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UW System Names Two Finalists Seeking Permanent Chairman

On Friday, the president and CEO of a leading Milwaukee-based law firm and the chancellor of UW-Eau Claire were named finalists in the search for a permanent president of the UW system.

The university system has been without a permanent president for nearly two years after the failure of initial research, which was widely criticized because there was not enough effort to include the voices of members of the campus community, including faculty, staff and students.

On Friday, the search committee announced that Jay Rothman, president of the Milwaukee-based law firm Foley and Lardner, and James Schmidt, chancellor of UW-Eau Claire since 2013, were the finalists in the second search.

“We have identified two excellent candidates, each of whom would be an outstanding leader for our university system,” UW System Board Chairman Edmund Manydeeds III said in a statement. “We believe their qualifications and experience provide the committee with an excellent opportunity to choose a future leader for the UW system.

The first search named only one candidate, University of Alaska system president Jim Johnsen, who withdrew from the review after criticizing the search process.

Since the failed search, former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson has served as interim president. Thompson is expected to step down on March 18.

Rothman has never worked in higher education before and served on the board of directors for Children’s Wisconsin. Schmidt has worked in higher education his entire career, including several schools in Minnesota.

On Tuesday, the two finalists will be interviewed by the search committee and other groups including members of the campus community. After the interviews, the committee will make a recommendation to the full board for a vote. A decision is expected by the end of January, according to a press release.

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