Eleven of the 12 regents are now women and/or people of color.
Minnesota lawmakers on Monday night elected four new members to the University of Minnesota system’s governing board, a body that sets policies and tuition at five campuses.
Newly elected members of the UMN Board of Regents include a nurse union leader, a former health care company CEO and Robyn Gulley, a West St. Paul city council member who works with the AFL-CIO.
Interim board member Tadd Johnson, a former University of Minnesota Duluth graduate studies director, was elected to a full term. Johnson is the first Native American regent.
The Board of Regents controls policy, curriculum, tuition and fees for the University of Minnesota’s campuses in Crookston, Duluth, Morris, Rochester and the Twin Cities. It also manages all university lands. Each odd-numbered year, all 201 members of the state House and Senate come together to elect one-third of the 12-member board to a six-year unpaid term. One member comes from each of the state’s eight congressional districts and four represent the state at large.
The four members approved Monday were nominated in March by a joint 19-member committee of the Senate and House. The Regent Candidate Advisory Committee reviews candidates for nomination and refers them to lawmakers, but lawmakers can still introduce nominees at any point.
Two of the nominees were the only ones up for a vote Monday night. But Republican lawmakers introduced two nominees on the floor to oppose members backed by Democratic-Farmer-Labor lawmakers in the committee nomination process — former Allina Health CEO Penny Wheeler and Minnesota Nurses Association president Mary Turner.
Tadd Johnson (Courtesy of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents)
Johnson will continue holding the 8th Congressional District seat. He has been serving on the Board of Regents since 2022 when Gov. Tim Walz appointed him to replace David McMillan, who left the position to serve as interim chancellor of UMD.
He was nominated and elected to a full term with widespread bipartisan support.
Johnson is a member of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa. He once served as UMN’s senior director of American Indian Tribal Nations Relations.
Robyn Gulley, the West St. Paul council member and local training specialist with the AFL-CIO, will replace Regent Steve Sviggum, who came under fire last fall for his comments suggesting campus diversity could be hurting enrollment at the University of Minnesota Morris. Days later, Sviggum resigned as vice chair of the board and said he would leave the board at the end of his term in 2023.
3rd Congressional District
Mary Turner at a Sept. 1, 2022, news conference. (Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press)
Turner, the nurses association president, will serve as the 3rd Congressional District’s regent. The Minnesota Nurses Association represents 22,000 registered nurses and other health care professionals.
Turner said she supports making school more affordable for Minnesota residents, the Pioneer Press previously reported.
Republicans nominated former Gopher football player and businessman William Humphries ahead of the floor vote. Turner ultimately prevailed, replacing Darrin Rosha on the board.
Penny Wheeler at a Nov. 19, 2020, news conference. (Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press)
Legislators elected former Allina Health CEO Penny Wheeler to the at large district. She told members of the joint higher education committee that she would be a good fit for the job as Sanford Health and Fairview Health Services consider a merger, the Pioneer Press reported in March.
Minnesota-based Fairview is tied to the university’s teaching hospital and other academic health assets. Many have raised questions about what would happen to those assets if South Dakota-based Sanford took over.
Wheeler also faced a challenge from GOP lawmakers during the joint floor session Monday night as Republicans nominated University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Student Body President Flora Yang. Wheeler prevailed in that vote, taking over for Ken Powell.
The demographic makeup of the board has undergone major changes since 2019, when the regent selection process came under scrutiny for producing a homogeneous board where eight of 12 regents were white males. Following Monday’s election, there now are eight women on the board, and only one of the four men is white.
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