The University of Rochester has named its first female president. Sarah Mangelsdorf, provost at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will assume her role in next summer, succeeding Richard Feldman.

University Trustee Cathy Minehan, who with Trustee Danny Wegman co-chaired the Trustees’ Presidential Search Committee that oversaw the process for identifying a new president, said Mangelsdorf clearly stood out from a large and diverse pool of impressive candidates.

“Sarah has a breadth and depth of experience that equips her well to be successful as the University of Rochester’s president,” Minehan said. “Throughout her career, colleagues have praised her as a collaborative trust-builder who works hard to understand how to help every part of her institutions succeed. She immediately stood out to the search committee as an exceptional candidate for our next president.”

Mangelsdorf currently serves as the chief operating officer at Wisconsin, where her responsibilities include oversight of all academic programs and budget planning for 12 schools and colleges, including Education, Business, Engineering, and Graduate Studies, as well as the Schools of Medicine and Public Health and of Nursing, which are affiliated with UW Health, the integrated health system of the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Her current portfolio also includes faculty and staff development and personnel matters, student life, enrollment management, information technology, libraries, diversity and inclusion, international engagement, and sustainability, among others.

“Sarah has been a valued and trusted leader at the University of Wisconsin,” said University of Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank. “During her time with us, she’s elevated the quality of our faculty, expanded academic programs, and improved our student outcomes. While I’m very sorry to see her depart, we all wish her success in Rochester.”

She served as dean of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University before becoming provost at Wisconsin in 2014. 

At Wisconsin, Mangelsdorf oversaw the administration of a pioneering effort to improve access to the state’s flagship university for low- and moderate-income families. Named for the university’s badger mascot, Bucky, and announced in February 2018, Bucky’s Tuition Promise pledges to cover four years of tuition and fees for incoming first-year students who are Wisconsin residents and whose families’ annual household adjusted gross income is $56,000 or less—roughly the state’s median family income.

She led the revival of the faculty cluster hiring initiative, an effort to hire new faculty members under a system designed to build interdisciplinary strengths, emphasize Wisconsin’s historical commitment as a public resource for research and service, create new curricular offerings, and increase faculty diversity.

Also at Wisconsin, Mangelsdorf worked on a program to better diversify the institution’s faculty. Announced this fall, the Target of Opportunity (TOP) Program provides funding and other support for schools and departments to recruit outstanding faculty members among historically underrepresented groups. The program puts a particular emphasis on race and ethnicity, and on gender in disciplines where women are underrepresented.

The appointment of Mangelsdorf is the culmination of a months-long and inclusive search process. The University retained the respected higher education search firm Spencer Stuart to conduct the search on behalf of the Board of Trustees and the trustees’ search committee. Three campus advisory committees supported the board in the search. The University Advisory Committee, co-chaired by Anne Nofziger, associate professor of family medicine and director of the primary care clerkship program, and Michael Scott, Arthur Gould Yates Professor of Engineering, included faculty as well as the co-chairs of the Staff Advisory Committee and of the Student Advisory Committee.

University Trustee and search committee member Tom Richards, who also chairs the board of the University of Rochester Medical Center, said that Mangelsdorf is well positioned to lead a complex institution like Rochester.

“Sarah Mangelsdorf is an accomplished researcher in areas of psychology that are a shared interest with work at URMC,” he said. “As provost at the University of Wisconsin she has responsibility for the Schools of Medicine and Public Health, Nursing, and Pharmacy and a close relationship with the Wisconsin Medical Center, an academic medical center and community health system similar in many ways to UR Medicine. She understands what we do and our challenges. I know that she looks forward to building on the University’s existing relationships with the broader Rochester community.”

A Pennsylvania native, Mangelsdorf graduated from Oberlin College in 1980 and earned her doctorate in child psychology from the University of Minnesota in 1988. She is a third-generation academic: her father, Paul C. Mangelsdorf Jr., was a professor of physics at Swarthmore College and her grandfather, Paul C. Mangelsdorf, was a professor of botany at Harvard University.