Interim Chancellor Wilson promoted to second-in-command of University system


Lily Katz

Interim Vice Chancellor Edward Feser and Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson listen during the SEC meeting in Urbana, IL on April 25.

By Megan Jones and Angelica LaVito

President Timothy Killeen promoted Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson to his second-in-command.

Wilson will serve as the executive vice president and vice president for academic affairs for the UI system, pending the approval of the Board of Trustees, according to a news release sent Monday. She will begin on Sept. 26, the same day the new permanent chancellor, Robert Jones, will begin.

“The challenges facing the entire U of I System and public higher education are going to require us to make decisions together that will impact the University for generations to come,” Wilson said in a news release. “I hope my perspective both as a long-time faculty member and as a campus administrator will help us make choices that foster academic excellence as well as sound stewardship of our resources. I know I have a lot to learn and I’m looking forward to getting started.”

She replaces former Vice President for Academic Affairs Christophe Pierre, who left in August to serve as a provost for Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey. Pierre previously made $423,266 a year.

The role was newly restructured, and she will be responsible for serving as the chief operating officer and chief academic officer. She will earn $450,000 a year, according to UI spokesman Tom Hardy.

Wilson will work closely with Killeen to advocate for the University system and elevate its national profile by connecting with legislators, funding agencies and leaders in higher education. She has previously attended several legislative sessions with Killeen to advocate for state funding.

Wilson will also be in charge of planning and budgeting across the UI system. As vice president for academic affairs, she will collaborate with campus chancellors, provosts and faculty on educational and student programs.

“Barb’s leadership, passion and vision have been invaluable in steering the university through a turbulent year with its excellence intact,” Killeen said in a news release. “I am delighted that she will now share her many talents to serve the entire U of I System, and elevate our standing as a global leader in education, innovation and service to the public good.”

Wilson said goodbye to the Senate Executive Committee at its Monday meeting, which was her last. She served as interim chancellor since August 2015 after the resignation of Phyllis Wise amidst controversy that Wise and other administrators communicated about academic business through private email addresses.

“When I came here for the first time as interim chancellor, I think I talked about the importance of restoring trust,” Wilson said. “And I think we have made some great strides in that (regard).”

One stride Wilson noted was the handling of an American Association of University Professors (AAUP) censure on the University for allegedly violating academic freedom when it rescinded Steven Salaita’s job offer after he posted a series of tweets about the war in Gaza. The censure is still ongoing, but Wilson thinks the SEC has “made good progress.”

Kim Graber, SEC vice-chair, commended Wilson for her work as interim chancellor, a role she said comes with controversy and criticism.

“Thank you for stepping in,” Graber said. “Seriously, it was a difficult time for the campus. And I’d agree, we’ve come through so many remarkable things. I was really surprised how quickly things calmed down.”

Wilson’s year as chancellor included filling many interim positions and making plans for budget cuts to the University amidst the Illinois state budget impasse.

An internal search to fill the vice president role began in July, yielding eight applicants. Killeen interviewed two finalists for the position. The search was helped by an advisory committee chaired by UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis.

The Board of Trustees will vote on Wilson’s appointment at its Nov. 10 meeting in Chicago.

Executive Associate Dean Brian Ross has served as the dean of LAS over the last year for Wilson and will continue to serve during the transition. Hardy said a search for a new dean will be handled by Jones and Interim Provost Ed Feser.

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