Joanne Li, PhD, named chancellor of UNO

by Melissa Lee, University of Nebraska | May 03, 2021

Image with caption: Joanne Li, PhD

Joanne Li, PhD

In a historic appointment, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents on May 1 unanimously confirmed Joanne Li, PhD, as the 16th chancellor of the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO).

Dr. Li, currently the dean of the College of Business at Florida International University, will begin transition work as UNO chancellor-elect on June 1 and will assume the role of chancellor on July 1. She will 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.

The Board's action follows a national search that resulted in NU System President Ted Carter's selection of Dr. Li as the priority candidate for UNO chancellor. Her candidacy then underwent a 30-day public vetting period during which Dr. Li engaged with 600-plus UNO students, faculty, staff, alumni and stakeholders to answer their questions and share her vision for Nebraska's metropolitan university.

"The heart of any university are its people. As I've gotten to know the people who make UNO such a wonderfully vibrant and diverse place, I've only become more excited about our potential to become the nation's leading metropolitan university," Dr. Li said. "I'm humbled that so many individuals took time to share their thoughts with me on what it means to be a Maverick.

"My first task is to continue listening and learning. Then, together, we'll work to turn our ideas into actions that create even more opportunities for students and families, deepen our connections to our community, and grow the economic and social well-being for Omaha and Nebraska for generations to come. Let's hit the ground running together."

Carter thanked the 14-member advisory committee that guided the chancellor search, as well as the hundreds of UNO stakeholders who attended listening sessions, provided input on the qualities the university should seek in the next chancellor, met with Dr. Li and shared feedback on her candidacy.

Based on feedback submitted to him, Li's relentless focus on students and her deep connection to the mission of public higher education resonated with the UNO community, Carter said.

"I am thrilled that we are bringing someone of Dr. Li's caliber to Nebraska," Carter said. "Jo, as we now know her, is the right person to continue the impressive momentum that UNO faculty, staff and students have built.

"Her resume alone is impressive. But more than that, Jo knows how higher education can change a student's life. She has spent her career creating opportunities for students, and now she will bring that same student-focused leadership to UNO. This is an exciting new chapter for the University of Nebraska at Omaha."

In addition to serving as dean, Dr. Li also is professor of finance and Ryder Eminent Scholar Chair in Business at Florida International University, the nation's fourth-largest public university. A first-generation college student who went on to graduate summa cum laude, Dr. Li will bring to UNO 15 years of progressive leadership experience in higher education. She has a demonstrated record in improving student outcomes, growing enrollment and programs, enhancing diversity and inclusion, fundraising and building community partnerships.

Dr. Li holds bachelor's and doctoral degrees in finance from Florida State University. She has previously served at Wright State University, Towson University and Loyola University of Maryland.

Dr. Li will succeed current UNO Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, who is stepping down from his UNO role and assuming the role of executive vice president and provost of the NU system. Dr. Gold will continue to serve as chancellor of UNMC.

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