New Chancellor Connects with UW Mission

For Jennifer L. Mnookin, the Wisconsin Idea is personal.

Jennifer Mnookin greets and shakes hands with a member of the UW campus community

Mnookin (right) has been struck by how much people at the UW care about the institution and each other. Jeff Miller

Every incoming UW–Madison leader professes to understand the Wisconsin Idea, the guiding principle that the activities of the university should have a positive and lasting impact on the state and world. New chancellor Jennifer L. Mnookin grasps it in a deeply personal way.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mnookin donated a kidney to her father. A transplant solution developed at UW–Madison allowed the organ to be shipped from Los Angeles to Boston for successful transplantation. He’s doing well today.

Mnookin has been struck by the commitment to the Wisconsin Idea and the spirit of the academic community that she joined on August 4.

“Two things make this place so special. One is just the incredible range of research activities across so many fields at such a high level,” says Mnookin, who succeeds Rebecca Blank. “The second is just how much people care about each other, the community, and the institution.”

Mnookin had been dean of the UCLA School of Law since 2015. She was a professor at UCLA, the University of Virginia School of Law, and Harvard Law School.

Those who know her best credit Mnookin with being a transformative leader at UCLA, fully prepared to transition from a successful deanship into the UW chancellor role.

“Jennifer was born to be the leader of a great research university like the University of Wisconsin,” says University of Oregon president Michael Schill, who previously served as UCLA law school dean. “She is incredibly smart, strategic, inspiring, warm, and collaborative. She has been an amazing dean of one of the nation’s best law schools and has moved it dramatically forward in a short period of time.”

Mnookin says she won’t shy away from challenges ahead and describes an engaged leadership style that will draw in an array of voices to solve problems.

“Vision comes through collaboration and engagement — working together to find common purpose. We will look for ways to improve the institution that you love and that I am coming to love.”

Published in the Fall 2022 issue

Tags: administration, chancellor

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