Chancellor finalist Carlo Montemagno wants to define and implement a vision for SIU


By Cory Ray

In what is expected to be the final chancellor forum, Carlo Montemagno spoke to students, faculty and community members on Wednesday.

“[It was] the challenge,” he said when asked why he is pursuing the chancellorship. “I’m a builder. My entire career has been building things.”

Montemagno is currently a professor in engineering, chemical and materials engineering at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.


He hosted a public forum on Wednesday morning in the John C. Guyon Auditorium in Morris Library. Later, that evening he hosted a student forum in Rooms 150 and 160 of the Student Services Building.

During a question and answer session from the audience, Dean of Science Laurie Achenbach asked Montemagno how he would combat the ongoing budget crisis at the university.

“We probably have two years of living hell to deal with,” he said. “We need to make sure that we don’t do things that destroy the critical components that we need to allow us to be advanced.”

Montemagno said the university needs to quickly find a “defined vision” of how it will handle lack of state funds. From there, he said the reliance on and increase of donor support will be a key facet in navigating the crisis.

He related many potential solutions to his engineering background by suggesting the universities needs to expand its relationship with industries, mentioning his contacts with companies like Johnson & Johnson that could be utilized.

Particularly, Montemagno sees an opportunity for the university to expand its partnership with the SIU School of Medicine.

“We going to have to decide on which programs and which facilities that we have that are absolutely critical for us to achieve our vision,” he said. “We’re going to have to invest in — and maybe even expand our investments in — those areas.”


Even with those suggestions, Montemagno admitted that more cuts will likely need to be made.

“We’re going to have to decide things which are nice to have but we don’t need to have while we’re in this period of crisis,” he said.

What Montemagno said he has done in the past was to identify metrics, how much money needed saving and slate a series of ideas to move forward.

He said the university must need an intention of why it should potentially remove a program for a variety of reasons, not just money.

“Just because a program costs more and maybe it’s losing money, doesn’t mean necessarily that’s a program you want to cut,” he said.


When asked by Judy Davie of the SIU School of Medicine what he thinks the university will look like in five to ten years, he reiterated the importance of creating a vision through dialogue.

For example, he suggested if the vision includes increasing enrollment, that could be achieved by recruiting students from underserved states as well as recruiting international students, a process which he said he has been implemented before.

That process could increase diversity among the university, a factor Montemagno believes is one goal of higher education. He said at previous institutions, he worked to raise success rates of black students.

“I can point to over 600 students whose lives I have changes permanently, whose families lives I have changed permanently,” he said.

Montemagno said he questions the effectiveness of round tables to combat issues regarding campus diversity; rather, he said tolerance is achieved through “shared experiences” and an integrated community.

“We embrace what I think is that people identify themselves not as being a Filipino SIUC student but an as SIUC student,” he said. “Their self-identity is defined by this institution.”

Montemagno himself is a first generation student and said he comes from a working-class background.

He served in the military as a U.S. Naval Officer for ten years.

From 2002 to 2006, Montemagno served as chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at UCLA, which had experienced a 50 percent decrease in state funds over the past 10 years. The school was also facing enrollment issues.

He compared those issues to ones currently being faced by SIU.

Seven years later after he started his chairmanship, he said he helped to increase all external funds by 40 percent, student enrollment by 25 percent, graduation rates and research expenditures.

In 2006, Montemagno accepted a position as a dean of the College of Engineering, and later the College of Applied Sciences. In 2010, Montemagno became founding dean of the converged College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, where he worked until 2012.

Now at the University of Alberta, he said the capstone to his career was building the university’s Ingenuity Lab.

Three other candidates are vying for the position of chancellor: current interim Chancellor Brad Colwell, George Hynd and Rodney Hanley.

Hynd currently serves as president of Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan.

Hanley is the provost, vice president of academic affairs and a professor in biology at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.

According to SIU spokesperson Rae Goldsmith, chancellor finalists will be interviewed tomorrow by the Board of Trustees in a special meeting.

Editor-in-Chief Cory Ray can be reached at or on Twitter @coryray_de.

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