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RIVER FALLS — A 10-member search committee was announced at the tail end of 2020 to find the University of Wisconsin-River Falls' next leader after longtime chancellor Dean Van Galen resigned to be president of Missouri Southern State University.

The search committee held a day of virtual listening sessions Dec. 7 to hear from faculty, students and others on the preferred attributes and priorities of chancellor candidates. Technology experience to respond to tumult caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the ability to attract students during an anticipated “baby bust” enrollment slump were identified as important qualities.

UW System Regent Scott Beightol, who chairs the search committee, said the listening sessions helped the search committee in its task.

“We’re getting a lot of really good feedback and information,” Beightol said during a session for alumni and the community, “and starting to get the sense, at least I am, of what’s happening on the campus and how we can best select a great chancellor for our campus in the future.”

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The committee is made up of five regents as well as faculty, staff, community and student representatives.

UW System President Tommy Thompson and Board of Regents President Andrew S. Petersen initially delayed the chancellor search at the request of UWRF leadership due to the pandemic. It officially got underway in November.

Van Galen thanked UWRF employees in a letter as he bid adieu in May.

“I have done my very best to lead our university, and I have a deep sense of respect and gratitude for what we have accomplished, together, often during times of challenge,” he wrote. “Most of all, our shared commitment has positively impacted the lives of so many students. I believe that this is the most important legacy that we will share.”

Van Galen served as chancellor for 11 years. The university in a news release credited him with contributing to the success of UWRF’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign that raised $22 million for student scholarships and the Falcon Center health and human performance facility.

Retired dean, professor and coach Connie Foster returned to the university to serve as interim chancellor.

UWRF offers more than 70 areas of study in four colleges, with a student population of around 6,000.

The university this fall also announced plans to close the Hudson Center by the end of the year, focusing instead on offering MBA and other programs online. The shift to online learning in the spring semester due to the pandemic spurred a reexamination of course delivery.

Updates on the search process in 2021 can be found on the university’s website at www.uwrf.edu/Chancellor-Search.