Lowrie Lecture II: Eric Kaler
Eric W. Kaler, Ph.D.
President, University of Minnesota
The Changing Face of Public Higher Education and Its Impact on Chemical Engineers
Public higher education is at a crossroads. The dramatic decisions made by states during and soon after the Great Recession drove extraordinary increases in tuition and, in many cases, a spike in student debt. The outcome of the 2016 elections and a rejection of scientific fact added another layer of challenges. The question before us is how to continue to deliver on our missions of teaching, research and public service in the presence of ongoing budget and political challenges. Options to be explored included public-private partnerships, educational efficiencies, the political role of a university president, and a refocusing of priorities, with an emphasis on the STEM fields.
Eric W. Kaler, President of the University of Minnesota
On July 1, 2011, Eric W. Kaler became the 16th president of the University of Minnesota. His return to lead his alma mater (Ph.D. 1982), among the nation’s largest and most comprehensive universities, followed a distinguished career as a chemical engineering innovator and scholar. He has published more than 200 peer-reviewed papers and holds 10 U.S. patents.
Kaler, one of the nation’s leading experts on “complex fluids,” was elected in 2014 to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in two categories: for his work as a chemical engineer and as a higher education administrator. In 2010, Kaler was elected to the National Academy of Engineering and named a Fellow of the American Chemical Society. In 2012, then-Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano named him to the U.S. Department of Homeland
Security Academic Advisory Council, on which he continues to serve and is now Co-chair of the HSAAC’s Subcommittee on Countering Violent Extremism. In 2013, he was named a Charter Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.
As University of Minnesota president, Kaler has focused on core priorities. These include: academic excellence; access for qualified students and a commitment to diversity; careful stewardship of tuition and public dollars; affordability; growing a world-class research enterprise that aligns with the needs of the state of Minnesota and its industries; and a deep commitment to public engagement and outreach, locally and globally.
From 2007 to 2011, Kaler served as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York. While at Stony Brook, he was also vice president for Brookhaven National Laboratory Affairs. Previously, he was dean of the University of Delaware’s College of Engineering and the Elizabeth Inez Kelley Professor of Chemical Engineering. He also taught at the University of Washington. He received his undergraduate degree from the California Institute of Technology in 1978.