The search for the next leader of the University of Massachusetts Amherst has come down to two finalists, officials said Wednesday, to replace outgoing Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy following his decade-long tenure as head of the state’s flagship university.
The UMass Amherst Chancellor Search Committee announced the finalists as Javier Reyes, interim chancellor at the University of Illinois Chicago, and Paul Tikalsky, dean of the College of Engineering, Architecture & Technology at Oklahoma State University.
The announcement comes about seven months after Subbaswamy announced his intent to retire at the end of June. The search launched on July 15 and the 21-member committee was assisted by the Boston-based executive search firm Isaacson, Miller, which communicated with 108 potential candidates before interviewing 26 of them, the university said in a statement.
The search committee then interviewed 12 candidates before choosing to submit Reyes and Tikalsky to Marty Meehan, president of the UMass system, and the board of trustees for consideration, the statement said.
“The search committee’s task has been clear: identify outstanding candidates to lead UMass Amherst, a world-class university that is a catalyst for the socio-economic development of the Commonwealth, and an engine of opportunity for generations of individuals,” search committee Chair Victor Woolridge, a 1980 graduate of UMass Amherst, said in a statement.
“We have met that challenge thanks to the stellar service of our committee members and the feedback received from the UMass Amherst community during listening sessions.”
A spokesperson for Meehan’s office declined to comment Wednesday, while the selection process plays out.
The candidate who is ultimately chosen will take the helm of an institution that is currently ranked 26th in the nation among public universities by US News and World Report and will replace Subbaswamy, 71, who many credit with transforming UMass Amherst and elevating its national profile. The university was ranked 52nd in 2010, two years before Subbaswamy was named Chancellor, and has seen a 30 percent rise.
In an e-mail to the campus community on Wednesday, Woolridge said the committee set out to “identify innovative and bold leaders who are prepared to continue the ascendance that UMass Amherst has enjoyed under” Subbaswamy.
Reyes holds a PhD in economics from Texas A&M University and has served as interim chancellor at the University of Chicago Illinois since July 1, 2022, overseeing a $3.6 billion budget and 13,000 faculty and staff across 16 academic colleges, according to his biography and curriculum vitae released by UMass on Wednesday. He was previously vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost from the fall of 2021 to May last year.
“Leading UIC ... Dr. Reyes initiated a redesign of UIC’s budget model while also igniting a restructuring of teaching innovation environments which will position UIC for success amidst a new era of innovative and accessible education,” his biography says.
Tikalsky has served as dean of the College of Engineering, Architecture, and Technology at Oklahoma State University since 2012, according to his biography and curriculum vitae. He was previously chairman of the civil and environmental engineering school at the University of Utah from 2006 to 2012. He earned a bachelor’s in civil and environmental engineering from the University of Wisconsin and holds a master’s and PhD from the University of Texas at Austin.
“At OSU he has transformed the college with initiatives that finish more degrees in four years, provide pre-college bridge and STEM programs for students from economically disadvantaged communities, elevate academic standards, and increase the diversity of the students and faculty,” his biography said, adding that the college has seen its number of graduates increase by 82 percent under his leadership.
Reyes and Tikalsky will each visit the UMass Amherst campus in the coming weeks to meet with students, faculty, staff, and community stakeholders, the university’s statement said.
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