After nearly 15 years in Winona, Winona State University vice president for advancement Jim Schmidt is heading for Eau Claire.

Schmidt will become the new chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, system president Kevin P. Reilly announced Monday.

After confirmation by the system’s Board of Regents on April 5, Schmidt will take over as chancellor in July.

“Drawing on his experience in forging meaningful connections with the campus community and beyond, Dr. Schmidt will be a powerful advocate for UW-Eau Claire, sharing and growing its robust traditions of a liberal arts mission and academic excellence,” Reilly said in a statement announcing the recommendation.

“Schmidt clearly has the skills and desire to help the campus thrive, and that success will create a positive ripple effect across the state.”

Schmidt has deep ties to WSU and the region, growing up in southeast Minnesota and receiving his bachelor’s degree in political science from the university. Schmidt returned to WSU 14 years ago to serve as the vice president for university advancement.

“Winona State has been a deep part of my life for my whole life,” Schmidt said. “All of my family has ties to WSU. Leaving wasn’t an easy decision for me.”

Schmidt led several successful initiatives during his time, including the university’s first capital campaign, which raised more than $10 million for scholarships, the Integrated Wellness Complex and the National Child Protection Training Center. He also served as the executive director of the university’s foundation board since 1998.

“It’s a tremendous loss for WSU and higher education in Minnesota,” said past WSU foundation chair Mike Russell. “Schmidt was a pioneer in bringing the community to make up for the lost state funding for higher education. Our foundation is viewed as the model for Minnesota.”

Schmidt said that while the decision to move to a top job wasn’t an easy one, it was something that friends and colleagues have urged him to do for some years. Schmidt has worked with several presidents in the MnSCU system and he said the last four all urged him to make the leap.

“He’s shown to me he is really ready for this move,” said WSU president Scott Olson, who worked closely with Schmidt since he became WSU’s new president last summer. “We’re really sad to lose him.”

Schmidt said he was pleased with his accomplishments at WSU, and that it was a good time to leave since the university is on a strong foundation. He said the UW-Eau Claire position was the first one outside of Winona he has looked at in more than 14 years.

“UW-Eau Claire has a lot in common with Winona State,” Schmidt said. “It has a wonderful campus and is located in a wonderful community. It takes something special to make me leave WSU.”

Schmidt said he looks forward to the challenge of being chancellor and hopes to lead with a style of building collaborations, saying he believes “we are smarter together than we are by ourselves.”

He said that UW-Eau Claire’s previous chancellor, Brian Levin-Stankevich, did great work during his time at the university and Schmidt hopes to build on that.

But even as he moves forward, Schmidt said, he can’t help but look back to Winona.

“The toughest part of the move to Eau Claire is being 70 miles away from Winona,” Schmidt said. “We promised our kids we’d be back often. With all our friends and family here we will have many excuses and reasons to come back.”

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