ST. PAUL — Student mental health, campus climate and smart spending are on Joan Gabel’s mind in her first month as the University of Minnesota’s 17th president.
The former South Carolina provost, who was chosen for the job in December, has made regular visits to the Twin Cities campus since January but didn’t take over for Eric Kaler until July 1.
She took in her first Board of Regents meeting Thursday, July 11, and will spend two days with regents during a retreat in Faribault to marry her vision with their priorities.
The university is halfway through a 10-year strategic plan, which will get a “mid-term evaluation” under Gabel, she said.
“I have ideas about future momentum for the university … but I’m very respectful of the fact that a lot of voices have chimed in to get us where we are, and where we are right now is really quite good,” she said.
Gabel said she’ll solicit input from a variety of voices before determining whether she can pick up where Kaler left off or start over with a new strategic plan.
“You don’t want to change for change’s sake,” she said.
Asked after Thursday’s meeting about priorities as she starts her work, Gabel mentioned a need to ensure students’ physical and mental health as well as their academic success.
She wants to see a student body that reflects both the metro and rural Minnesota.
And she said she’ll see to it that the university’s spending aligns with its core mission.
Gabel already has reorganized the president’s staff, reducing the headcount and cost, she said. She’ll have one team for strategy and another for operations.
Key staff include several Kaler holdovers and some old South Carolina colleagues.
She’s searching for a new provost and vice president of human resources.
Kaler, who left the presidency a year ahead of schedule, will spend the year raising money for the university before joining the science and engineering faculty.