Placemaker

Chancellor Michelle Behr
Author: 
Jenna Ray
Publication date: 
March 24, 2017
"It is a great privilege to have been selected as Morris's next chancellor. I am committed to its mission as a public liberal arts college, and as I immerse myself in the campus and its culture, I expect my passion for the university will only deepen."—Chancellor Michelle Behr

As a geographer, Chancellor Michelle Behr understands "the importance of place in the life of an institution." Fitting, then, that she would be chosen to lead a campus community that believes "where we are makes us who we are." Drawn to Morris by its distinctive public liberal arts mission, Chancellor Behr is ready to champion—and build on—the residential undergraduate experience and mandate of access for which the campus is renowned.

"It is a great privilege to have been selected as Morris's next chancellor," says Behr. "I am committed to its mission as a public liberal arts college, and as I immerse myself in the campus and its culture, I expect my passion for the university will only deepen."

After completing an intentional and thorough search process, Chancellor Behr became Morris's sixth—and second female—chief executive in February. She succeeds Jacqueline R. Johnson, who retired in 2017 after more than 10 years as Morris's chancellor.

In terms of expertise, Chancellor Behr is well suited to lead Morris, a self-professed "public-private." With more than 30 years' experience in higher education, Behr (a three-time Fulbright Scholar) has "held virtually every position within academic affairs at both public and private universities" and brings with her a wealth of experience in strategic planning, academic visioning, program development, budget management, campus internationalization, and faculty advocacy. Her experience, she writes, "ensures that as chancellor [she] will bring to Morris an informed understanding of how healthy institutions thrive."

Looking forward, Behr wants "to attend to Morris and its future with a keen understanding of the evolving higher education landscape." She has identified student access and success as chief priorities; she also recognizes the fundamental role external constituencies will play in securing the campus's long-term sustainability and looks forward to working with these groups.

"I am excited to collaborate with the university community and friends to further the great work already taking place at Morris and together ensure a vibrant future for the campus."

According to Chancellor Behr, Morris's dedicated faculty, committed students, and shared vision provide "a solid foundation from which to build." Primed to capitalize on these assets and possibilities, she is ready to get to work.

A Strong First Impression

"I am thrilled that we are able to attract a leader of Michelle's caliber. Michelle's broad experience in the liberal arts, deep commitment to students, and engagement in the broader higher education community make her an ideal person to lead the Morris campus."—University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler

"I am definitely looking forward to working with Michelle Behr, our next chancellor, to strengthen what we do at Morris."—Peh Ng, chair of the division of science and mathematics and of the chancellor search committee

"I was immediately impressed with her energy, enthusiasm, and interest for what students are involved in and working on here at the Morris campus. She seems like a great fit for the University of Minnesota, Morris, and we are very excited to begin working with her!"—Morris Campus Student Association President Katie Ledermann '17, Mahtomedi

"Michelle brings values and experience that reflect the curiosity, openness, and dedication of our campus. I look forward to working with her and the UMM Alumni Association to keep Morris thriving well into the future."—Dan Moore '07, UMM Alumni Association immediate past president

A Distinguished Career

1975
Behr graduates with honors from University of California, Santa Cruz with an AB in anthropology

1979
Earns MA in anthropology from Arizona State University

1985
Earns PhD in geography from Arizona State University

1985
Joins the faculty at Northern Illinois University

1988
Joins the faculty at New Mexico State University

1989
Becomes education curator and curator at Las Cruces Museum of Natural History

1996
Named facilitator for outcomes assessment at Western New Mexico University

2002
Becomes chair of the Department of Social Sciences at Western New Mexico University

2005
Selected for the American Council on Education Fellows Program

2006
Becomes associate provost for academic initiatives at Western New Mexico University

2007
Named assistant director of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities

2008
Serves as visiting scholar in the Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California, Berkeley

2009
Named associate dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Northern Colorado

2012
Becomes acting dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Northern Colorado

2014
Becomes provost, senior vice president of academic affairs, and dean of the college at Birmingham-Southern College

2017
Becomes chancellor of the University of Minnesota, Morris

Editor's note: Originally published in Profile Volume XXI, March 2017