SIU President Randy Dunn recommended that Carlo Montemagno be appointed permanent chancellor for the system’s Carbondale campus in an email sent to the campus community Tuesday.
Montemagno’s appointment is effective August 15 pending approval from the Board of Trustees, Dunn’s email said. The board meets Thursday in Springfield at the SIU School of Medicine.
Montemagno, a professor in engineering, chemical and materials engineering at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, secured the spot over current interim Chancellor Brad Colwell, who served in a temporary capacity for about 20 months.
In the email, Dunn also recommended Colwell take over as vice president for academic affairs for the SIU system effective July 17. This position has not been filled since July 2014.
The chancellor decision marks the end of the eight-month search announced by SIU President Randy Dunn in October 2016 and gives the university its first permanent chancellor since 2014.
“He stood out among the finalists for the position due to his vision and ability to build and lead complex organizations,” Dunn said. “It was clear through the search process that the campus community desired a transformative change agent for its next chancellor, and Dr. Montemagno will fulfill that role well.”
During a public candidate forum June 15, Montemagno said the university will likely face two years of “living hell” in the wake of the state’s two-year budget impasse.
“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,” he said.
Montemagno admitted during the forum that more cuts will likely need to be made. He said that the university needs a reason, beyond cost-saving measures, to cut programs.
“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.
Montemagno will be tasked with making large reductions in his new capacity as chancellor. In late March, Dunn announced his plan for the Carbondale campus to cut at least $30 million in spending from its $450 million budget.
In May, Colwell detailed the breakdown of a $19 million permanent budget cut to the university.
The cut may result in layoffs to 51 civil service employees, contract non-renewals, layoffs for faculty and reductions in the budgets of many departments on campus.
Almost 100 civil service employees, including the 51 expecting layoffs, could be affected by a process called “bumping,” which means staff can transfer their layoff to another person with less seniority in the same position. Twenty-four non-tenure track faculty members received non-renewal notices for their contracts. For 184 NTT faculty, contract renewals or non-renewals have yet to be determined.
Colwell’s statement at the time said the number of non-renewals was expected to grow “as our academic leadership works to balance our budgetary challenges and instructional needs for fall.”
Montemagno said his vision as chancellor would include increasing university enrollment, which hit its lowest point since 1965 during the fall 2016 semester. He said this could be achieved by recruiting students from underserved states as well as recruiting international students.
The Board of Trustees was expected to announce the decision at its regularly scheduled meeting May 10 but instead voted to table the appointment and added two candidates to the existing list of three finalists.
Candidates gradually dropped out of the running, citing fiscal concerns at the campus and state level fiscal or taking jobs elsewhere, leaving Colwell and Montemagno as the sole contenders.
Montemagno 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.
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.
In a university news release Tuesday, Montemagno said he looks forward to engaging with SIU’s community in his new role.
“The jewel that is SIUC is bright,” Montemagno said. “I am confident that by working together we will make it brilliant.”
Staff writer Cory Ray contributed reporting.
Campus editor Marnie Leonard can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @marsuzleo.
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