Blank holds final media briefing as UW-Madison chancellor

MADISON, Wis. — Outgoing University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank spoke to reporters Tuesday in her final media briefing as the university’s leader.

Blank, at times emotional, touted the university’s accomplishments during her nine-year tenure, including efforts to make UW-Madison more financially stable. She highlighted the university’s work in expanding summer programs, increasing research dollars and fundraising, which have allowed it to invest in high-need areas like increasing staff salaries and scholarship opportunities.

In particular, Blank praised the All Ways Forward fundraising campaign, which began in 2015 and ended after bringing in more than $4 billion.

“Because of these investments and others, UW has steadily improved as an educational institution,” Blank said. “We were always very good; we are even better now.”

In addition, she said, the university’s graduation gap among marginalized groups has decreased and a growing number of students are graduating with no debt.

Despite the successes, Blank said she wished the university had made more progress on metrics of diversity and inclusion and on reducing regulations that limit campus leaders’ ability to manage buildings.

Earlier this week, initial results from the university’s 2021 Campus Climate Survey showed that while roughly three-quarters of students feel welcome and safe on campus, disparities remain among students in marginalized groups.

RELATED: UW-Madison campus climate survey shows little change, but disparities remain in marginalized groups

The good news, she said, is that despite the COVID-19 pandemic and issues relating to racial justice on campus and around the country, metrics did not fall.

“I think a new person coming in is hopefully going to put together their own set of projects and ideas that they want to bring to this campus and I’m not going to second guess that,” Blank said. “I think we’ve done a number of things that have helped move the university forward, but as others have noted, we’re a predominantly white institution in a predominantly white state, and this is work that is going to be ongoing for a long time.”

As the university evaluates five finalists to replace her, Blank offered her successor some advice.

RELATED: UW-Madison names finalists in search for new chancellor

“Persistence and stubbornness helps a lot,” she said. “These problems are not problems that are going away, they’re not issues that are going to get resolved by something you do next month, and my best advice is for the next person is to play the long game, think about where you want to be and figure out how you get there.”

Ultimately, Blank said she was “very proud” of the university’s progress over the past decade.

“It has been an honor every day that I have served in this position,” she said. “This is a great public university with outstanding faculty and staff and absolutely amazing students.”

In recognition of Blank’s tenure, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway proclaimed Tuesday as Rebecca Blank Day in the city.

Blank’s final day as chancellor is May 27. She is set to become the next president of Northwestern University.