Hannah Michelle Bussa
Dr. Joanne Li has been named the priority candidate for UNO Chancellor. If confirmed, she would be the first woman of color to serve as UNO chancellor and the first Asian American to hold an executive leadership role in the University of Nebraska system.
President of the University of Nebraska system Ted Carter told the Omaha World Herald that Li wasn’t selected solely because she is a woman of color.
“She’s the best candidate,” Carter said. “Period.”
Li currently serves as the dean of the College of Business at Florida International University.
She told KMTV that her getting the job would show that the university leadership truly cares about diversity.
“You are sending a statement to the world of what it really means to embrace diversity and inclusiveness,” Li said.
Li grew up in Hong Kong. She earned her bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from Florida State University as a first-generation college student. She graduated summa cum laude and has 15 years of progressive leadership experience in higher education.
Li has worked to improve diversity and inclusion for students, as well as access, success, academic excellence, and community engagement.
She stuck out as an outstanding candidate based on her achievements. A notable achievement of Li’s is her work to improve the graduation rate at FIU’s College of Business. The current six-year graduation rate at UNO is 45%. Her experience with mentoring programs and student success efforts could be applied to UNO.
Among her other achievements, Li helped make FIU more diverse. During her time as a dean, the College of Business also hired 40 faculty – of that 40, 25 were people of color and 12 were women. The number of Black individuals on the staff in the college grew 20%.
Before her role at FIU, she was a dean and professor of finance at Wright State University in Ohio. She has previously served as chair of the Department of Finance at Towson University and was an associate professor in the Sellinger School of Business at Loyola University of Maryland.
When Li first came to the United States, her best friend gave her $600 to pay for her first semester of community college. Li said she hopes to help students who lack the finances and resources make higher education possible. In the Omaha World Herald, she said seeking people out from underserved communities will help grow the workforce.
Additionally, she is focused on student success beyond high grade-point averages. She believes in creating a sense of belonging and pride.
In a statement to the university, she said: “In UNO, I see a university that is poised to embrace and shape the future. The entrepreneurial spirit, the strength of partnerships, the deep commitment to the student experience and the acute sense of responsibility to the community that I’ve witnessed among UNO’s students, faculty and staff is truly impressive. I am humbled to be considered for this opportunity, and I can’t wait to spend more time getting to know the community of people who make UNO a premier metropolitan university.”
Outside of her professional career, Li is married to a financial analyst, Frank Stalla. She is also the mother of an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia.
Members of the UNO community and public are invited to submit feedback on Dr. Li’s candidacy to University of Nebraska President Ted Carter anytime during the vetting period.