Mangelsdorf named UW-Madison provost

April 10, 2014

by John Lucas

Sarah Mangelsdorf, dean of Northwestern University’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, has been named UW-Madison’s provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, Chancellor Rebecca Blank announced today.

Mangelsdorf, who is a professor in Northwestern’s Department of Psychology, is also an internationally known scholar who studies the socio-emotional development of infants and young children.

Photo: Sarah Mangelsdorf

Sarah Mangelsdorf

Blank says she was impressed by the breadth of Mangelsdorf’s experience at similar institutions. Before Northwestern, Mangelsdorf served as the Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“Throughout her career, she has experienced success at four Big Ten institutions, both public and private. She is both a top-ranked professor and a first-class administrator,” Blank says, noting Mangelsdorf’s roles as a professor and student at the University of Michigan and the University of Minnesota, respectively. “This expanse of experience will give her the ability to understand and lead our campus.

“She is viewed as a collaborative trust-builder, who is loved and respected by students, faculty and staff, and known for her work on key initiatives such as diversity and faculty retention,” Blank adds.

“As I researched this role, I found that the people I talked to had uniformly enthusiastic things to say about the University of Wisconsin-Madison,” Mangelsdorf says. “I am particularly excited to partner with Rebecca Blank and help build on the many strengths at UW.”

The provost is the university’s chief academic officer, responsible for overseeing and coordinating the curricular, student and faculty life on campus. In the absence of the chancellor, the provost assumes the role of chief executive. The provost’s office is also responsible for faculty and staff programs, diversity initiatives and enrollment management.

“She is both a top-ranked professor and a first-class administrator. This expanse of experience will give her the ability to understand and lead our campus.”

Rebecca Blank

Mangelsdorf’s family has a long background in academia. Her grandfather was a plant geneticist at Harvard University, while her father taught physics at Swarthmore College and worked summers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

She earned a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1980 from Oberlin College and her doctorate in child psychology in 1988 from the University of Minnesota. She joined the University of Illinois psychology department in 1991 and served as associate provost from 2001-03 and head of the Department of Psychology from 2003-04.

She also served four years as an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan. Her research interests include social-emotional development, attachment, temperament and family systems.

“I study family systems,” she told Northwestern’s Crosscurrents Magazine. “As I first became dean I noticed how some of the organizational principles we think about in family systems also operate in academic institutions and departments.

“In a healthy organization, people need to express disagreements in a way that is not destructive. When I think of a functional, healthy department, I see graduate students who are well trained and have a high degree completion rate, and a high percentage of assistant professors who thrive, get tenure, and actually stay at the university. It often comes back to these basic things: being collegial, being fair, listening to people, and letting them have a voice.”

“As I researched this role, I found that the people I talked to had uniformly enthusiastic things to say about the University of Wisconsin-Madison.”

Sarah Mangelsdorf

A 17-member committee made up of faculty, staff and students and chaired by Joan Schmit, the American Family Insurance Professor of Risk Management and Insurance in the Wisconsin School of Business, screened a pool of applicants and recommended four candidates to the chancellor.

“We were extremely lucky to have four strong finalists who are smart, experienced, transformational leaders,” Schmit says. “I’m excited about Dean Mangelsdorf’s leadership and I would like to thank the committee for their work to help fill this vital role.”

Blank says Mangelsdorf is expected to arrive on campus on Aug. 4 in preparation for the 2014-15 academic year, as current Provost Paul M. DeLuca, Jr. returns to the faculty.

"I am extremely grateful to Paul DeLuca for his outstanding leadership over the past five years,” Blank says.

Mangelsdorf’s husband, Karl Rosengren, also a developmental psychologist in Northwestern’s Department of Psychology, will join the UW-Madison Department of Psychology.