Photo of James Roland (Jim) JohnsenMADISON, Wis.—The search process for the next president of the University of Wisconsin System is moving to the next phase with the selection of University of Alaska System President Jim Johnsen as a finalist who will go through multiple committee and shared governance interviews next week.

“The candidate pool that was developed and reviewed by the committee was very deep and strong, and included a number of impressive and qualified candidates at each step of the process,” said Regent Vice President Michael M. Grebe, chair of the Presidential Search Committee.

Amid the search, the pandemic posed unanticipated and unprecedented circumstances and obstacles. Several candidates removed their names from consideration near the end of the process, with some expressing concern over being named publicly as a finalist during the pandemic.

“The committee unanimously agreed on a first choice of finalist in Dr. Jim Johnsen as a strong, qualified, collaborative leader who would be an excellent choice as the next president of the UW System,” said Grebe.

The committee is looking forward to the next step in the search process, which includes asking for feedback from other system constituencies, including chancellors, campus leadership, and shared governance representatives during the finalist interviews on June 9.

Johnsen has been president of the University of Alaska System since 2015 and has a deep background in higher education, including service at the University of Minnesota from 1992 to 1996. He served in various roles in the Alaska System between 1996 and 2008, including vice president for administration and chief of staff. He has served as chair of the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, vice chair of the Alaska Student Loan Corporation, vice chair of the University of Alaska Foundation, and commissioner on the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education. He was founding chair of the Alaska State Committee on Research.

He holds a B.A. in politics from the University of California, Santa Cruz, a master’s in political science from the University of Chicago, and a doctorate in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania.

Johnsen also has experience in the private sector, having worked for Alaska Communications, a telecommunications company, and Doyon, Limited, one of 12 Alaska Native regional corporations. He currently serves on the board of the National Association of System Heads and on several boards and commissions in Alaska, including the Alaska Aerospace Development Corporation and the congressionally chartered Denali Commission. He also has served on the Board of Directors of the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce.

The committee will meet after the interview process to decide upon a recommendation to the full UW System Board of Regents, which approves the UW System President appointment.

More information about Johnsen can be found online at

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The University of Wisconsin System serves approximately 170,000 students. Awarding nearly 37,000 degrees annually, the UW System is Wisconsin’s talent pipeline, putting graduates in position to increase their earning power, contribute to their communities, and make Wisconsin a better place to live. More than 80 percent of in-state UW System graduates stay in Wisconsin five years after earning a degree. The UW System provides a 23:1 return on state investment. UW System universities also contribute to the richness of Wisconsin’s culture and economy with groundbreaking research, new companies and patents, and boundless creative intellectual energy.

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Mark Pitsch UW System (608) 265-3419