professor and administrator at the University of Rochester have given me a good perspective on the many things that make our university special, and I know that Sarah already shares that perspective. It’s clear she will embrace our ‘Meliora Values’ and continue to lead our institution and our community on an upward trajectory.”

Mangelsdorf currently serves as the chief operating officer at Wisconsin, where her responsibilities include oversight of all academic programs and budget planning for 12 schools and colleges, including Education, Business, Engineering, and Graduate Studies, as well as the Schools of Medicine and Public Health and of Nursing, which are affiliated with UW Health, the integrated health system of the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

“I’m immensely excited to be joining the University of Rochester, and I am looking forward to working with our outstanding faculty, students, staff, and alumni, and with the members of the greater Rochester community.”— Sarah Mangelsdorf

Her current portfolio also includes faculty and staff development and personnel matters, student life, enrollment management, information technology, libraries, diversity and inclusion, international engagement, and sustainability, among others.

She served as dean of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University before becoming provost at Wisconsin in 2014. She began her academic career at the University of Michigan and moved to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she later was dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Colleagues throughout her career have recognized her as a leader who creates a collegial climate and who is admired and respected for her integrity and her ability to make hard decisions in a fair and transparent way. She has earned wide recognition for developing important strategic initiatives tailored to the goals of each institution and for taking a leading role in building both financial and institutional support for those goals.

“Sarah has been a valued and trusted leader at the University of Wisconsin,” said University of Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank. “During her time with us, she’s elevated the quality of our faculty, expanded academic programs, and improved our student outcomes. While I’m very sorry to see her depart, we all wish her success in Rochester.”

At Wisconsin, Mangelsdorf oversaw the administration of a pioneering effort to improve access to the state’s flagship university for low- and moderate-income families. Named for the university’s badger mascot, Bucky, and announced in February 2018, Bucky’s Tuition Promise pledges to cover four years of tuition and fees for incoming first-year students who are Wisconsin residents and whose families’ annual household adjusted gross income is $56,000 or less—roughly the state’s median family income.

She led the revival of the faculty cluster hiring initiative, an effort to hire new faculty members under a system designed to build interdisciplinary strengths, emphasize Wisconsin’s historical commitment as a public resource for research and service, create new curricular offerings, and increase faculty diversity.

Also at Wisconsin, Mangelsdorf worked on a program to better diversify the institution’s faculty. Announced this fall, the Target of Opportunity (TOP) Program provides funding and other support for schools and departments to recruit outstanding faculty members among historically underrepresented groups. The program puts a particular emphasis on race and ethnicity, and on gender in disciplines where women are underrepresented.

At Northwestern, Mangelsdorf oversaw the largest and most comprehensive academic unit of the private, selective university’s 12 colleges. She began her tenure at the start of 2008’s Great Recession and is credited with leading a strategy that increased the number of endowed chairs and professorships, remodeled core facilities, and bolstered student financial aid at a time when other universities were experiencing cutbacks.

At Illinois, where she was the first woman to serve as the Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Mangelsdorf also was the first woman to head the Department of Psychology, one of the largest undergraduate and graduate programs at Illinois. Prior to that, she served as associate provost. She was recognized several times for her teaching at Illinois, including receiving the highest award for teaching in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.


The appointment of Mangelsdorf is the culmination of a months-long and inclusive search process. The University retained the respected higher education search firm Spencer Stuart to conduct the search on behalf of the Board of Trustees and the trustees’ search committee. Three campus advisory committees supported the board in the search. The University Advisory Committee (UAC), co-chaired by Anne Nofziger, associate professor of family medicine and director of the primary care clerkship program, and Michael Scott, Arthur Gould Yates Professor of Engineering, included faculty as well as the co-chairs of the Staff Advisory Committee and of the Student Advisory Committee.

The full University Advisory Committee participated with the trustees’ search committee in initial evaluations of the prospect pool, and seven of its members, including a staff and student representative, participated in candidate interviews. The trustees’ search committee and the seven UAC participants unanimously supported Mangelsdorf and recommended her to the Board of Trustees as the University’s next president.

Jamal Rossi, the Joan and Martin Messinger Dean of the Eastman School of Music and a member of the UAC, said the search process was organized to involve the perspectives of as many members of the University community as possible.

“I’m committed to moving the institution even further in its mission to make the world ‘ever better.’”— Sarah Mangelsdorf

“This was a remarkably inclusive and deliberative process, and the resulting candidate is equally remarkable,” Rossi said. “Sarah Mangelsdorf brings a depth of administrative experience, academic credibility, and personal integrity that will serve our University well, and I am very excited that she will be our president.”

For a full list of the Trustees’ Search Committee (TPSC), and the UAC, Staff, and Student Advisory Committee members, please see the Rochester Presidential Search website.

The three advisory committees of faculty, students, and staff provided additional input into the process, holding more than three dozen campus meetings and forums in the summer and fall to gather input on the presidency. In addition, a University-wide survey seeking feedback on preferred qualities and priorities for a new president received about 5,000 responses. Input from the forums and from the survey helped to develop the position description and to identify preferred attributes for final candidates.

Professor Michael Scott, the University Advisory Committee co-chair, said search committee members were impressed by Mangelsdorf.

“Sarah is a remarkable candidate and will be a fabulous president,” he said. “Her research on child development is very highly regarded and is a great academic fit for Rochester. She has an incredible range of administrative experience and a reputation for working closely and transparently with faculty, staff, and students in a spirit of collaboration. I am genuinely excited about the University’s prospects under her leadership.”

University Trustee and search committee member Tom Richards, who also chairs the board of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), said that Mangelsdorf is well positioned to lead a complex institution like Rochester.

“Sarah Mangelsdorf is an accomplished researcher in areas of psychology that are a shared interest with work at URMC,” he said. “As provost at the University of Wisconsin she has responsibility for the Schools of Medicine and Public Health, Nursing, and Pharmacy and a close relationship with the Wisconsin Medical Center, an academic medical center and community health system similar in many ways to UR Medicine. She understands what we do and our challenges. I know that she looks forward to building on the University’s existing relationships with the broader Rochester community.”


family portrait.

Mangelsdorf (center) is pictured with her husband, Karl Rosengren, their children, Julia Rosengren (far right) and Emily Rosengren, and son-in-law, Richard Lee (far left), during their visit to the University on December 17, 2018. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

A Pennsylvania native, Sarah Mangelsdorf graduated from Oberlin College and earned her doctorate in child psychology from the University of Minnesota. She is a third-generation academic: her father, Paul C. Mangelsdorf Jr., was a professor of physics at Swarthmore College and her grandfather, Paul C. Mangelsdorf, was a professor of botany at Harvard University.

She and her husband, Karl Rosengren, a developmental psychologist who is also a professor of psychology at Wisconsin, have two children, Julia Rosengren and Emily Rosengren, and a son-in-law, Richard Lee. The family also includes a cat, named Gezellig (from a Dutch word meaning “cozy”) by Julia and Emily after the family returned to the United States from a year-long sabbatical in the Netherlands.

“I’m immensely excited to be joining the University of Rochester, and I am looking forward to working with our outstanding faculty, students, staff, and alumni, and with the members of the greater Rochester community,” Mangelsdorf said. “Rochester has a distinguished record of innovation and influence, and I am honored that the University’s trustees have put their faith in me. I am grateful to my predecessors, most recently Richard Feldman, who have established a strong foundation for Rochester’s future success, and I’m committed to moving the institution even further in its mission to make the world ‘ever better.’” She added, “Karl and I are excited about this new chapter. Of course, we’re organizing our shopping list for Wegmans, but we are really looking forward to getting to know the University and the community and to learning more about the region and its history.”

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