In their meeting Tuesday, the UW Board of Regents announced interim president Ana Mari Cauce will be the new president of the university. Cauce is the first-ever Latina and the first-ever woman president of the UW.
Cauce called the occasion an out-of-body experience.
“This is less about me, than really about us,” Cauce said. “Because we’re all together here. What it says to me is that — and I hope it says to everyone out there — is that you have confidence we’re moving in the right direction.”
She addressed the importance of diversity and access at the UW, saying it’s not just the right thing to do, but it’s also the smart thing to do. She said diversity gives the university an advantage to have complexity, and people coming from different perspectives.
“I wasn’t really surprised when I heard she was the one,” said UW College of Education graduate student Gregory Diggs-Yang. “With the last president just leaving all of a sudden, [dedication] would be the selling point for me; someone who would stay long-term and follow that long term vision.”
Another audience member had some questions about Cauce’s intentions to stay at the UW, perhaps in light of previous President Michael Young’s short tenure.
“Let’s put it this way,” Cauce said, “I plan to retire in this state, in this city, no question. How long I stay will probably depend more on the regents than on me, because I’m not going anywhere.”
This decision was made just hours before the regents gathered.
“I think we were just surprised as anyone about how fast the overall selection process of this announcement came,” said Branden Born, associate professor in urban design and planning.
Kenyon Chan, chair of the presidential search advisory committee, had predicted at the end of last year that the search would finish in January 2016. The decision came four months sooner than his prediction because the committee had worked extra hard during the summer, he said.
At that point in time, they had narrowed the search down to 29 presidential candidates.
Board of Regents’ Vice Chair Patrick Shanahan described Cauce as a lifelong learner and a very strong choice. He was one of five members on the board who voiced their approval before the decision was final.
Born said a positive aspect about Cauce is she’s not swayed by corporate influence.
“On a personal note, this is a big deal for a public university to have a president who understands the word ‘public’ in a university,” Born said. “It’s too often we see the corporate influence taking over. Here’s an instance of the right person being selected for the right reasons. Very gratifying.”
President Cauce stood up while still at the oval table to clap for her audience, saying it is less about her, and more about them.
“Even when people disagree with Ana Mari, they feel respected; they feel heard; they feel like she listened,” Born said. “And what more could you ask for in negotiating with anyone?”
Cauce is set to hold an address Wednesday at the Intellectual House at 2:30 p.m. She will discuss fine-tuning the structures that make the UW a collaborative space.
In September, the Board of Regents announced likely changes to their positions and appointments, which will be up for a future vote.
William Ayer, board chair, will likely relinquish his position to Shanahan. Shanahan’s position will likely go to Jeremy Jaech, current chair of the academic and student affairs standing committee.
The board is currently awaiting Gov. Jay Inslee to either reappoint regents Joanne Harrell and Orin Smith, or to appoint two new regents entirely.