GRAND FORKS — The names are in. Now the meetings begin.

The UND Presidential Search Committee has named its final six candidates for UND’s presidency, including two former presidents and a high-ranking military officer.

A total of 61 applications were received for the position. The UND Presidential Search Committee interviewed 11 candidates last week and narrowed the field to six, including:

  • Andrew P. Armacost, former dean of the faculty/chief academic officer, United States Air Force Academy.

  • Robert J. Marley, professor of engineering management; former provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, Missouri University of Science and Technology.

  • Laurie A. Stenberg Nichols, interim president, Black Hills State University; former president of the University of Wyoming.

  • David Rosowsky, professor of civil and environmental engineering; former provost and senior vice president, University of Vermont.

  • Chuck Staben, professor of biology; former president, University of Idaho.

  • Paul J. Tikalsky, dean of the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology at Oklahoma State University.

Each will be brought to UND for two-day campus visits beginning in mid-November. The exact dates and times for those visits had not been set yet as of Monday, Oct. 28.

“On behalf of the committee, we were very pleased with the total number of applicants. The final six are a very good set of candidates, very robust,” committee co-chair Denny Elbert said Monday.

Elbert acknowledged there are no final candidates with direct ties to North Dakota. During a number of public input sessions across the state, many community members, both on and off campus, expressed they would like to see a president who has ties to UND or North Dakota. Others expressed that they would like a president who could at least understand the way North Dakotans think and who would be an advocate for UND in the Legislature.

North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott said earlier this year that, while having ties to North Dakota would not be a requirement, it would be “desirable.”

Elbert said he believes the finalists will be committed to UND and the state, nonetheless.

“That’s kind of the way the pool ended up,” Elbert said.

Regional ties

While none of the candidates has a direct tie to North Dakota, at least three have ties to nearby states.

Nichols has been interim president of Black Hills State University since July 2019. Prior to becoming president at the University of Wyoming in 2016, Nichols was the chief academic officer at South Dakota State University.

Nichols was provost and executive vice president for academics at SDSU from 2009 to 2015. From August 2008 to mid-June 2009 she served as interim president at Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D.

Staben served as provost of the University of South Dakota for five years before taking over at the University of Idaho.

Staben came to USD in 2008 from the University of Kentucky, where he was the acting vice president for research. He also served as chair of the biology department at Kentucky, where he started his teaching career in 1989. Staben is a graduate of the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. He earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, and did postdoctoral research at Chiron Research Laboratories and Stanford University, according to a past USD press release.

Engineering ties

Many of the candidates also have a tie to engineering.

Before becoming provost at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in 2014, Marley was the dean of the College of Engineering at Montana State University from 2001 to 2013. He received his bachelor’s degree, master’s and Ph.D. from Wichita State University.

According to a Missouri University of Science and Technology press release, Marley, while dean in Montana, led diversity efforts that resulted in a nearly five-fold increase in women faculty and recognition as one of the nation’s leading colleges in the graduation of Native American students. Under his leadership, the college’s annual research expenditures nearly tripled and endowments and gifts increased by more than $30 million.

Marley stepped down as provost earlier this year, he remains on faculty.

Rosowsky, a professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Vermont and former provost of the school, also has ties to engineering.

Rosowsky came to the University of Vermont from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he served as dean of engineering, according to his academic profile. Prior to that, he served as head of the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering at Texas A&M University, where he also held the A.P. and Florence Wiley chair in civil engineering.

Rosowsky earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from Tufts University, and a Ph.D. in civil engineering from Johns Hopkins University.

Tikalsky is the dean of the Oklahoma State University College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology. Tikalsky has instituted a number of programs during his time at OSU, including new graduate programs and a master’s degree in Fire Protection and Safety Engineering Technology.

Tikalsky was recently a finalist for the University of Idaho president’s position. He later withdrew from consideration, the University of Idaho student newspaper reported.

Military ties

Armacost, former dean of faculty at the United States Air Force Academy, retired this year. Armacost was nominated to the position in May 2013 by former President Barack Obama.

As dean, Armacost commanded the 700-member Dean of the Faculty and oversaw the annual design and instruction of more than 500 undergraduate courses for 4,000 cadets in 30 academic disciplines, according to an Air Force press release. He also directed the operation of five support staff agencies and faculty resources involving more than $350 million, the release stated.

Armacost began his career with his commission through ROTC after earning his bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Northwestern University in 1989. He earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in operations research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Background

The candidates don’t come without their own controversies. Two have been forced out of presidencies in recent years and one has had a vote of no confidence. But, Elbert said, he doesn’t believe there will be much an issue with the candidates’ backgrounds.

“I think the committee as a whole was well aware of those background circumstances,” he said. “They were well vetted during the application process and then when we went through the Skype interviews as well. So I think, speaking on behalf of the committee, we think that we’re comfortable with where we are. We also know what we know so I’m sure there will be further review and discussion and vetting of all the candidates to make sure we get the right one.”

The University of Wyoming Trustees chose not to renew the contract of Nichols earlier this year, in a move that surprised the Wyoming campus, according to the Casper Star Tribune.

Multiple news outlets in Wyoming reported that Nichols’ dismissal came not only as a shock to the campus, but to Nichols herself, who claimed she didn’t know the reason why the contract was not renewed. The Casper Star Tribune reported in September, however, that the University of Wyoming Trustees used an outside firm to quietly investigate Nichols’ conduct. But much is still left unknown as to why Nichols was ultimately dismissed from the university. She says she was not aware of any investigation, according to reporting by the Casper Star Tribune. That paper, along with other media organizations, is suing for the rights to documents related to Nichols’ departure.

However, the Tribune reported that Nichols was generally popular on campus and helped lead the university through times of budget cuts and other issues.

In May 2018, a group of boosters for the University of Idaho athletics asked the Idaho State Board of Education to remove Staben from office, the Idaho Statesman reported. Staben was appointed president in 2014.

A letter presented to the Idaho Board of Education said the boosters had “lost all trust, faith and confidence in President Chuck Staben's ability to lead the University of ldaho.”

"His lack of leadership, mismanagement and poor policy decisions have damaged the relationship between the administration of the University of ldaho and its faculty, students, alumni, and the good citizens of the state of ldaho,” the letter read, according to the Idaho Statesman.

Staben and the Idaho Board of Education mutually agreed not to renew Staben’s contract, which finished in mid-June, according to the Statesman.

The Statesman reported that booster complaints against Staben drew from a number of different areas, including him pursuing another job in New Mexico shortly after arriving on the Moscow, Idaho, campus. The boosters were also unhappy with how Staben handled funding priorities, relationships with alumni and the potential for cutting multiple sports, according to the Idaho Statesman.

In a letter to faculty, staff and students at the University of Idaho, Staben acknowledged several controversies while pointing out successes. Staben pointed to an increase in research funding and other fundraising efforts the school undertook under his leadership. Staben acknowledged that applying for another presidency at a different college caused a “distraction” on campus, the Statesman reported.

Faculty at the University of Vermont gave a vote of no confidence to Rosowsky in 2018, according to the VT Digger publication.

Arts and science faculty at the University of Vermont said the resolution was due to Rosowsky’s “decisions and vision” in implementing a controversial budget system known as incentive based budgeting.

The resolution called for more funding for the college in order to prevent the loss of multiple faculty positions.

The budget model was a “boon for growing programs such as business, health sciences, computing and engineering, but not so great for English literature, history and foreign languages,” according to the Vermont-based publication Seven Days.

He resigned the position in April but remains as a faculty member, according to the Miami Student. WCAX-TV reported that Rosowsky said in a letter announcing his departure that the move would allow new university President Suresh Garimella to “build his own leadership team,” according to the Associated Press.

Candidates likely will begin visiting campus on or around Nov. 12. The next president, who will replace Mark Kennedy, will likely be announced in early December. Joshua Wynne, dean of the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences, has been serving as interim president since mid-June.