CROOKSTON, Minn. — The chancellor at the University of Minnesota Crookston also will serve in a leadership role at another University of Minnesota campus for the next two years.

Mary Holz-Clause, who has led the Crookston campus since 2017, will be acting executive chancellor of both the Crookston and Morris campuses. In the role, she will support Janet Schrunk Ericksen, acting chancellor at Morris, for two years starting this summer.

Ericksen is filling the void created by the retirement of Morris Chancellor Michelle Behr, who will be leaving in June after four years as the leader of the university. The search for a permanent replacement will not begin until 2022, according to a release sent to the media.

Both campuses are part of the University of Minnesota system.

“As you know, the headwinds in higher education are nothing short of historic. The pandemic, the economy and enrollment challenges across Minnesota and nationwide are just a few of the challenges we face," Joan Gabel, University of Minnesota president, said in the release. “We must, now more than ever, find ways to focus on our academic mission while seeking opportunities to streamline our administrative and back-office functions.”

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As Holz-Clause adds to her role, another University of Minnesota Crookston administrator will add to his duties as well. Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs John Hoffman will serve as acting senior vice chancellor during this two-year period.

Mary Holz-Clause
Mary Holz-Clause

In February, it was announced that Crookston and Morris will be working together to strengthen enrollment, in-person and online, at both campuses. The collaboration is intended to create three operations teams to serve both campuses simultaneously, with the campuses splitting up some overhead duties.

In an interview Thursday, March 18, Holz-Clause said that, like all higher education institutions across the country, the University of Minnesota is trying to figure out its "economies and efficiencies" moving forward from the pandemic.

"This looked like, to the president, for several years, a way to go forward until that's a little clearer," she said.

Operational changes are to include implementing increased automation and workflow, shared joint positions and centralized services. The two offices will begin shared recruitment work this spring, with more fully combined recruitment and processing efforts secured for the fall 2022 entering class.

Gabel said the transition is not an effort to combine the Crookston and Morris campuses or missions.

“Those missions are distinct,” Gabel said. “I expect that this collaboration will further the creative innovative synergies that Morris and Crookston have initiated already. Those administrative efforts will continue.”

What the balance between the Crookston and Morris campuses ultimately will look like remains to be seen, Holz-Clause said. She anticipates she will be spending time on both the Crookston and Morris campuses with video meetings and phone calls peppered in as well.

"This is a work in progress. We'll figure this out as we go," she said. "We're just looking at ways that we can enhance budget efficiencies, economies and share where it makes sense, but yet always recognize that we are two very distinct campuses."

She also said: “At times, transitions cause concern. Let me assure you, both of our campuses will remain strong and continue to serve our unique students. And we certainly are aware of our 'lean-ness' on the Crookston campus. We look forward to the coming days when we start investing on a greater level into hiring and bringing to campus some of those individuals who are already hired and will be starting soon.”

According to the release sent Thursday, Holz-Clause "will provide behind-the-scenes support for Schrunk Ericksen and allow her to benefit from Mary’s experiences as a sitting chancellor."