CU Boulder hires Justin Schwartz as new chancellor

Courtesy of Penn State.
The University of Colorado Boulder has named Justin Schwartz, the current provost at Pennsylvania State University, as the sole finalist in its search for a new chancellor.

The University of Colorado hired Justin Schwartz as chancellor of its Boulder campus Friday, with the appointment starting July 1. The school’s Board of Regents unanimously approved a three-year contract for Schwartz, who is currently the executive vice president and provost at Pennsylvania State University.

The announcement concludes a 6-month search since Philip DiStefano, the university’s longest-serving chancellor, decided to retire after 15 years in the role

"CU Boulder will have a dynamic new leader with an outstanding vision who will build upon an impressive foundation already in place. He appreciates our deeply held commitment to our mission of serving Colorado, Coloradans, and society," said University of Colorado president Todd Saliman, who oversees all four campuses.

Saliman said Schwartz participated in forums with students, faculty, staff, and community groups during his CU Boulder campus visit. Saliman said the feedback from the forums was overwhelmingly positive.

“He blends a strong appreciation for the liberal arts with a deep commitment to our research enterprise,” Saliman wrote in a letter to the CU community Friday. “He is committed to building a CU community that reflects the diversity of our great state.”

In forums with faculty, staff and students, Schwartz emphasized that he wants to help the campus to survive and thrive. He wants to support efforts to see that students who come to CU Boulder leave with a degree. He aims to further initiatives in diversity, equity and inclusion so that the campus becomes "a guiding light" for the rest of the country.

He also said he believes in a multi-disciplinary approach to climate issues and sustainability, with every discipline on campus playing a significant role, and he wants to ensure various programs have a global reach.

Schwartz will earn a base salary of $829,800, a $50,000 moving allowance, and a $125,000 sign-on bonus to compensate for a retention award he would have received if he remained at Penn State, according to his employment contract. 

Schwartz brings more than 30 years of experience in higher education to his new post. He holds a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was on the faculty at Florida State University, and was a department head at North Carolina State University.

At Penn State, Schwartz oversaw a $2 billion budget and he launched an interdisciplinary initiative to bring together multiple colleges to offer undergraduate and graduate degree programs in areas such as sustainability and artificial intelligence. 

Schwartz also worked to close demographic gaps in student graduation rates and as dean of the College of Engineering, doubled the number of faculty of color and boosted female engineering faculty by 75 percent.

"It is an incredible honor to serve the University of Colorado, our students, faculty, staff and alumni, and the people across our state," said Schwartz. "CU has incredible momentum, and we will carry the torch into a new era for the institution, elevating every aspect of our university.”

What Schwartz faces on campus

The new chancellor inherits a campus that saw a record number of applications for next school year, a 20 percent jump from last year. Under DiStefano, research grants increased significantly, with CU becoming a leader in the climate, health, quantum science, and engineering and space fields in particular. 

At the same time, Schwartz will need to meet challenges such as demands from non-tenure track faculty, contracted staff, and student workers who’ve engaged in a years-long battle for higher wages and better working conditions. The school has also struggled to attract more of Colorado’s Latino high school graduates and has acknowledged that it has work to do to improve the climate for faculty of color

In casting their votes Friday, all regents were enthusiastic about Schwartz.

"I spend every day on the CU campus and hear from the community, especially the Latino community, and the meetings he had when he was here...everyone has just been so positive and excited about the new chapter and possibilities to come," said  Nolbert Chavez.

Regent Wanda James said she too, is excited about Schwartz’s hire. “I would be amiss, though, if I did not bring up the fact that we now have no people of color at the head of any of our universities.

"This is an ongoing issue with the University of Colorado in general. So I am hoping that diversity becomes a cornerstone of what we are doing, and that CU, as a whole, begins to figure out ways of putting more Black and Brown people, more Black and Latinos at the very top of the food chain, and I look forward to seeing that happen," she said.

The search committee for a new chancellor included 21 members, 13 of whom were from the CU Boulder community with the remainder closely connected to CU. It selected seven candidates for Saliman to review. Schwartz was named the sole finalist on April 2.

Chancellor DiStefano will return to the faculty in the School of Education, where he began his CU Boulder career in 1974.