BOSTON (SHNS) – University of Massachusetts officials will be asked Thursday to select University of Illinois-Chicago Interim Chancellor Javier Reyes as the next chancellor of the flagship Amherst campus, a decision that would seal the latest leadership change in the public university system’s ranks.

Two days after Reyes visited campus to meet with faculty, students and elected officials, UMass President Marty Meehan on Wednesday recommended appointing him to succeed retiring chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy.

The UMass Board of Trustees plans to vote on the appointment at a Thursday morning meeting.

“Javier Reyes has demonstrated uncommon energy and vision throughout his career,” Meehan said in a statement. “A bold and innovative leader, he has inspired students in the classroom, supported initiatives that have unleashed the teaching and research talents of faculty, and connected great public universities to the socio-economic aspirations of their communities.”

If he wins the full board’s support and accepts the job, Reyes would become the first Hispanic person to lead the flagship Amherst campus.

Reyes would become the fourth permanent UMass chancellor selected in the past three years. The system’s trustees selected Marcelo Suárez-Orozco as UMass Boston chancellor in February 2020, named interim chancellor Mark Fuller to the permanent job at UMass Dartmouth in August 2021, and promoted Julie Chen to UMass Lowell chancellor in May 2022.

Meehan recommended Reyes over the lone other finalist for the job, Oklahoma State University College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology Dean Paul Tikalsky. Both candidates visited UMass Amherst in recent days and met with students, faculty, alumni and local leaders.

An economist with expertise in distance education, Reyes, 49, has served in higher education leadership roles for more than a decade. He worked as director of the Sam. M. Walton College of Business Honors Program at the University of Arkansas, where he also held the title of vice provost for distance education. Reyes then worked at West Virginia University as Milan Puskar Dean of the John Chambers College of Business and Economics, whose enrollment grew by 20 percent during his tenure.

He joined the University of Illinois Chicago, a public research university with more than 33,000 students, in August 2021 as provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. The school tapped him as interim chancellor in June, tasking him with overseeing its $3.6 billion budget and 13,000 faculty and staff.

“I pinch myself when I come to the office and see the opportunity to learn and empower faculty research, student success, and learn how to move this institution forward,” Reyes told Arkansas news outlet Talk Business & Politics in an interview last year about his time at the University of Illinois-Chicago. “I am really ecstatic about this opportunity.”

Reyes was born and raised in Mexico. He received his bachelor’s degree from Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Campus Estado de Mexico, in 1998, then completed a doctorate in economics at Texas A&M University in 2003.

He was featured in the September-October 2022 issue of Latino Leaders magazine, where Reyes said he originally planned to return to Mexico after completing his doctorate program but opted to build a career in academia at his mentor’s suggestion.

“There are little moments in your life that open windows of opportunity,” he told the magazine. “I want to do that for all the students — find those opportunities. The sacrifices from our parents and our loved ones to give us these opportunities that did not come easy, we need to applaud and always remember that.”

Subbaswamy plans to retire at the end of June after leading UMass Amherst for more than a decade. A search firm tasked with kicking off the work to pick Subbaswamy’s successor identified 108 candidates and interviewed 26, and the UMass Amherst search committee then interviewed 12 of them.

Meehan’s move to recommend Reyes drew praise from several UMass Amherst leaders. College of Humanities and Fine Arts Dean Barbara Krauthamer, who served on the search committee, praised Reyes for his “keen appreciation of the value of the humanities and arts at a leading research university and in the wider community.” Another search committee member, UMass Amherst Student Government Association President Shayan Raza, was “deeply impressed by his steadfast commitment to students and keen understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

“Like Chancellor Subbaswamy, Dr. Reyes is grounded and humble, and he brings these attributes into his engagement with the student body,” Raza said in a statement. “Throughout his career, Dr. Reyes has worked in partnership with students, not only giving them a seat at the table, but also ensuring that their voices are prioritized. His approachable and empathetic demeanor makes him a Chancellor whom I am certain will be a beacon on our campus, whether in the Whitmore Administration Building or the Worcester Dining Commons.”