Northwestern welcomes first female president


Image courtesy of Northwestern University

After eight years of service at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Chancellor Rebecca Blank will be taking over for Morton Schapiro as the next president of Northwestern University. Blank has a history at the university, having been one of the first tenured women in their economics department, and soon, will become the first female president.

Blank was unanimously elected by the 34-member search committee consisting of Northwestern trustees, faculty, students, staff and alumni leaders alike.  In a statement given to Northwestern Now, Chair of the Presidential Search Committee, Peter Barris, said,  “As part of our process, we heard from all segments of the University community, and I believe Chancellor Blank’s deep experience and talents will support our current needs and position us for a promising future.”

A native Midwesterner, Blank graduated from the University of Minnesota with an undergraduate degree in economics and later earned a doctoral degree in the same field from MIT. 

Blank has served under three presidential administrations in various economic advising roles. She served as both acting and deputy secretary of commerce under Obama, as well as a senior staff economist under Bush and a member of the Council of Economic Advisors under Clinton.

Much of Blank’s career has been spent researching poverty and the low-income labor market. She implemented programs such as the Bucky’s Tuition Promise at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has given tuition to over 4,000 students. Blank plans on bringing a similar impact to Northwestern, saying in a news release to Northwestern Now that she is “honored and delighted to accept the job as Northwestern’s next president,” and that “it will be [her] mission to make sure the institution’s reputation and quality continues to accelerate.”

The official change in presidency is set to happen sometime in the summer of 2022, a promising next step for Northwestern.