Early work on systemwide priorities

July 25, 2023

Dear students, faculty, and staff,

In my initial weeks as interim president, I’ve spoken with many of you across our five campuses and beyond about what Minnesotans value in our world-class university. I continue to be impressed by the excellence of our education, research, and outreach mission, and I’ve also noticed a drive to advance this work in new ways.

I have recently had the opportunity to discuss my proposed priorities for the year ahead with the Board of Regents. All of this work is a team effort, and members of my senior leadership team—who have my full support and trust—will oversee progress on many of these objectives in the year ahead. I’m writing to give you an early peek into how I’m thinking about these priorities.

In my conversations with the Board, we’ve identified a number of initiatives that will garner my personal involvement and attention. First, we launched the search for a government relations leader who will report directly to the President. I will work with this individual to advocate on behalf of the U with State and Federal lawmakers. I will also partner with our talented University Relations team to tell our story to Minnesotans and beyond. We find ourselves at a critical point with our academic medical enterprise, and I am working closely in the strategy and decision-making that will ensure the continued excellence of our Medical School and health sciences colleges and access to quality healthcare for Minnesotans for years to come. The financial sustainability of our system is another top priority. I will support the work of the PEAK initiative and will work with our Chancellors to analyze our campus-by-campus enrollment, financial sustainability and overall strategic positioning. Finally, the safety and security of the Universitycommunity will continue to be of utmost importance to the Board and this administration.

SUSTAIN, RESTORE, and ADVANCE. Here are several examples of this work already underway:


I’ve said from my earliest conversations with the Board that maintaining momentum on MPact 2025, the University’s comprehensive systemwide strategic plan, would be a focus of my interim presidency. There are many concrete examples of the University’s collective achievements to date and a clear direction on where we will have the greatest impact supporting our students and ensuring a strong future for the U of M.

We will meet with and listen to our Tribal communities to address our shared past and future needs, promote a sense of “systemness” in our operational and programmatic activities, foster a culture of compliance and responsiveness to audit findings, and navigate ongoing national changes in intercollegiate athletics. We will also maintain progress in other areas, including fulfilling the University’s commitment to building namings and renamings, our efforts around environmental sustainability, our important mental health initiatives, and our continued work to promote academic freedom and a free exchange of ideas.


We will dedicate time and energy to strengthening relationships at all levels, in addition to the relationships we’re already building on our five campuses and other locations. This includes our relationships with policymakers and elected officials, alumni, donors, and Minnesotans from every corner of the state.


We must also move forward in several areas. A few examples of initiatives that need our attention include: enriching our systemwide approach to diversity, equity and inclusion, fostering relationships through the collective bargaining process with graduate students and the current UEA negotiations at Duluth and Crookston, responding to the University Senate-endorsed resolution on workforce reinvestment, navigating the recent Supreme Court decision on admissions, and exploring the physical needs of all of our campuses.

I welcome your ideas as we refine these areas and develop others that will require our attention and action. From a distance, I had the sense of how strong the University is and what it means to Minnesota, but after immersing myself in the University community and talking to our leaders, faculty, students, staff, alumni, and others, my impressions have only been amplified. This is truly a special place.


Jeff Ettinger
Interim President