Editorial: Chancellor’s success not dependent on funding

By The Pitt News Editorial Staff

Since Pitt released the news that Patrick Gallagher is chancellor-elect of the University, he has been painted as a federal government insider. As such, there is an expectation that his experience will be beneficial to Pitt, a research institution that receives millions of dollars in federal research funding each year.

Gallagher comes from a background as the Director for the National Institute of Standards and Technology and as the deputy secretary of commerce. He received his Ph.D. in physics from Pitt in 1991. These experiences have given Gallagher a background in science research, but a lack of experience at an institution of higher learning will make his transition from NIST director to Pitt’s chancellor difficult. 

As director of the NIST, Gallagher worked with the federal government in order to confer grants and funding for scientific research to various institutions. Although this experience will be beneficial to the University, as Pitt’s research funding could potentially increase because of his knowledge of the inner-workings of government organizations such as the NIST, it is not enough to ensure that Gallagher will find success as chancellor. Instead, success lies in how effectively he is able to move the University forward while maintaining and expanding upon Chancellor Mark Nordenberg’s legacy. 

In addition to working with the federal government for funding, he will also be responsible for working with local government, faculty and staff, students and other local universities as well, following Nordenberg’s example of involvement in organizations such as the United Way, the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education and the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Postsecondary Higher Education. Gallagher’s background with the Department of Commerce will assist him in collaborative efforts because the department often focused on collaborative projects between universities and businesses. Gallagher, however, is unversed in working with faculty, staff and students at a University, unlike Nordenberg, who was appointed as chancellor after serving as a law professor and dean of the law school. 

Gallagher must be able to see his shortcomings and plan accordingly. He must hire or retain a staff that has enough institutional experience to assist him as he begins his new position.  

When he takes over Pitt’s chancellorship in August, Gallagher will preside over 13,000 members of faculty and staff and more than 35,000 students among both Pitt’s main campus and regional campuses, a much larger group of people than he had to oversee in his former position. His lack of institutional experience will make this aspect of his job challenging since he does not have experience leading an academic institution including people with a widespread of expertise and interest. He will need to fill openings in the administration with people  with experience in higher education in order to compensate for his lack of experience in this area. It would also be in his best interest to retain employees Nordenberg hired during his tenure, as their experience at Pitt will be invaluable in assisting with the transistion between chancellors.

Gallagher will have to rely on the people around him in order to begin his tenure successfully. His senior staff will have to be dependable in that they will need to be willing to assist Gallagher as he gains institutional knowledge at Pitt. Likewise, Gallagher will have to be sure that the people around him will step up and lend a helping hand as he gains his footing.

The ability to increase federal research funding for the University is always a welcome skill, but it takes more than that to ensure a chancellor’s success.