Newly-named University of Texas Chancellor James Milliken with his wife Nana Smith on Aug. 27, 2018. Credit: Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

A months-long search to find the next chancellor of the University of Texas System officially ended Monday, when the system’s governing board of regents unanimously appointed James Milliken, a longtime higher education administrator, to the post, effective Sept. 17.

Milliken, who was named the sole finalist for the position on Aug. 4, comes to Texas from New York, where he led the City University of New York for four years and the University of Nebraska System for 10 years before that.

Coming three weeks after Milliken was named the only finalist for the position, Monday’s vote was largely a formality. A state statute requires that final contenders for the chancellor job be named at least 21 days before regents vote on whether to employ them. Though the system’s governing board interviewed multiple candidates in a closed-door session Aug. 4, they emerged to announce only Milliken as a finalist, a standard maneuver in the state.

Milliken, whose career in higher education spans 30 years and three states, is no stranger to the political nature of the chancellor position – in fact, he appeared to be embroiled in politics at CUNY, a New York City-based system that receives that bulk of its funding from the state. During his tenure there, Milliken faced major turnover on the system’s governing board, a spending scandal at the system’s flagship, and a report questioning the financial controls in place at CUNY, which city council members suggested were used by the governor to politicize the system.

He will assume the chancellorship in Texas during a time of self-reflection for the system. In recent months, the UT System has responded to criticism from legislators that centered on ambitious but costly system-led initiatives. Since then, the system administration’s budget has shrunk, as has its headcount, and a task force of regents is expected to put forth a report in the fall recommending that the system’s role be further constrained.

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Shannon Najmabadi, The Texas Tribune

Shannon Najmabadi is the higher education reporter at the Tribune, where she started as a fellow in 2017. She previously reported for the Chronicle of Higher Education, where she covered the gender equity...