On July 1, Joan T.A. Gabel became the University of Minnesota’s 17th president—and the first woman to hold the title. Gabel and the University community have been getting to know each other since she braved Minnesota’s winter last December to visit each system campus for a public forum. There, she thoughtfully answered questions about everything from the value of higher education to leading a five-campus system.
She also gave insights into her personal and professional self—for example, she majored in philosophy as an undergraduate, appreciates the breadth of a liberal arts education, considers spending time with students “one of the gifts of being in higher education,” likes hockey, and looks forward to embracing life in Minnesota.
What impressed you about the U?
Higher education is changing, and many institutions are struggling to find footing among those changes. The University of Minnesota has a long tradition as a land-grant institution but also is able to steward innovation. This combination of legacy and nimbleness sets the stage for broader and deeper impact, as our work goes beyond the classroom to benefit all Minnesotans—and, arguably, all people. I’m humbled and honored to be a part of advancing this legacy.
How have you prepared for your new role?
It’s been a steady journey over several decades. I’ve been drawing on my experiences leading and facilitating innovation across multicampus systems, and I have relied heavily on the tremendous support and insight I’ve received from University leaders and supporters. The work drives academic excellence, student success, and impact, but the personal relationships drive insight.
How important is philanthropy to the future of the U?
What we’re able to do on behalf of students, discovery, our partners, and the state as a whole makes such a difference. But the University cannot do it in isolation. Without our supporters, our ability to make a difference is constrained. My commitment is to make sure donors see the value of their investment.
Hear more from U of M President Joan T.A. Gabel: