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About Rebecca Blank

Rebecca M. Blank will become Northwestern’s 17th president, effective in the summer of 2022.

The chancellor of University of Wisconsin-Madison since 2013, Blank has advanced the institution’s mission of research and innovation, emphasizing the role of the university in nurturing entrepreneurship and driving economic development. She also has fostered interdisciplinary faculty cluster hires in support of UW’s research enterprise.

Blank has championed expanded access during her time at the UW, notably through Bucky’s Tuition Promise, an initiative that guarantees four years of free tuition to Wisconsin resident students whose household adjusted gross income is $60,000 or less. Under Blank’s leadership, the University of Wisconsin student body became more diverse across multiple dimensions. She received the very prestigious 2021 Posse Star award from The Posse Foundation for her leadership in education and diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. 

Blank has strong ties to Northwestern, where she served on the faculty of the economics department from 1989 to 1999. She served as director of the Joint Center for Poverty Research and the co-director of the Northwestern/University of Chicago Interdisciplinary Training Program in Poverty, Race and Underclass Issues.

A prominent economist, Blank focused on the interactions between labor markets, individual behavior, government policy, and the macroeconomy. She has published extensively on issues of poverty, low-income workers and inequality.

Following her service at Northwestern, Blank served as the inaugural Joan and Sanford Weill Dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan where she was also on the faculty of the Economics Department. She also spent time on the faculty of Princeton University.

A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences for almost two decades, Blank’s distinguished research and policy portfolio was most recently recognized with a lifetime achievement award as a 2021 Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association.

Blank served in three presidential administrations, most recently as acting secretary of commerce and deputy secretary of commerce under President Barack Obama. She also was a member of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Bill Clinton, a senior staff economist on the Council under President George H.W. Bush, and spent time as the Robert S. Kerr senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy research think tank in Washington, D.C.

Blank received a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Minnesota and a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

She is married to Hanns Kuttner, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank. They have one daughter, Emily, who graduated from Northwestern.