AMHERST, Mass. (State House News Service) – Search committee members agreed Wednesday to advance a pair of out-of-state finalists for the top job at UMass Amherst.
More than six months after officials launched a screening process to select the next chancellor for the University of Massachusetts system’s flagship campus, the search committee voted unanimously to advance University of Illinois Chicago Interim Chancellor Javier Reyes and Oklahoma State University College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology Dean Paul Tikalsky to the final round.
Both candidates plan to visit the Amherst campus “in the coming weeks” to meet students, faculty and community leaders, the university system said.
“The search committee’s task has been clear: identify outstanding candidates to lead UMass Amherst, a world-class university that is a catalyst for the socio-economic development of the Commonwealth, and an engine of opportunity for generations of individuals,” Victor Woolridge, a 1980 UMass Amherst graduate who chairs the search committee, said in a statement. “We have met that challenge thanks to the stellar service of our committee members and the feedback received from the UMass Amherst community during listening sessions.”
UMass President Marty Meehan and the public university system’s board of trustees will be tasked with reviewing the two finalists. Kumble Subbaswamy, the Amherst campus’s current chancellor, plans to retire at the end of June following more than a decade in that post.
Selection of a new chancellor to lead the flagship campus will cap off a stretch of significant turnover in the UMass system in recent years. Trustees selected Marcelo Suárez-Orozco to lead UMass Boston in February 2020, chose interim chancellor Mark Fuller as the permanent head of UMass Dartmouth in August 2021, and promoted Julie Chen to chancellor of UMass Lowell in May 2022. Those chancellors will all work with new state Higher Education Commissioner Noe Ortega, who started that job in the fall.
The finalists both currently work in public research university settings.
Reyes has served as interim chancellor of the University of Illinois Chicago since July, where he oversees a $3.6 billion budget, 13,000 faculty members and more than 33,000 students, according to a biography UMass produced.
Before he took over as the interim chancellor, Reyes spent one academic year as the school’s provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. He also previously worked in leadership roles at the University of Arkansas and West Virginia University.
His biography said Reyes kicked off a “redesign” of UIC’s budget and led efforts to attract applicants for roles in the school’s administration, including dean of the law school. He also worked to increase Black student enrollment, retention and graduation rates as part of an effort to address gaps across demographic groups.
Reyes completed his undergraduate work in Mexico and received a doctorate degree in economics from Texas A&M University. He has taught in economics and finance across his academic tenure.
Tikalsky has served as dean of Oklahoma State University’s College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology for 11 years. His UMass-published biography describes him as “a leading scholar in the development of long-life sustainable materials” and “an advocate for public and land grant university’s role in higher education.”
“At OSU he has transformed the college with initiatives that finish more degrees in four years, provide pre-college bridge and STEM programs for students from economically disadvantaged communities, elevate academic standards, and increase the diversity of the students and faculty,” his biography said. “The results increased the number of graduates by 82% and engage(d) more than 15,000 young people annually in K-12 STEM and reading programs, each earning a potential scholarship for college. He has created and supported student living and learning communities and tripled the financial scholarships from the college. His ENDEAVOR initiative has infused transdisciplinary and handson learning into shared laboratories and the pedagogy of every degree.”
Tikalsky previously worked as chair of Civil and Environmental (Nuclear) Engineering at the University of Utah and as deputy director of Penn State University’s Larson Transportation Institute.
A University of Wisconsin at Madison and University of Texas at Austin graduate, Tikalsky has extensive research experience in material science and sustainable performance systems.