Two incumbent regents, a former regent and the CEO of a Fortune 500 company were elected to the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents Wednesday.
Incumbents David McMillan and Darrin Rosha were reelected. Former Regent Steve Sviggum was also elected.
McMillan was chosen for the state’s eighth congressional district seat, Rosha the third district and Sviggum the second.
General Mills CEO Ken Powell was elected to the board’s at-large position, ousting current Regent Thomas Devine.
“It is what it is,” Devine said. “They decided the future as a new type of leadership, and that’s what it’s going to be.”
While he wasn't one of the 12 candidates originally by the Regent Candidate Advisory Council in January, Sviggum was recommended by a joint-committee of House and Senate legislators last month. Powell, who was one of the candidates forwarded by the RCAC, wasn't selected as a finalist by the joint-committee last month, but was nominated by lawmakers for a seat on the House floor Wednesday night during the election.
Sviggum, a former Minnesota House Speaker, was forced to resign from the board in 2012 after one year when he took a job with the state Senate Republicans Caucus, which some on the board saw as a conflict of interest.
During his term, Sviggum said he wants to take a closer look at the school’s $3.8 billion budget to ease the financial burden on students.
“I feel [the budget] has increased really dramatically over the years in a way that has really cost-shifted a lot of the costs to students,” he said. “All higher education kind of increased a lot of costs [and] didn’t become as efficient as they should.”
Rosha, a two-year incumbent and former at-large representative member as a student, said the addition of Powell and Sviggum may change the dynamic of the board.
He said different perspectives can help regents with upcoming challenges in accountability and the school’s relationship with the Legislature.
“There’s different personalities,” Rosha said. “We have such a remarkable reach of experiences at a very high level, and that will be a real asset to the board as we go forward. [Sviggum] understands some of the political circumstances in which the University operates, which is something that we really need help with right now in restoring that relationship with the legislature”.
Powell ran on a platform of increasing access to the University for Minnesota residents, minimizing tuition increases and enhancing research and outreach efforts at the school.
“I’ve been coached to do this for a long time,” Powell said. “I just look forward to serving the University of Minnesota, which is a great University.”
While campaigning, McMillan, the board’s current vice chair, said he’d like to align the University’s research and education missions with the needs of Minnesotans and focus on higher education affordability for Minnesota students.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to continue to govern and continue to focus on student-centered outcomes and perhaps an opportunity to start prioritizing Minnesotans a little more in the admissions and the financial side of things,” he said.
The new class of regents was elected by a joint convention of the Minnesota House and Senate in St. Paul.