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New U of I Urbana Chancellor Introduced On Campus

Sean Neumann, Illinois Public Media

  Robert Jones won’t start as the next chancellor at the University of Illinois’ Urbana campus for a little over two months.  But in an interview featured Wednesday on The 21st, Jones told host Niala Boodhoo about his plans for the first 100 days on the job. The campus’ first African-American chancellor calls it a 'listening and learning tour.'

"This is a process that has served me well through the better part of my 27 years in higher education," he said. 

Jones, currently the president of the University of Albany, State University of New York, says he wants to get an understanding of where the university is today, and to get a perspective from all constituents about where it needs to go in the future.

Jones is a Georgia sharecropper’s son who became a crop scientist, and was helping on cotton and peanut as young as age 9. 

"That became a backdrop, and the impetus for me to pursue science," he said.  "Because I knew that through education, I would have the opportunity to provide a better livelihood for myself, and my family, and future generations."

He says the U of I has a track record of ‘shocking the world’ with innovation and discovery. 

Jones says it’s an administrator’s job to keep the innovations coming, despite financial uncertainties, and questions about whether the university is doing enough for minority and low-income students.

“These are the issues that are too big, too complex for any particular discipline, and I submit to you – for any particular individual – to solve alone," he said. "In order to move these agendas forward, we must work together, creating what I call collective impact.  And this university, I believe, has the potential to do it better than most.”

The U of I's Board of Trustees will vote on Jones' appointment Thursday in their meeting on the Urbana campus. 

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