Chancellor Lori J. Carrell

A passionate, creative educator, Dr. Carrell focuses on transformative communication, learning innovation and well-being in higher education communities.

Chancellor Lori J. Carrell

Chancellor Lori J. Carrell, PhD, has served the new and innovative University of Minnesota Rochester (UMR) campus as a collaborative and inspirational leader since 2014. Selected as the second chancellor in 2018, she first served UMR as vice chancellor for both academic and student affairs. Prior to joining the University of Minnesota, she led general education reform efforts in the University of Wisconsin system as a campus leader in Oshkosh, where she also founded and directed a research-based teaching and learning center while continuing as a distinguished professor of communication. Her speeches, publications and scholarly work focus on human communication as a catalyst for transformation, as described in her 2021 book Communicate for a Change: Revitalizing Conversations for Higher Education (Johns Hopkins Press, co-authored with Robert Zemsky). Dr. Carrell was featured on Destination Medical Center’s Urban Evolution podcast (Groundbreaking Innovation in Higher Education), Higher Ed’s Big Rethink video series and Openings publication, and Google Cloud’s Student Success and Engagement.

Known as a creative strategist, Dr. Carrell’s commitments to learning research, innovation through inclusive conversations and exemplary teaching resonate well with UMR’s vision to inspire transformation in higher education. During her leadership of the campus, UMR has achieved significant enrollment growth and equity in educational attainment, as reported by the Washington Post, Hechinger Report and Chronicle of Higher Education’s Innovation Issue. Carrell attributes this “gap closing” accomplishment to the hard work of diverse students, faculty and staff, and a “research to practice” model focused on students and their success. UMR students experience high-impact practices identified by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and additional practices discerned as valuable through UMR faculty research. For Carrell, a focus on wellbeing and mental health is essential, not only for students but also for staff and faculty. Chancellor Carrell is convinced that "collaborative academic communities can lead transformation in higher education while also creating inclusive environments in which all can flourish.”

Those collaborative endeavors include NXT GEN MED, a tech-enhanced, accelerated, industry-integrated program being designed by the UMR community with the support of Google Cloud and Mayo Clinic; Healthcare Scholars Day, a scholarship competition that showcases stories of student resilience, a predictor of college completion; UMR’s Higher Education Innovation Summit; HealthCORE (Community of Respect and Empowerment), a covenant-based living, learning community enhancing underrepresented student success; and the campus strategic BluffTop View plan, now aligned with the systemwide strategic plan, M PACT 2025.  

Born in Indiana, Chancellor Carrell graduated summa cum laude from Anderson University in education, speech communication, theatre and psychology. She completed her MS in counseling psychology at the University of Alaska Anchorage and her PhD in human communication at the University of Denver. Dr. Carrell began her career as a teacher in her hoosier hometown, then sought to learn through adventure as a counselor and teacher in a remote Yupitt village in Alaska. Such adventure-seeking has taken her to the Middle East, as a contributor to the launch of a new university in Oman; to a remote tribe in Ecuador, to study intercultural learning; and across the country, to investigate change in the communication between preachers and listeners.

Carrell is active in the community, serving on the boards of the Rochester Chamber of Commerce, Cradle to Career and YMCA of the North. She is a Rotarian and proud member the American Association of University Women, participating in the arts – including a stint with Dancing for the Arts and a role in Stay with Me Awhile at the Civic Theatre. She serves on the Minnesota team of Citizens and Scholars, a national endeavor to connect policy makers and higher ed leaders for generative conversation. Honors include an Edward Penson Faculty Award, a Research Associate Professorship, the Weaver Award for Outstanding College Educator, an Endowment for Excellence Professorship and a Federation Research Prize from the Central States Communication Association. Carrell’s reflections on living a life of meaning and joy as a higher ed professional can be found in her blog, Learning Matters.  

“Learning is essential to human progress, to discovery and to our collective wellbeing,” says Carrell. “At the heart of each learning moment is a human connection, a rare relationship to be honored.”