Education

Minnesota Legislature chooses three new U of M regents ahead of leadership decisions

People cross a bridge with buildings in the background.
People cross the Washington Avenue bridge toward the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minn., in this file photo from 2020.
Evan Frost | MPR News

The DFL-controlled Minnesota Legislature has chosen three new University of Minnesota Regents, ahead of a meeting later this week when the board will review candidates to lead the school on an interim basis following the departure of current president Joan Gabel.

West St. Paul City Council Member Robyn Gulley is joining the 12-member panel that governs the U along with former Allina Health CEO Dr. Penny Wheeler and Mary Turner, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association. All would serve six-year terms.

After Monday’s vote, Turner said as a labor representative, she hopes the school will avoid difficult contract negotiations with employee unions. Last fall, U service workers reached a contract agreement and narrowly averted a strike.

A person sits and smiles while waiting.
Minnesota Nurses Association President Mary Turner awaits a legislative vote on her nomination to the University of Minnesota Board of Regents at the Minnesota Capitol on Monday.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

"There's no reason for the workers to have to come close to striking. I've been a part of my own negotiations and that's just not necessary."

Gulley says she wants to improve pay and job security for non-tenured faculty and make tuition affordable.

A person smiles and looks back over her sholder.
West St. Paul City Council Member Robyn Gulley smiles to supporters in the House gallery at the Minnesota Capitol following her election to the University of Minnesota Board of Regents by a joint vote of the House and Senate.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

"I really think we need to take a deep look at that and see how that impacts not only the workers, but the students and do the work that we can to lift the conditions for the students and for all the workers on campus," Gulley said.

Wheeler said she hopes to bring positive change for students and prioritize their safety and wellbeing, as the regents prepare to pick an interim president and begin the search for Gabel’s permanent successor. “You look for somebody who has a track record that focuses on that.”

She also said she “has a thousand questions to ask” about the plan for expanding the medical campus.

A person smiles while sitting.
Former Allina Health CEO Penny Wheeler chats with supporters ahead of her election to the University of Minnesota Board of Regents by a joint vote of the House and Senate.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

Lawmakers also re-appointed Regent Tadd Johnson, who became the first Native American regent last July. Johnson, a former professor, tribal attorney and tribal court judge, is a member of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa. Before his appointment, Johnson retired from his position as the U’s first senior director of American Indian Tribal Nations relations.

A man poses for a portrait
Tadd Johnson, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
Derek Montgomery for MPR News 2022

The new members join as the board prepares to select an interim leader ahead of Gabel's departure to assume the role of chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh this summer. The board has called a special meeting for Thursday at which it is expected to select finalists for the interim position and begin the process for hiring the U’s next president.

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