By Stacy Nguyen and Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly
On April 27, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced that University of Washington (UW) President Mark Emmert will be the NCAA’s next president, leaving a big hole at the very top of the UW.
Though it may be too soon to start speculating who will be interim president at the UW, a person of interest is Phyllis Wise, provost and executive vice president of the UW. In a phone interview, Wise said that she had a feeling that Emmert would leave, but that she didn’t have much information to go on. She also said she wasn’t surprised that he took the position with the NCAA, as she has worked with him for five years and knows that he loves new challenges.
“Mark has a lot of good qualifications,” she said. “He is able to focus on academics but, at the same time, acts like a CEO.” Running a university is a lot like running a company, Wise pointed out. The UW is currently ranked second in the nation in terms of research funding.
The Board of Regents has a tough job ahead. It’s up to the board chair to choose the best process to get an interim and permanent president, said Wise. A committee will be set up for a nationwide search to find the next president.
“And the best candidate the search [committee] identifies will get the job,” said Wise.
Is it possible that the new UW president could be a woman?
According to the American Council on Education (ACE), 23 percent of college presidents are women.
In an article in Forbes, ACE President Molly Broad, former president of the University of North Carolina, says that the low number of female college presidents is due to the hiring process. A president is hired by a board of trustees, and women, especially minority women, are rare on such boards. Not to say that the people on the boards are consciously being discriminatory, but the information passed around tends to stay within a familiar network.
The University of Washington has had only one female president in its history, Mary W. Thayer. She served for less than one year, from March to August 1874.
If the UW does opt for a female president, is it possible that Wise will be up for the job? According to an insider at the UW, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, it would be a surprise if Wise wasn’t appointed interim president. Whoever the new president is, the insider added, he or she would need to have an appetite for fundraising.
In a separate interview, Northwest Asian Weekly asked Wise if she enjoys fundraising in general. She said, “I love fundrasiing. I’m passionate about talking about the university. I love meeting new people.”
When pressed about the possibility of becoming president of the university, Wise said, “I’m so engaged in my position now that I haven’t given it much thought. And I haven’t been asked. But it’s important right now to keep the ship going and not lose focus.”
“From my perspective, I think we need an interim president that can insure the continued educational excellence for our students and make difficult decisions in these challenging financial times,” said Michael Verchot, Director of the Business and Economic Development Center
at the UW Foster School of Business. “Provost Wise has demonstrated leadership in both of these areas and I think she’d make a wonderful choice.”
Anand Yang, director of the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, is inclined to agree with Verchot. “Phyllis Wise would be the natural choice. She has extensive experience, a large portfolio, and certainly would be a worthy candidate.”
Wise, however, is staying relatively mum about her filling Emmert’s position. “I don’t want to jump into a lot of assumptions,” Wise added. “[But] I think I can do the job very well. If the board asks, of course, there’s a lot of talking that needs to be done and arrangements made to make sure there are no conflicts of interest.” ♦