Board of Regents unanimously appoints Dr. Li as UNO chancellor


Molly Ashford

Dr. Joanne Li has been appointed as the UNO Chancellor, making her the first woman of color to ever serve in this position. Photo courtesy of University of Nebraska at Omaha.

The University of Nebraska Board of Regents voted unanimously to confirm Dr. Joanne Li as the 16th chancellor of the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

When she assumes her position on July 1, she will become the first woman of color to serve as chancellor at UNO, as well as the first Asian-American in the history of the University of Nebraska system to hold an executive leadership role.

“The heart of any university are its people,” Li said. “As I’ve gotten to know the people who make UNO such a wonderfully vibrant and diverse place, I’ve only become more excited about our potential to become the nation’s leading metropolitan university.”

Li became the priority candidate following a national search for the next chancellor. She is currently the dean of the College of Business at Florida International University.

When she assumed her current position in 2017, the business college had a graduation rate of 29%. Through a myriad of new and expanded student mentoring and success efforts, the four-year graduation rate for 2021 is expected to be 70%.

At UNO, the four-year graduation rate was 44.4% in 2019—on par with the national average, but lower than the other schools in the NU system. Li’s expertise with expanding student support services is expected to be of substantial benefit for UNO.

Also of note is her status as a first-generation college student. Li immigrated to the United States from Hong Kong, going on to graduate summa cum laude with bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from Florida State University.

“Dr. Li’s life experiences, as a woman of color, a first-generation college student, and an immigrant to the United States, parallel that of many Maverick students which will position her well to serve the UNO student body,” said Maeve Hemmer, the UNO student body president. “Her student-centered approach to graduating global leaders will continue UNO’s commitment to being an exceptional place to gain a higher education.”

Though her resume is impressive, NU System President Ted Carter says that her focus on students is what made her the perfect appointee.

“I am thrilled that we are bringing someone of Dr. Li’s caliber to Nebraska,” he said. “She has spent her career creating opportunities for students, and now she will bring that same student-focused leadership to UNO.”