MILWAUKEE — Cora Bagley Marrett, senior vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst for the past four years, was today named chief academic officer of the University of Wisconsin System.
The appointment is effective August 1. Marrett will succeed David J. Ward, who retired as senior vice president for academic affairs last July. Since then, former UW-River Falls Chancellor Gary Thibodeau and former UW Extension Interim Chancellor Al Beaver have served in an interim capacity.
“We conducted an extensive nationwide search,” said UW System President Katharine Lyall, “and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome. Dr. Marrett brings experience in both higher education and the federal government — at the National Science Foundation — to this position, plus personal knowledge of the UW System. She had a variety of employment options, and we are very pleased she chose Wisconsin! I look forward to working with her.”
Within the UW System Administration, Marrett will be responsible for supervising the Office of Academic Affairs, the Office of Policy Analysis and Research, the Office of Learning and Information Technology, and Learning Innovations. She will also oversee the Office of Multicultural Affairs. The chief academic officer provides leadership in academic policy, works closely with the Board of Regents and with each institution in the UW System, and serves as the president’s deputy.
“I am delighted to be returning to Wisconsin in this challenging new role,” said Marrett. “I am impressed with President Lyall’s vision for the university, which is to expand the Wisconsin Idea and make the UW System central to the advancement of the whole state. I also look forward to working with the Academic Affairs staff and my campus colleagues to position the UW System as the premier student-centered university system in the country.”
Regent President Jay L. Smith said, “I think President Lyall has made an excellent choice for this key leadership position.” He added, “I’m grateful to Gary Thibodeau and Al Beaver for stepping in during the transition of the past year.”
Marrett was a member of the UW-Madison faculty from 1974 to 1997, with appointments in two departments: Sociology and Afro-American Studies. She advanced from associate professor to full professor and was associate chairperson of the Department of Sociology (1988-91), and was affiliated with the Energy Analysis and Policy Program and the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. During 1990-92, she held a half-time appointment while serving as director of two programs for the United Negro College Fund under a $2.4 million grant from the Andrew Mellon Foundation.
During 1976-77, Marrett was on leave as a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in California. During 1992-96, she served as assistant director of the National Science Foundation, where she led the Directorate for the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences.
She went to Massachusetts-Amherst, the 23,000-student flagship of the five-campus University of Massachusetts System, in 1997. There, her responsibilities included nine schools and colleges, a set of interdisciplinary programs, and the university libraries. Marrett announced in April that she would step down as senior vice chancellor, effective July 31.
Prior to her appointment at UW-Madison, Marrett was an assistant professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina (1968-69) and an assistant/associate professor of sociology at Western Michigan University (1969-74). During 1973-74, she was a senior policy fellow at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.
Her academic background includes a B.A. degree from Virginia Union University (1963) and M.A. (1965) and Ph.D. (1968) degrees from UW-Madison, all in sociology. She received an honorary doctorate from Wake Forest University in 1996, and was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1998 and the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1996. She has published widely in the field of sociology, and has held a variety of public and professional service positions.
Marrett will be joined in Madison by her husband, Louis Marrett, a UW-Madison graduate in poultry science who is retired from his position as a research scientist with what is now the Pharmacia Corporation. The final terms of her appointment are still being negotiated.