Alexander N. Cartwright, chancellor at the University of Missouri since 2017, was chosen as president-elect by the University of Central Florida today following a nationwide search.

The UCF Board of Trustees, which selected Cartwright over another finalist, praised Cartwright’s proven experience as a leader both in Missouri and previously as provost and executive vice chancellor for the State University of New York (SUNY). Others credited his ability to connect with Missouri’s campus community, his strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, and the major increases in philanthropy and research funding that he helped to generate. Cartwright also is known for rebuilding Missouri’s relationships with students and state leaders following a tumultuous period prior to his arrival.

Alexander Cartwright has been selected as president-elect by UCF’s Board of Trustees.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to be a part of a university that looks like the future of America,” Cartwright says. “This is an opportunity to build on a metropolitan research university with an ecosystem of industry partnership and a diverse student body of almost 70,000 students. That to me is extremely exciting.”

“I’m excited about the opportunity to be a part of a university that looks like the future of America.”— Alexander N. Cartwright

Cartwright is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, SPIE, and the National Academy of Inventors. He was a recipient of both the National Science Foundation CAREER Award and the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award.

“Dr. Cartwright is an accomplished scholar with a history of strong leadership at a number of universities, including his current role as chancellor of the University of Missouri, where he has tackled a number of challenges,’’ says Board of Trustees Chair Beverly Seay.

“He also has a keen understanding of the role of a metropolitan public research university and the value of partnerships with industry. An internationally recognized scholar in optical sensors with proven leadership experience at AAU institutions, Dr. Cartwright is also a first-generation college student with a deep belief in access and academic excellence — a perfect fit for the University of Central Florida.”

The university began its search for a president last fall, engaging in a six-month process that included 20 listening sessions and open forums held across UCF’s campuses with students, faculty and staff members, alumni and community members.

“I want to thank each of those individuals whose input in this process has been so valuable to our efforts,” says Seay, who also chaired the search committee made up of students, faculty and staff members and community leaders.

The selection now must go to a confirmation vote by the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the 12-member State University System. That is scheduled to happen during a virtual meeting Wednesday, March 25.

Cartwright’s Story

After high school, Cartwright moved with his mother from the Bahamas to Iowa. His educational journey began with earning a GED and attending community college while working at Stuckey’s and cleaning hog pens to help pay for classes.

He transferred to the University of Iowa, where he earned a bachelor’s degree and a doctorate in electrical and computer engineering. He now holds a joint appointment as a professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at the University of Missouri’s College of Engineering.

Before joining UM, he served as provost and executive vice chancellor at the State University of New York for about three years.

Cartwright, chancellor at the University of Missouri’s flagship campus in Columbia, arrived at UM when the institution was experiencing some challenging times. The president of the state university system and the campus chancellor had resigned following protests focused on race relations. He has advocated for student success initiatives and pushed for a more equitable and diverse environment.

He led the university through strategic enrollment and research growth, and in 2018 developed a five-year blueprint called the “Flagship of the Future,” which set the groundwork for innovation and growth. He also successfully led the campaign to raise $1.3 billion for the university.

He says one of his proudest accomplishments has been the launch of the Missouri Land Grant program, which helps Pell Grant-eligible students by covering their tuition and fees. In addition, he has launched programs to improve retention and graduation rates and post‐graduation outcomes.

While at the State University of New York, Cartwright served as provost and executive vice chancellor for the university system that has 64 campuses and 1.3 million students. He introduced policies to boost recruitment and retention of students and faculty while improving diversity and inclusion. His changes resulted in installing a chief diversity officer at each campus, expanding candidate pools for new hires, and implementing cultural competency training.

Cartwright met his future wife, Melinda, at the University of Iowa. They have two children, Andrew and Alyssa.