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Expert: More candidates for UND presidency allows community to have 'more weight in the decision-making'

Judith Wilde1 / 2
In this file photo, interim UND President Joshua Wynne answers questions during a meeting with the Grand Forks Herald editorial board. At left is Meloney Linder, vice president for marketing and communication, and David Dodds, UND communications director, is at right. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald2 / 2

As UND prepares to bring six presidential candidates to campus over the next two weeks, campus community members and alumni will get to hear from six people who want to be the next president of UND.

But as apparent with the search that brought former UND President Mark Kennedy to the University of Colorado system earlier this year, hearing from multiple candidates isn’t always the case in higher education searches.

Judith Wilde, chief operating officer and professor in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University in Virginia, studies presidential searches in higher education. Wilde is pleased the committee decided to forward six candidates for the public to interview.

“I think it gives (the campus community) the feeling they have a bit more weight in the decision-making,” she said.

Earlier this year, Wilde told the Herald that in recent years, with increased use of search firms, the process has become more secretive with many boards opting to reveal just a single finalist. That is what happened in Colorado, when Kennedy was hired.

Many in Colorado questioned the process used by the CU Board of Regents and wanted to see the process start over again to provide more transparency. The Boulder Daily Camera newspaper is in the midst of a lawsuit to obtain the other names of candidates for Kennedy’s position.

For North Dakota’s search, however, Wilde said having so many candidates may bode well. Campus community members will have had an opportunity to give feedback to the search committee.

As the campus forums begin this week, starting Tuesday, Nov. 12, with Robert Marley, Wilde said audience members should be paying attention to the body language of board and committee leaders who are in the room while a candidate is speaking.

“See if they're really watching what people have to say and what people are concerned about,” she said.

Campus community members should also be doing their own “due diligence” and research each candidate in depth before heading out to the forums to get a deeper understanding of each candidate, Wilde said.

Each candidate will be on campus for about two days and will meet with faculty, staff, students and community members in open forums during their visit. They will also meet with campus leadership.

The search committee asked UND interim President Joshua Wynne to meet with each of the candidates so he can answer any of the candidates’ questions. Wynne and his wife, Susan Farkas, will be hosting a dinner for each candidate and other members of the UND leadership team at the president’s house.

Wynne also will attend as many of the public forums as he can.

Wynne is not eligible to become president of the university unless he first steps down as interim president.

With six candidates being named for the position, Wynne noted that every search is different for every school. He believes the search committee and the State Board of Higher Education wanted to make the process as open and transparent as possible.

State law requires that three finalists be named, so Wynne noted the committee has gone beyond what it needed to.

Wynne said he believes the Legislature’s decision to limit the public’s access to names, especially early on in the process, is a good thing. Wynne added he does not believe the committee would have received so many applications if the law protecting the names was not in place.

Visits begin with Marley on Tuesday when he will meet with faculty at 10:30 a.m. Marley will meet with staff and students on Wednesday. His campus and community forum will be from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Room E101.

Chuck Staben will have meetings with faculty, staff and students Wednesday and Thursday. His community forum will be from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the Discovery Room at the EERC.

David Rosowsky will be on campus Thursday and Friday. His public forum will be Friday, at the EERC from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Laurie Nichols will kick off next week's campus visits. She will be on campus on Monday, Nov. 18, and Tuesday, Nov. 19. Her campus and community forum will be from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 19, in the Discovery Room in the EERC.

Paul Tikalsky will be visiting UND on Tuesday, Nov. 19, and Wednesday, Nov. 20. He will meet with the community from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20, in the Discovery Room in the EERC.

Finally, Andrew Armacost will round out the campus visits on Wednesday, Nov. 20, and Thursday, Nov. 21. His community forum will follow that of the previous four candidates. He'll take questions from the community from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 21, in the EERC's Discovery Room.

The UND Presidential Search Committee will meet Friday, Nov. 22, to select at least three finalists to forward to the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education. Those finalists will meet with the board on Tuesday, Dec. 3, in open meetings. The board is expected to name the new president that day.