Fort Worth Health Science Center President Dr. Michael R. Williams has been named as the next UNT system chancellor, to replace Lesa Roe effective on Jan. 1.
“It’s a great opportunity to be a part of leading a team,” Williams said. “And […] have an opportunity to see what we can do to help students and their families.”
The official announcement was posted on the UNT system’s website Monday night after Williams completed the mandatory 21-day waiting period. Williams was previously named the sole finalist for the position.
“Dr. Williams is an accomplished leader and has deep familiarity with our UNT System as a UNT Health Science Center alumnus, former UNT System Regent and president of our Health Science Center in 2012,” Roe said.
A certified anesthesiologist, Williams also served as the CEO for Hill County Memorial Hospital in Fredericksburg for five years until 2013. His work in academia did not begin until he was appointed to the board of regents by former Gov. Rick Perry in 2011, where he stayed for only one year before becoming the HSC president.
“I enjoyed my time [on the board of regents],” Williams said. “I was there for about 15, 16 months, and it was an opportunity to see the university system from behind the curtain.”
The selection process for appointing a new chancellor is completed by the board of regents behind closed doors.
Williams’ quick selection process disappointed some UNT system faculty, who felt it was more closed-off than usual for chancellor appointments since they could not weigh in on the selection or following interviews.
“We were expecting a national search firm to conduct the search,” UNT Dallas Faculty Senate President Jennifer Baggerly said. “We were patiently waiting to be invited to be part of that search committee.”
To Baggerly’s surprise, the invite never came.
“We had asked [UNT Dallas] President [Robert] Mong to let the people forming the search committee know that the UNT Dallas faculty senate wanted to have a faculty representative,” Baggerly said.
Williams said because of his position as president of HSC, he was an internal candidate and was reviewed as an applicant before the board of regents moved on to a national search.
“We were disappointed that the faculty senate was not involved in the search or allowed to provide feedback prior to the appointment of the new chancellor,” Baggerly said.
Williams said that he was approached four years ago for the chancellor position by a national search committee but declined, choosing to stay at HSC for a little longer. When Williams was approached for the job this time without the search committee, he said he thought the choice to focus internally was best for both him and other possible applicants.
“When you have internal candidates and you’re really leaning towards those, it’s not really always fair to external candidates to spend time and take a risk on applying for a job and letting [someone’s employer] find out they were thinking about leaving and put them at risk of losing their own job,” Williams said.
Baggerly said if system faculty were allowed to assist in the chancellor search, she and the other faculty senators could have helped the final applicants be more prepared for the position and help focus their agendas.
“The UNT Dallas faculty senate wanted to have some interaction and at least provide some feedback to the candidate before they were appointed to express our desire to have increased shared governance […],” Baggerly said. “We were disappointed that we didn’t have an opportunity.”
While Baggerly wished that the faculty senate was involved, she is still optimistic about Williams’ appointment and said she looks forward to working with him.
“He seems to be open to faculty input,” Baggerly said. “We’re just looking forward to him honoring the importance of faculty as he prepares the agenda for the university system.”
Williams said that he will be taking a few months to adjust to his new position and speak with as many faculty and students as he can to get the full picture of what he needs to focus on.
“I want to meet with faculty [and] the different faculty senates, I want to meet with staff [and] maybe students and just listen and be available to hear their ideas and their thoughts,” Williams said.
Williams’ HSC website profile praised him for his business skills and ability to nearly triple their reserves, something President Neal Smatresk believes is what regents look for most in a chancellor.
“The chancellor’s job is to run a system to make sure the guts of the universities’ interoperability functions are working well,” Smatresk said.
Another responsibility of the system chancellor is the ability to hire and fire presidents, something that Roe did not do in her four-year term.
Smatresk and Mong were hired before Roe by Chancellor Lee F. Jackson, who served 2002-2017. Jackson was also the chancellor who hired Williams as the HSC president in 2012.
Overall, Williams is excited to start the new year and spring semester as UNT’s new chancellor.
“I feel very prepared,” Williams said. “I’ve seen it from all different angles — the board role where we were in charge of the chancellor, to now being a president for nine years on one of the campuses and interacting with the other presidents.”
Image source UNTHSC.edu