University of Oregon’s Board of Trustees voted Monday to select the institution’s next president.
John Karl Scholz will step into the leadership role at UO in July. He’s currently provost at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as a professor of economic policy.
“He is truly a visionary leader with deep passion for public higher education,” UO Board Chair Ginevra Ralph said Monday. “He’s deeply, deeply committed to the success of students, to the university’s research agenda and liberal arts roots, and its focus on creating societal impact in the future.”
UO officially welcomed Scholz at an announcement event Monday in Eugene, after the board meeting.
“I am drawn to the University of Oregon because I believe in the extraordinary role that our public research universities play in improving lives and the world around us,” Scholz said at the event. “I believe in the transformative power of the University of Oregon. I believe in our mission and the opportunity to change the lives of the students we serve, to conduct curiosity-driven research and to enhance our understanding of what it means to be human and to serve our community, state and world.”
The University of Oregon is in a unique position compared to many other public universities and community colleges across the state in that it hasn’t seen an extreme decline in enrollment over the course of the pandemic.
Scholtz told OPB he plans on talking with his new university colleagues about how big UO should be.
“It’s a wonderful, wonderful university, so I have this view that I want as many people to take advantage of this jewel in the state of Oregon,” he said. “But, one obviously has to balance the experience that we can provide students.”
Scholz told OPB that with declining enrollment not being an immediate concern, his current agenda is focused on furthering student success by “expanding our ability to support their post-graduation aspirations, whether with careers or graduate school, or whatever they want to do.”
He also wants to focus on some of the university’s major opportunities for students, such as its Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, which opened in 2020, and its Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavioral Health, located on UO’s new Portland campus.
Scholz said it’s been great to hear excitement about the Ballmer Institute, which is expected to welcome its first class of undergraduate students this fall.
“The opportunities for the Ballmer Institute to support healthy children and families across the state and beyond is, I think, one of the most profoundly important things that the university can do,” he said. “We collectively have to execute on the Ballmer Institute and the promise of that. That’s tied up to the Portland campus and being of service to Portland, to Salem, to Eastern Oregon, to the state and the region and the world.”
Luda Isakharov, UO’s student body president, was on the university’s 22-member presidential search committee. She said she was impressed with Scholz’ comments on student success.
“Throughout the search process, incoming president Scholz showed a deep care and compassion for students,” Isakharov said Monday. “He has demonstrated throughout his career that he can nurture a campus culture that fosters inclusion, belonging, respect and equity, and we are so excited for him to continue this work on our campus and to start engaging with our amazing student body.”
Scholz is succeeding Michael Schill, who left the institution last August to lead Northwestern University, after leading UO since 2015. Following Schill’s departure, UO’s former provost, senior vice president and biologist Patrick Phillips, stepped in as interim president.
Ralph said Monday that Phillips would return to a faculty position, leading his biology lab.
The board plans to name UO Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration Jamie Moffitt as its new interim president at a meeting Tuesday. Moffitt is expected to serve in that position until Scholz arrives.
Scholz said he and his wife, Melissa Scholz, are excited to join the UO community later this year. One of Scholz’s three daughters is a Ph.D. student at UO studying volcanology, he said.
Scholz said there are many professional reasons he’s excited to lead UO, and many personal ones too. He told OPB he’s a wine lover and a recreational runner. He’s also a big fan of intercollegiate sports.
“I love the outdoors,” he said. “I love the mountains. The ocean — I get a little intimidated because I grew up in Nebraska, but I’ll work on that.”
UO is the latest university in the state to see new leadership. Portland State University just announced its new president, Ann Cudd, Friday. Both Oregon State and Western Oregon universities got new presidents last year. Eastern Oregon University is still in the midst of a search process to find a new leader.
Scholz said that he’s looking forward to working with Cudd at PSU and Oregon State president Jayathi Murthy.
“I fully, fully anticipate we are going to be very collaborative to do the right thing for the state of Oregon, for the Pacific Northwest, for the world,” Scholz said.