Nebraska University system presidential race narrowed down to four candidates


By Doug Cunningham, Contributor

Last week the University of Nebraska Presidential Search, Screening and Selection Committee named four finalists for the next president of the Nebraska university system.
The search for the university’s next president began after President Emeritus James B. Milliken announced in January that he was leaving NU to become chancellor of The City University of New York.
“The Board of Regents is working closely with two presidential search committees – one for outreach and advising, the other for screening and selection – in the search process,” said District 2 Chairman Howard Hawks.
The committees represent a wide range of key university constituencies, including faculty, administrators and students. We have also engaged a leading executive search firm- Isaacson, Miller.”
However, the committee has met some milestones since then. Four people have been named as the candidates for NU president. Dr. Hank Bounds, Dr. Michael Martin, Dr. Sally Rockney and Dr. George Ross have all been selected as finalists.
Each person comes with a background full of experience in higher education and has a passion for the key role the University of Nebraska plays in ensuring the state’s overall success through teaching.
Early on, board members worried that the requirement of making four names public would keep away candidates who preferred to hunt for a job in private. The board unanimously supported a bill this year that would have kept private all but the final candidate, but the bill died in committee.
Many believed Gov. Heineman to be at least a finalist, but his name didn’t come through. “I’ve seen firsthand what educators can do and how they can make a difference in young people’s lives,” Heineman said in May in regards to his interest in the position. Hawks wouldn’t comment on Heineman, but did remark on how he is impressed by the final four and is very pleased with the diverse mix.
There a few boxes that need to be checked when it comes to what type of candidate would be best for the position. Feedback from nearly 400 Nebraskans as well as student governments and faculty senates gave us an impression of what is to be expected of these candidates.
“I think the new NU president should have a strong interest in students’ quality of life,” said Kelsey Jurgens, UNL graduate. “It should be a privilege to hold that position, and I hope it’s someone who can really steer us in the right direction.”
The fight for the position is not over yet. Final selection will only be made by the regents after university visits by each finalist. The visits will include public forums, additional interviews and meetings with key stakeholders. The goal is to have each candidate visit before the end of the calendar year.
“The decision on a public figure like the NU president is pretty exciting,” said Travis Hargreaves, UNO student. “Each candidate looks like they’re a good fit.”
James Linder will be serving as interim president until a successor is chosen. Linder is a noted author, academic and business leader. He is the president of the University Technology Development Corp. And also is a professor of pathology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
“I have learned a great deal by working with President Milliken and understand the priority of maintaining the momentum that has built on each campus, and in our university-wide institutes. At the same time, until a new president is selected, the university must be ready to pursue new opportunities that arise,” said Linder.
However, it looks as though it shouldn’t take long. An itinerary under development by the Board of Regents’ Executive committee has the schedule of tours, interviews and open forums beginning no later than Nov. 15.