Cleveland State University President Laura Bloomberg is staying put.  

Bloomberg was one of three finalists vying to become the University of Minnesota’s next president and oversee its roughly 68,000 students across five campuses.

Instead, the university’s Board of Regents named Rebecca Cunningham, vice president for research and innovation at the University of Michigan, as its president-designate.

In a press release, Bloomberg said it was an honor to be considered, adding she’s looking forward to “continuing to work with [the Cleveland State] board and the university’s senior leadership team to support our faculty and students.” 

Bloomberg said only her alma mater, the University of Minnesota, could pull her from Cleveland State

Bloomberg, who’s been in the role since April 2022, first told Cleveland State’s community she was one of three presidential finalists via email Feb. 9.

There was “only one other position at one other institution that could possibly speak to my heart as much as CSU does, and that is my alma mater, the University of Minnesota,” Bloomberg said in a statement provided to Signal Cleveland earlier this month.  

Her ties to the university – the flagship system of the state where she was born and raised – are extensive. She earned her doctorate degree there and worked at the institution for more than a dozen years. 

The University of Minnesota’s search was an unusually public one. Once the finalists were named, the three spent several separate days in Minnesota earlier this month. They visited the system’s five campuses and participated in public forums streamed online.

Weeks later, each finalist publicly interviewed in front of the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents for more than an hour. Board members then publicly deliberated before moving to a final vote. Hundreds of people watched it all unfold via a live YouTube stream. 

When the 12 regents were initially polled, five of them said they were in favor of hiring Bloomberg, citing things such as her skilled relationship building and her already strong connection to the university. 

Ultimately, nearly eight hours after they began, the board voted unanimously to select Cunningham. 

Bloomberg touted work at Cleveland State University 

Bloomberg highlighted her experiences at Cleveland State along the way, including when she was asked if her background prepared her to lead a large academic medical center and its related partnerships. 

She acknowledged that she hasn’t led a system like that but said part of being a leader includes learning as you go and asking questions along the way. 

When thinking of something massive, like Minnesota’s medical systems, she said leaders should think about related or tangential experiences. 

One of those areas, she said, could be the mergers and acquisitions environment of higher education. As Signal Cleveland reported last month, Cleveland State leaders met with Notre Dame College about “absorbing” the financially struggling private college in South Euclid.  

“I want us to be prepared to think about when is the right time to suggest a merger or perhaps an acquisition,” she told Minnesota’s regents Monday. “I obviously think you’ll understand I won’t speak specifically about those in Ohio, but it’s very much on my mind.” 

In some ways, Bloomberg said, those two situations are comparable “in terms of the complexity [and] the behemoth of a challenge.” 

What’s next for Bloomberg at Cleveland State  

Bloomberg returns to a busy agenda at Cleveland State.

In addition to those potential merger talks, Cleveland State recently entered into a $900,000 contract with the accounting and consulting firm Ernst & Young, which is doing a deep dive into many aspects of the university, including its reported $11.5 million budget deficit.

Bloomberg has the “full support” of Cleveland State’s board, according to Chair David Reynolds.

“CSU’s students remain our focus, and we know Laura joins us in wanting to make sure we have the plans and programs in place to assure our university has the organizational resilience and financial stability to succeed in the future,” he said in a news release.

Higher education reporter for Signal Cleveland in partnership with Open Campus.