MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The search for a new University of Minnesota president is down to one candidate.

Joan Gabel is currently the number-two administrator at the University of South Carolina. If confirmed, she will be the first female president in the U’s 167-year history.

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More than 50,000 students call the University of Minnesota their collegiate home. Soon, Gabel could be their leader.

“I’m all for women empowerment and I think that’s awesome example, kind of encourage other women to take bigger roles like that,” said ggraduate student Noelle Metoxen.

“I think any type of female representation in this political climate is something I could see as positive, something that’s a step in the right direction,” said Sam Phipps, a junior studying landscape design.

The U has gotten national attention over the past few years over how they handle sexual misconduct reports.

“Having a woman is a big step in solving these sexual assault cases getting them spoken to people,” said sophomore journalism major Kameron Taylor.

The Atlanta native and mother of three went to Haverford College and University of Georgia Law. Gabel was an administrator at Mizzou before becoming provost at the University of South Carolina.

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“She’s a sitting provost at a fine university and I think she’ll do well here,” said sitting University President Eric Kaler Thursday.

But Kaler says he questions the new state mandated public hiring process which caused two other finalists to back out.

“I understand the need to be open and available and responsible to the public, but I think discouraging strong applicants from being candidates is a real disadvantage,” Kaler said.

Gabel will head north next week, and she says she’s excited, humbled and ready to discuss the future.

“I want to thank the search committee and the Board of Regents for this exciting opportunity — I am truly honored and humbled,” said Gabel. “I look forward to traveling to Minnesota next week to meet the University of Minnesota community and friends across the state so I can answer questions, learn from them, and discuss our collective vision for the future.”

The Board of Regents say although Gabel is a front runner this is not a done deal. She will visit the Twin Cities campus next week, along with all five U of M campuses, and then the Board of Regents will do another interview and then they will make their decision.

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If Gabel is selected, she will take office July 1, 2019.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield