Lessons from an Inauguration of a Chancellor

Leadership: Lessons from an Inauguration of a Chancellor

UWM Chancellor Michael Lovell Innauguration

I had the opportunity to take in the inauguration of University of Wisoncin Milwaukee’s (UWM) new chancellor, Michael Lovell a few weeks back. It was truly an inspiring and first class event. There was an impressive list of speakers (including Senator Herb Kohl) that provided some good background and insight to the new chancellor. During the ceremony, I was able to take down four leadership lessons that I was especially inspired by.

First, I want to provide a quick background on Chancellor Michael Lovell.  He came to UWM from the University of Pittsburg (Pitt) in 2008 as the Dean of Engineering.  When Chancellor Carlos Santiago left UWM in 2010, Michael Lovell was promoted to interim chancellor. Since then he has created a loyal following on campus and his incredible popularity was palpable during the ceremony.


One of the speakers at the event was Harvey S. Borovetz, the Chair of the Department of Bio-engineering at Pitt.  He told a story of why everyone should believe in the vision that Chancellor Michael Lovell has laid out.  When at Pitt, Lovell gave a speech at North Carolina A&T.  After the speech he was approached by the A&T staff to see if he was interested in collaborating on a future project.  Chancellor Lovell decided to apply for a National Science Foundation grant that is extremely difficult to receive and requires a rigorous process.  Though a challenging task, Chancellor Lovell was not discouraged and pushed the department to apply for the grant.  After rounds of submissions, countless trips to NC A&T and interviews, they received an $18.5 million grant.  So Chancellor Lovell had a vision and set his team forth to put a plan in place that would achieve it.  Without his vision, determination and strong leadership skills, this grant would never have been earned.


During the installation ceremony, a video of the making of the new chancellor medallion was shown.  Every chancellor wears a medallion at graduations and other formal events.  The new medallion is an amazing work of engineering and craftsmanship.  It was handmade and designed by UWM students. The original medallion was a simple, one dimensional, single color medallion.  The new medallion is a three dimensional, colorful and creative work of art.  Chancellor Lovell discussed how this new medallion symbolizes how the school is transforming from one without much of an identity to a serious regional center in the community.  I love how the chancellor foresaw the inauguration as an opportunity to use the medallion as a symbol of the change that is happening on the UWM campus.

Click HERE to view the neat video that was produced on the making of the medallion.


On his second day as acting Dean of Engineering at UWM, Chacellor Lovell approached Johnson Controls – a local Fortune 500 company based in engineering – in an effort to create a closer partnership.  He showed leadership to the direction that he wanted to take the school by working to create partnerships with local leaders in the community.  This seems like an obvious partnership yet it had not been done by his predecessors.  Partnering with key organizations/departments/companies can accelerate growth and leverage strengths.  Chancellor Lovell showed great leadership by working to strike key partnerships right off the bat at UWM.


I was struck by how humble Chancellor Michael Lovell is. This genuine humility brings you closer to him and makes you want to root for his success.  A lot was made of how young he is annd because of this, he has often not been the logical choice.  Due to his age, my mind began to wonder, with how quick he is risen to this post, he might not be at UWM for too long.  I have seen others promoted quickly to powerful positions at a young age and it was seen as a stepping stone.  However it seems with Chancellor Lovell it is different.  First, he is upfront that he has never had the ambition to be a chancellor, the opportunity presented itself.  He seems extremely appreciative of this opportunity and is embracing it fully.  I believe he loves his new role, the challenge of transforming UWM and wants to carry out his vision.  His humility draws people closer to him, which I think makes him more effective.  When people think you are approachable and genuine, you are more likely to get them to work closely with you to work towards a common goal.  I view Chancellor Lovell’s humility as an asset and will serve him well as he works to build the school in accordance with his vision.

I wish Chancellor Michael Lovell the best of luck and look forward to seeing him fulfill his vision.

Michael Wolaver – Owner of Magellan Collegiate Promotions