Inauguration Stage Party

UW-River Falls inaugurates 20th chancellor

Gallo pledges to foster opportunities for student social mobility

Oct. 20, 2022 - The University of Wisconsin-River Falls will continue and expand its mission to offer students the education they need so they and their families can improve their lives through social mobility, as well as work on the critical issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, Maria Gallo pledged Thursday as she was inaugurated as UWRF’s 20th chancellor. 

“I promise that UW-River Falls will continue to foster educational access that provides opportunities for socioeconomic mobility for all students,” Gallo said before nearly 300 attendees during her inauguration speech in the University Center.    

The UW System wants to help with that effort, she said, by creating the Wisconsin Tuition Promise to increase access for Wisconsin students from low income and moderate-income families, adding, “I thank UW System President Jay Rothman and the Regents for their commitment to close the opportunity gap.”  

Gallo also described new educational programs and spaces that the university is creating to provide even more opportunities for students, from the new doctoral program in Montessori Studies, to the renovated state-of-the-art Dairy Pilot Plant, to the forthcoming Science and Technology Innovation Center.  

Gallo began her tenure at UWRF in July 2021 after serving as president of Delaware Valley University in Doylestown, Penn., in a career that includes other administrative and faculty positions. She earned her bachelor's degree in agronomy from Cornell University and both her master's degree in crop science and doctorate in genetics from North Carolina State University. 

Besides increasing access, Gallo said, it’s important for UW-River Falls to work hard on diversity, equity and inclusion, “making sure all students feel welcome and at home here and are given the guidance they need to shape their own lives to be productive, engaged citizens and leaders.” 

That effort will extend to all employees as well, Gallo said, and in particular “faculty and staff who identify as female and females of color to move into leadership roles in higher education.” 

While more women than men are achieving the degrees that entitle them to move in high education administration, Gallo said, “They continue to comprise only a small percentage of leadership positions, and women of color even less.” 

Citing the work of the Women’s Network Executive Council which Gallo chairs, she said, “I will bring best practices and network partners from that role to UW-River Falls, as well as collaborate with our sister schools across the UW System to advance our women leaders. I value the doors that education opened for me and the ones it will continue to open, not just for women, but for all our students, employees and alumni.” 

Gallo lauded the campus’ hard-working, creative and dedicated employees, UWRF’s supportive alumni and friends and defined current UWRF students as a “generation of self-starters [and] team builders, undaunted by difficulties, rooted in your community that supports your dreams, and helps you climb any ladder you choose to the top.”  

Rothman gave remarks via video, saying that during a visit to campus this summer, “I saw her passion in delivering that experience for students that will change the trajectory of their lives.”  

“She is steady, she is calm, she is thoughtful, and she is decisive in her decision-making,” he added. 

It’s clear, Rothman said, that Gallo is the right leader at the right time for the campus. 

Karen Walsh, president of the UW System Board of Regents, said choosing the right chancellor for UW-River Falls was important because the campus “is in one of the most vibrant areas of the state and has a crucial role to play in both economic development and producing the graduates needed by Wisconsin businesses and industry.”   
Walsh added: “Maria is a remarkable talent, has relentless energy and passion, is thoughtful, and is a values-centered person. We are very fortunate to have Dr. Gallo as our leader at UW-River Falls.” 

Ava Baden, vice president of the Student Government Association, said, “Chancellor Gallo has made an incredible commitment to connect with the campus community” during her time on campus, adding that Gallo’s “passion for student success stands out.” 

“Students are at the center of her role as chancellor at UW-River Falls,” Baden added. 

Other speakers included Randy Romanski, a UW-River Falls graduate who is secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection; Paul Dykstra, the 2022 Distinguished Alum; UWRF Provost David Travis and UWRF Alum and Media Personality Cathy Wurzer, who emceed the ceremony.  

UWRF Economics Professor Hossein Eftekari was the faculty marshal who led the procession of delegates and the platform party. The UW-River Falls Symphony Band provided processional and recessional music.  

Former chancellors in attendance included Dean Van Galen, chancellor from 2009-20; Virgil Nylander, an interim chancellor; and Gary Thibodeau, chancellor from 1985-2000. 

The inauguration events were paid for by donations from the UW-River Falls Foundation. No taxpayer or tuition dollars were used.   

At the conclusion of her remarks, Gallo mentioned Pamela Powers, a public relations specialist for UW-River Falls, who died in July. Powers “left this world much too soon but left her mark on so many places including UW-River Falls,” Gallo said, adding “it’s goodbye for now until we meet again.” Gallo then ended with the -30- sign that journalists – Powers was a former reporter for the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram – use to signify the end of their story.  

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