Shalala accepted the offer from the university's Board of Trustees on Saturday, culminating a nine-month search conducted by the university's presidential search committee. The University of Miami is a private school with 13,963 students and four campuses.
"I welcome the opportunity to get out of government and get back to higher education," said Shalala, who previously served as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin and president of Hunter College in New York.
Shalala, the longest-serving HHS secretary in history, helped implement a series of far-reaching changes in the nation's health and welfare policy during her nearly eight years at the agency. After opposing sweeping welfare reform legislation in 1996, she directed HHS to monitor state plans that set strict time and work requirements for beneficiaries. She led a multi-agency crackdown on Medicare fraud and was instrumental in efforts to extend the long-term solvency of the program.
As a manager, Shalala decentralized authority within HHS and employed a collaborative decision-making style that emphasized the input of senior staff and program-level managers in agency decisions. She aggressively worked to eliminate the glass ceiling at HHS, boasting earlier this year that "women control all of the major operating divisions" of her agency.
Shalala's management practices hold several lessons for future Cabinet secretaries, said Beryl A. Radin of Rockefeller College in Albany, N.Y., who studied Shalala's management style in a report funded by the PricewaterhouseCoopers Endowment for the Business of Government.
"She relied tremendously on career civil service people and respected them, and they developed amazing loyalty to her. She also shows that you don't have to engage in a centralized command-and-control method to be an effective Secretary," said Radin.
Shalala's longevity at HHS was instrumental to her ability to decentralize authority, according to Radin. "People knew she'd be there for them; she could decentralize because the personal relationships she had with top program people were very, very strong."
Shalala visited the University of Miami numerous times while serving as HHS Secretary. In 1998, she delivered the Jane Roberts Lecture Series address on the university's Coral Gables Campus, speaking on women's health. She will succeed president Edward T. "Tad" Foote II, who is retiring after 19 years.
Shalala's tenure at the University of Wisconsin was marked by a surge in the University's endowment and an expansion of scientific research facilities. During her tenure the University also adopted an elaborate speech code banning hate speech that was later ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge.
In a statement released by the University of Miami, Shalala mentioned enhancing the university's national reputation and improving ties between the school and the South Florida community as goals for her presidency.
"I am thrilled to lead the University of Miami and become part of the South Florida community," she said.