And Then There Were Five…Finalists For University Of Idaho President

Sep 30, 2013


The University of Idaho has five finalists for its top job. Four hold administration jobs at public universities and one is listed as a higher education consultant.

The U of I has been searching for a president since Duane Nellis left to take a job at Texas Tech last March. Law school dean Don Burnett has been filling in as interim president at a salary of $240,000 a year. He did not apply for the full time job.

Idaho’s State Board of Education will interview the candidates in October and hopes to announce the new president in November.

Here are the candidate bios provided by the State Board.

James Applegate, Consultant, Higher Education/Philanthropy

Dr. Applegate currently advises national, state, and regional education and philanthropic organizations on increasing the effectiveness of programs to improve college access and success. From 2008 to 2013, Dr. Applegate was Vice President for Strategic Impact for the Lumina Foundation, the largest foundation in the United States focused solely on improving higher education. He previously served as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Senior Fellow for the Council on Postsecondary Education in Kentucky, President of the National Communication Association, and Department and Faculty Senate Chair at the University of Kentucky.  Dr. Applegate graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. in Communication and American Studies from Georgetown College and went on to earn an M.A. and Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Illinois as a University Fellow.

 Donald Birx, Chancellor and Professor, Penn State Erie

In his position at Penn State Erie, Dr. Birx has focused on building a new land grant vision that fosters relationships with industry and partnerships across the campus community. In addition, he co-founded the Center for Life-Long Learning, a modular, stackable and transferable approach to education of non-traditional students that increases diversity and access for disadvantaged students. Prior to his current position, Dr. Birx was Vice Chancellor/President for Research in the University of Houston System in Houston, Texas, and Interim Vice Provost/President for Research at New Mexico State University. He also held positions of increasing responsibility including Vice President and Team Leader of Technology and New Ventures at Systems Research Laboratories Inc., Dayton, Ohio. Dr. Birx holds a B.S. in Engineering Physics from University of California, Berkeley, an M.S. in Bio-Physics and an M.B.A. in Finance from Miami University (Ohio), and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from University of Dayton.

Laurie Stenberg-Nichols, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, South Dakota State University

Dr. Nichols serves as Chief Academic Officer for the 1862 land-grant and flagship research university for South Dakota.  Her duties include providing leadership to undergraduate and graduate academic programs, curricula, academic policies, the university's 10-year accreditation renewal, first-time program accreditation, faculty affairs, student success, campus operations and the academic budget. Prior to her current position, Dr. Nichols served as Interim President, Northern State University, Interim Department Chair of Nutrition and Food Science at South Dakota State University, and Interim Assistant Director, School of Family and Consumer Sciences, at University of Idaho.  Dr. Nichols holds a B.S. in Home Economics Education from South Dakota State University, a Master’s in Vocational and Adult Education from Colorado State University and a Ph.D. in Family and Consumer Sciences Education from the Ohio State University.

Jack Payne, Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and Administrative Head for the Institute of Food and Agricultural Science, University of Florida

In his current position, Dr. Payne played a major role in the university’s recent $1.7 billion capital campaign. He has created interdisciplinary centers to help lead strategic change within the university’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Science (IFAS), and led efforts that resulted in record-making contracts and grants. Prior to his current position, Dr. Payne served as Vice President for Extension and Outreach and Director of the Iowa Cooperative Extension Service at Iowa State University; as Vice President for University Extension and Dean for Continuing Education at Utah State University; and as the National Director of Conservation for Ducks Unlimited. Dr. Payne holds a B.A. in Biology from Temple University, an M.S. in Aquatic Ecology and a Ph.D. in Wildlife Ecology from Utah State University.

Chuck Staben, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, University of South Dakota

Dr. Staben oversees all academic matters at the university and works with the university vice presidents on priorities and programs. He also has overall budget responsibility of approximately $40 million of state and tuition funds and recently collaborated with the university’s VP-Finance to develop a Responsibility Centered Management budget approach. While in his current position, Dr. Staben has doubled extramural research awards in Academic Affairs and established an educational site at Crazy Horse Memorial focused on Native American students. Prior to his current position, Dr. Staben served as Vice President of Research and the Chair of the Biology Department at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Staben earned a B.S. in Biochemistry from University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from University of California, Berkeley.

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