UNO announces priority chancellor candidate

by Melissa Lee, University of Nebraska | April 01, 2021

Image with caption: Joanne Li, PhD, is the priority candidate to serve as the next chancellor of the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Joanne Li, PhD, is the priority candidate to serve as the next chancellor of the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

University of Nebraska System President Ted Carter announced Wednesday that following a national search, he has named Joanne Li, PhD, as the priority candidate to serve as the next chancellor of the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Dr. Li is currently the dean, professor of finance and Ryder Eminent Scholar Chair in Business in the College of Business at Florida International University, a Research I institution and the nation's fourth-largest public university. A first-generation college student who went on to graduate summa cum laude, Li brings 15 years of progressive leadership experience in higher education, with a demonstrated record of advancing student access and success, diversity and inclusion, academic excellence, and community and donor engagement.

If confirmed by the Board of Regents following a 30-day public vetting period, Dr. Li would become the first woman of color to serve as UNO chancellor and the first Asian-American in the history of the University of Nebraska system to hold an executive leadership role.

"We began this search with the goal of finding the right person to join with students, faculty, staff and the community in continuing UNO's remarkable upward trajectory. In Dr. Joanne Li, we have found that person," Carter said. "Dr. Li has a deep understanding of the transformative role of higher education -- shaped by her own personal experience -- and a great appreciation for the unique mission of Nebraska's metropolitan university.

"Dr. Li is relentlessly focused on students, she is skilled at building relationships with diverse stakeholders, and she is a visionary thinker who will lead at a time of great change and opportunity for UNO and all of higher education. I'm thrilled to introduce Jo to the UNO community and have her share her vision for the future with all Nebraskans."

Dr. Li said: "My own life has taught me so much about the value of higher education -- not only the degree itself, but the faculty, staff and mentors who dedicate themselves to making sure every student, no matter their background, is successful.

"In UNO, I see a university that is poised to embrace and shape the future. The entrepreneurial spirit, the strength of partnerships, the deep commitment to the student experience and the acute sense of responsibility to the community that I've witnessed among UNO's students, faculty and staff is truly impressive. I am humbled to be considered for this opportunity, and I can't wait to spend more time getting to know the community of people who make UNO a premier metropolitan university."

"On behalf of the UNMC community, I wish to congratulate Dr. Li on being selected as the priority candidate for the position of chancellor of UNO," said Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, chancellor of UNMC, who has served as chancellor of UNO since 2017. "We look forward to welcoming her to our campus and to our community during the upcoming process and extend to Dr. Li and her family the very warmest of a Nebraska welcome."

Carter praised the 14-member advisory committee, led by UNO Faculty Senate President Elliott Ostler, that guided the search. Following a series of public listening sessions with UNO stakeholders to determine what skills and qualities the next chancellor should possess, the search committee carefully considered a deep and diverse pool of potential candidates.

Among the achievements that made Dr. Li an outstanding candidate:

  • When Dr. Li became dean of FIU's College of Business in 2017, the college's four-year graduation rate was about 29 percent. Following an expansion of student mentoring programs and other student success efforts, the college's four-year graduation rate is projected to be 70 percent in 2021.
  • Already the largest business school in Florida with a student population of 11,000, an $82 million budget and a workforce of 170 faculty and 160 staff, FIU's College of Business is experiencing growth, with an average 20 percent year-over-year growth in its Chapman Graduate School.
  • The College of Business is ranked among the nation's best in a broad swath of categories, including a No. 2 ranking by U.S. News & World Report for its undergraduate international business program, a No. 3 ranking for its international MBA, and top-tier rankings for its online MBA concentrations in marketing, finance, general management and business analytics. FIU is the largest producer of MBAs in the nation. The college is also ranked. No. 1 in the world in real estate research productivity by the Journal of Real Estate Research, tied with the National University of Singapore.
  • During Dr. Li's tenure as dean, the College of Business has hired 40 faculty, 25 of whom are minorities and 12 of whom are women. The number of Black staff in the college has grown 20 percent, and minority representation on the dean's student advisory board has increased 15 percent. Dr. Li is the outgoing president of the Council of Chinese American Deans and Presidents and in that role has authored white papers on strategies for increasing diversity that have been shared with other universities across the country.
  • Dr. Li has brought greater fiscal stability to the college, launching a comprehensive, collaborative review of the college's finances, structures and market opportunities that included the introduction of an online format for 11 of its graduate programs and a Doctor of Business Administration. Reserves have grown from $3 million when Dr. Li became dean to $18 million today.
  • Dr. Li is a successful fundraiser, having set two fundraising records for the College of Business during her tenure. The college is poised to set another record this year, with major gifts supporting student scholarships, economic development, and diversity and inclusion. Giving during her deanship has totaled $12.5 million.
  • Dr. Li is highly engaged in the community, serving on the board of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and partnering on community economic development efforts. The College of Business' Small Business Development Center supports local businesses and entrepreneurs, and an "Innovation Hub" created by the college brings together industry professionals from across the community to develop career paths for students.

Prior to joining FIU, Dr. Li was dean and professor of finance at the Raj Soin College of Business at Wright State University, near Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Fairborn, Ohio. She also has served as chair of the Department of Finance at Towson University, and associate professor in the Sellinger School of Business at Loyola University of Maryland.

A native of Hong Kong, Dr. Li earned bachelor's and doctoral degrees in finance from Florida State University. Her areas of expertise include corporate governance, executive compensation, investments and international finance. Dr. Li is a chartered financial analyst and formerly served as the associate editor for the Financial Analysts Journal. She was a retained speaker for the CFA Institute and has spoken about the value of corporate governance around the world.

Dr. Li is married to Frank Stalla, chartered financial analyst, and has a daughter who is an undergraduate at the University of Virginia.

As required by state law, Dr. Li's candidacy now undergoes a 30-day vetting period, which began Wednesday, that will include a series of public sessions during which members of the UNO community and the news media can meet Dr. Li and ask questions. Members of the public may submit feedback about Dr. Li's candidacy to Carter anytime during the 30-day period here.

At the conclusion of the vetting period, if Carter deems appropriate, he will bring Dr. Li's appointment to the Board of Regents for consideration. Carter's goal is for the next chancellor to begin on July 1, succeeding current Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, who is stepping down from his UNO role and assuming the role of executive vice president and provost for the NU system.

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