Chancellor candidate Carlos Santiago visits UMass

By Michelle Williams

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Also see: Finalists in Chancellor search visit UMass this week | Prospective chancellor Subbaswamy visits campus | Chancellor Candidate Susan Phillips talks with student reps

From associate professor to finalist for the University of Massachusetts chancellor position, Carlos Santiago has worked his way up in the academic world during the past 30 years.

The candidate spoke with students, faculty and staff yesterday about changes he made at his past positions and potential changes he would make to the flagship Commonwealth campus.

Between a meeting with faculty members and lunch, Santiago spoke with a small group of students on the 10th floor of Murray D. Lincoln Campus Center.

In 2010, Santiago accepted the position of chief executive officer of the Hispanic College Fund, a national non-profit organization in Washington, D.C.

“For 19 years, the Hispanic College Fund has provided educational, scholarship and mentoring programs to students throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, establishing a career pipeline of talented and career-driven Hispanics,” according to the group’s website.

Santiago said the move was “something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”

“I felt that was a national imperative given the changing demographics and the lack of students going into higher education from that population,” he said. “I wanted to see how [the Hispanic College Fund] did it, because they had good methods resulting in higher graduation rates and retention rates were good as well.”

He said this background will allow him to increase diversity at the University.

Of the incoming freshman class of 2010, the percentage of students who were of African, Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander or Native American ethnicity was 17 percent, according to figures released by the Office of Institutional Research at UMass.

To increase minority student enrollment, Santiago said the faculty must change first. He recommended hiring more diverse members of the administration, because “you have to set an example for the mechanisms of an organization to follow suit.”

Santiago first came to UMass in 1980 when interviewing for an associate professor position in the economics department.

“I decided to go elsewhere but it was a very good experience and I know a little bit about the University,” he said.

Santiago began working in the field of academia as a labor economist who focused his doctoral studies on economic development and the changing socioeconomic status of the Caribbean and Central America. His studies specifically focused on his native country Puerto Rico.

In 2004, Santiago was named chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He highlighted at the meeting that during his time as chancellor, he increased revenue flow for academic departments, despite state budget cuts. He expanded research budgets with $125 million in donations from private sector businesses during his four years in the position. In 2010, the year Santiago left the position, the university had a total research expenditure of $68 million.

The Milwaukee campus has a total student enrollment of 30,502 and 1,623 staff members.

When asked how to increase state funding for the Massachusetts campus system, Santiago spoke of state funding in Wisconsin.

“Ten years before I arrived in Milwaukee, the University received 40 percent of its budget from state funding. By the time I left it was at 24 percent … That trend I don’t think is going to stop.”

He cited – as an example – a specific way UWM received funding.

“In Milwaukee, we managed to carve out special niches that the state funded,” he said. “We put together a graduate school of freshwater sciences, the first in the nation, and they put in money to expand the facility and to expand the faculty. Even though they were cutting overall funding, they were giving money to special areas we were touting.”

He added that the partnership between the state and the university lead to funding from the private sector.

“We had 100 water-related companies, five of the seven largest were located in that region,” Santiago said. “Those companies were willing to invest in university facilities particularly to combine the facilities and join the research enterprise. Those were new sources of funding that got the state to make the investments as well.”

Santiago previously held a position on the east coast at the State University of New York Albany, as provost and vice president for academic affairs and functioned as the campus chief operating officer.

Santiago’s day on campus will be followed by visits from three other candidates for the position.

Susan Phillips, the current provost and vice president of student affairs at SUNY Albany, will visit campus today. She started working in her position in 2008, four years after Santiago left the job to work at UWM.

Kumble Subbaswamy will visit campus on Wednesday and Sona Andrews will follow suit on Thursday.

After the remaining candidates speak on campus, UMass President Robert Caret will recommend one of them to the UMass Board of Trustees Search Committee. The group who chose the four finalists will also make the final decision of who will be the chancellor.

“This nearly 150-year-old institution has a long, proud history, and I am confident that the next Chancellor will continue to move the Amherst campus forward and ensure its rightful place alongside the most venerable public flagships in the nation,” said James J. Karam, chairman of the Board of Trustees, in a University press release.

Michelle Williams can be reached at [email protected]

Correction (3/13): Santiago was named chancellor in 2004, not 2006 as previously stated.