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    University of Minnesota regents select 4 finalists for interim president

    Two University of Minnesota leaders, a former provost and a former congressional candidate remain in the running to become the U’s interim president.

    The internal candidates vying for the job are Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations Myron Frans and Crookston Chancellor Mary Holz-Clause. Also in the running are former DFL congressional candidate Jeffrey Ettinger, who previously worked as CEO of Hormel Foods, and E. Thomas Sullivan, who previously served as president at the University of Vermont and before that, worked as a provost and senior vice president at the U.

    “I think, collectively, we are thrilled with the options that have been presented to us,” Board of Regents Chair Janie Mayeron said in a meeting Thursday where they narrowed the pool to the four candidates. “It’s a problem, but it’s a good problem to have.”

    Regents could vote as soon as Monday on who should take over when current U President Joan Gabel leaves to take another job. Regents said they hope to publicly interview finalists on Monday but have reserved Wednesday as a backup option if candidates have scheduling conflicts.

    Mayeron has called hiring an interim president the board’s “most immediate priority.” For a quarter of its members, it will also be one of the first tasks they undertake as regents. State lawmakers selected three new regents earlier this week, saying they wanted fresh perspectives on the board that will make key leadership decisions.

    Twenty-one people applied to become interim president: eight internal candidates and 13 from outside the U. Only the names of finalists have been publicly released.

    During the meeting, regents referred to candidates only by a letter, to avoid identifying those who did not make the final round. The finalists were candidates G, L, N and T, but the university has refused to specify which finalist corresponds with which letter, saying it believes that information is private under state law.

    The regents’ discussion offered some hints of the factors they are likely to consider as they narrow in on a final decision.

    Regent Doug Huebsch, the board’s co-vice chair, said he believed candidate N could set the foundation for the next president and understood the university’s goals well enough to ensure the U doesn’t lose progress on its long-term goals.

    “We don’t want to lose a year here,” he said.

    Mayeron said that candidate was “beyond light to me on the academic side” while candidate T “checks all the boxes for me in just huge ways with flashing lights.”

    The finalists have varying levels of experience in academia and the private sector.

    Ettinger launched his first political campaign last year, running for the chance to represent Minnesota’s First District in Congress but ultimately losing to U.S. Rep. Brad Finstad, a Republican. Ettinger worked from 1999 to 2004 as president of Jennie-O Turkey Store Inc. and went on to become chief executive officer of the Hormel Foods Corp. He is currently board chair for the Hormel Foundation, which, among other things, is partnering with the U and Riverland Community College in Austin, Minn., to help create a complex for agricultural and climate change research and teaching.

    Frans has been one of the U’s most prominent advocates at the legislature this year, fielding lawmakers’ questions about its multimillion-dollar budget request and attempts to acquire its teaching hospitals amid a proposed merger of Fairview Health Services and South Dakota-based Sanford Health. He began working for the U two years ago, after serving as the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Management and Budget and the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Revenue. Before that, he was president of Leeds Precision Instruments and worked as an attorney.

    Holz-Clause has been chancellor since 2017 at the university’s Crookston campus and also works as a professor in the Department of Agricultural Business. In 2021 and 2022, she also served as the system’s acting executive chancellor, overseeing both the Crookston and the Morris campuses and reporting to the Board of Regents. Before coming to the U, she worked in leadership roles at Cal Poly Pomona in California, the University of Connecticut and Iowa State University.

    Sullivan worked from 2012 to 2019 as president of the University of Vermont, where he is currently a professor of law and political science. Before that, he spent 17 years working at the University of Minnesota, where he worked as a law professor and eventually became provost and senior vice president. He has also worked as a law professor elsewhere, as a trial attorney and as a federal prosecutor, according to his resume.

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