After a decade of service, Chancellor John Christensen will not be returning to UNO next semester.
“There’s never a perfect time to leave your dream job, but there is a right time,” Christensen said when he announced his retirement in September. “UNO is in a very strong position. I can proudly say that our metropolitan university mission is at the heart of everything we do, and our momentum is unstoppable.”
The search for a new chancellor is still underway. When Christensen announced his retirement, President Hank Bounds said it will be “difficult to find someone who cares more about the success and well-being of our students and the quality of the institution.”
Named interim chancellor in 2006, Christensen replaced a vice chancellor whose financial mishaps created controversy. Christensen has dedicated nearly 40 years to the university and is the first alumnus to serve as chancellor.
During his time as chancellor, Christensen brought big changes to UNO. He spearheaded the completion of projects like the Baxter Arena and Biomechanics Research Building, UNO athletics made the move to Division I, he saw the largest graduate enrollment in a decade in 2016 with over 3,000 students.
• Christensen also: Celebrated back-to-back records for the largest and most diverse incoming classes in UNO history.
• Seen overall enrollment jump more than 12 percent, with 15,627 students enrolled this past fall.
• Completed more than $480 million of capital projects, including first-of-their kind facilities like the Biomechanics Research Building, Community Engagement Center and Baxter Arena.
• Been recognized nationally with the President’s Award for Economic Opportunity as part of the President’s Higher Education Honor Roll.
• Been named the No. 1 Military Friendly University in the nation by Military Times two years running.
• Hosted national conferences such as the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU) Conference, Human Movement Variability Conference, Deterrence and Assurance Academic Alliance Conference, and will soon host the Engagement Scholarship Consortium Conference.
• Won the NCAA Midwest Regional in Men’s Hockey and competed in the 2015 Frozen Four.
Before becoming Chancellor, Christensen was an instructor in UNO’s department of counseling and special education/speech pathology in 1978. From there he became department chair before being promoted to Dean of the UNO College of Education and, finally, vice chancellor.
Christensen has not only served the university, but the Omaha community as well. UNO built the $24 million Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center in 2014 as a place where students, faculty members and community members can meet for events and educational lectures.
As he gave his final State of the University Address November, 2016, Christensen said that within the next ten years he hopes to see the university further collaborate with community organizations and businesses, expand educational research and service.
“I will tell you, it’s hard to fathom time could move so quickly. It is a universal fact: the more you love something, the faster time goes,” Christensen said during his address. “That is certainly the case for me and my time at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.”
Christensen has spent 40 years at UNO, either learning, teaching, administrating or problem solving.