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UMass president recommends Javier Reyes as next chancellor of Amherst campus

University of Massachusets President Marty Meehan on Wednesday recommended Javier Reyes, the interim chancellor of the University of Illinois Chicago, be appointed the next chancellor of UMass Amherst. That recommendation now goes to the university’s Board of Trustees.

“Javier Reyes has demonstrated uncommon energy and vision throughout his career,” Meehan said. "He has inspired students in the classroom, supported initiatives that have unleashed the teaching and research talents of faculty, and connected great public universities to the socio-economic aspirations of their communities.”

Reyes, 48, is an economist and will be the first Latino to lead the Amherst campus, according to the university. He was born and raised in Mexico.

He was appointed interim chancellor at UIC in July 2022, where he has overseen a $3.6 billion budget, 33,000 students, 13,000 faculty and staff, and 16 academic colleges. He previously served as UIC’s provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.

Prior to his arrival at UIC, Reyes served as dean of the John Chambers College of Business and Economics at West Virginia University.

He began his career in higher education in 2003, when he joined the University of Arkansas economics faculty, after earning a Ph.D. in economics from Texas A&M University.

The search for a new UMass Amherst chancellor began in July 2022, after Kumble Subbaswamy announced he would retire from the position in the summer of 2023.

Reyes was initially one of 108 potential candidates; he and Paul Tikalsky, dean of the College of Engineering, Architecture & Technology at Oklahoma State University, were selected as the two finalists. Both visited the Amherst campus in the last few days.

Monday, at a question and answer session with students in a campus building, Reyes told them if he were to become chancellor he hoped their conversation would continue, not just because there was a search to fill a job, but so they could go deeper into some of the ideas they raised that day, which he reiterated as he wrapped the 45-minute event.

"What does it mean to have belonging? What does it mean to have better priorities? What does it mean to address student debt?" Reyes said. "How do we understand diversity in our campus? How do we engage our students and give them the voice that they need to have?" adding "because it's also part of their learning, being able to be advocates for something."

Shayan Raza is a senior and the president of the UMass Amherst Student Government Association. He was also on the search committee that recommended Reyes as a finalist.

"I had the privilege of interacting with Dr. Reyes earlier this year during his conversation with the search committee and again during his recent campus visit," Raza said. "I am deeply impressed by his steadfast commitment to students and keen understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion."

Raza said Reyes is grounded and compared him to outgoing Chancellor Subbaswamy.

"His approachable and empathetic demeanor makes him a chancellor whom I am certain will be a beacon on our campus, whether in the Whitmore Administration Building or the Worcester Dining Commons," he said.

Reyes told students this week, if he were to get the job, you would see him eating in the dining halls from time to time.

The UMass Board of Trustees is scheduled Thursday morning to decide on Meehan's recommendation of Reyes. Four of those trustees were on the search committee.

Corrected: February 16, 2023 at 5:14 PM EST
Based on information provided by the university, an earlier version of this story incorrectly listed Reyes' age as 49. He is 48.
Jill Kaufman has been a reporter and host at NEPM since 2005. Before that she spent 10 years at WBUR in Boston, producing "The Connection" with Christopher Lydon and on "Morning Edition" reporting and hosting. She's also hosted NHPR's daily talk show "The Exhange" and was an editor at PRX's "The World."

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