SIU president picks new chancellor

Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Rita Cheng, left, laughs as she talks with reporters after being introduced by president Glenn Poshard, right, as Southern Illinois University's next chancellor Tuesday in Carbondale, Ill. (STEVE JAHNKE ~ Southern Illinoisan)

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University's president introduced a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee administrator Tuesday as his pick to be the next chancellor of SIU's flagship Carbondale campus.

Glenn Poshard chose Rita Cheng -- provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at UWM since May 2005 -- to succeed Samuel Goldman, who has served as interim chancellor of the 20,350-student Carbondale campus since spring 2008. Goldman is a former university trustee.

Poshard selected Cheng over finalist Barbara Couture, the senior vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Nebraska since 2004, after a yearlong search spearheaded by an SIU selection committee.

"Dr. Cheng's impressive academic qualifications, her extensive scholarship and her record of commitment to community and higher education service demonstrated to me an individual ready to lead this university with great passion and skill," Poshard said.

Cheng, 57, holds a doctorate in management from Temple University and a master's degree in business administration from the University of Rhode Island. A certified public accountant, she'll start her job in Carbondale next summer.

"I look forward to the challenges and successes that lie ahead for all of us," she said.

UWM is a 29,000-student school with an annual operating budget of $400 million. Carbondale's budget is $434.8 million.

Cheng's salary still must be negotiated, SIU spokesman Rod Sievers said.

Her hiring comes as the Carbondale campus struggles with declining enrollments and missed payments from the state. Illinois had missed $115 million in payments to SIU as of Nov. 1, prompting Poshard to order all campuses to slow or halt spending on items other than salaries.

Poshard will recommend Cheng to the SIU board on Dec. 10. The board must approve her hiring, which seems likely given that its chairman was quick to praise of Poshard's choice as "well-reasoned."

"Dr. Cheng's life and work experiences as well as her hopes and aspirations for this campus are highly valued by our entire university community," board chairman Roger Tedrick said. Her "willingness to meet our challenges directly and to work within a team approach to solve difficult problems holds great promise for SIUC's future."

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