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Help wanted: UND looking to fill key leadership roles

UND is looking to fill a number of high-level positions before this semester is up.

Those searches are for new executive cabinet leaders to fill the roles of vice president for finance and operations and the relatively new office for the vice president for university relations. The roles are now respectively held by Alice Brekke and longtime UND spokesman Peter Johnson, both of whom announced last year their intent to retire. Brekke's role is one of the highest paid central administration positions, ranking below the president and provost.

Central administration roles aren't the only ones in the mix.

UND School of Law Dean Kathryn Rand announced to faculty and staff Dec. 19 her intent to step down from leading the school. She'll stay on at UND as a member of the law faculty, but her plan to leave the top office Aug. 1 opens another position that will need to be filled.

Johnson said the university has yet to form a search committee to look for her replacement. Rand, who has been dean since 2009, has said she'd be willing to stay in office after her intended departure date if the university has yet to find a permanent replacement by then.

While Rand squares things away at the law school, UND is looking for a new permanent dean of the College of Business and Public Administration. The university also needs a new executive for the UND Center for Innovation, a public-facing entrepreneurship facility.

Kennedy hopes to first square away the search for Brekke's replacement. He said candidates for the job could be on campus in March with the hope of giving the new hire ample time to prepare the university's new budget for the next biennium.

During last year's round of budgetary contractions, Brekke was one of several employees who opted for a phased retirement plan. That agreement would gradually scale down her workload until a full separation from UND at the end of the 2018 calendar year.

That timeline should provide Brekke with a substantial period of overlap with her replacement, said Johnson, adding that he himself will have about a month serving alongside his own replacement. Johnson has been the university spokesman since 1988, though he assumed an expanded role in 2016 upon the exit of Susan Walton, former vice president for university and public affairs. The job he has now is a combined position, and a replacement will be found for the single office under the broader communications title of vice president for university relations.

Johnson announced his intent to retire at the same time as Brekke and began to phase down his workload last semester, working a quarter-time schedule. His official exit was originally planned for this January, but the initial hiring process was delayed and ultimately rebooted by university leaders. A set of three finalists for the job arrived on campus for interviews and public forums in late September. The visits failed to yield a hire, which led to the launch of a new search effort. Johnson said now it seems likely that he'll continue his work through June.

"I want to help with a good transition, so I'm happy to do that," Johnson said, adding that he'll stay on for about a month after the new hire is made.

Candidates for his replacement could be arriving on campus sometime in April with the possibility of having the new person in office at the start of June.

Business school, Center for Innovation

On the academic side, the new dean for the College of Business and Public Affairs could be hired on by July 1.

The school has had interim Dean Steven Light at the helm since the departure last spring of Dean Margaret Williams, who served in the position for less than three years.

The timeline for securing her replacement is still being finalized, and it's not yet entirely decided when finalists for the position will be on campus.

The Center for Innovation has received a steady trickle of applications for its next director but has been without a permanent head since the retirement last year of the facility's founder and long-time leader Bruce Gjovig, who has said his exit was prompted by UND leaders.

The center was first run on an interim basis by longtime UND administrator Laurie Bettig, who retired last fall. After she left, leadership of the center was passed to strategic consultant Barry Horwitz, an outside entrepreneur who worked with UND on its campuswide strategic plan initiative. The center's day-to-day operations are largely managed by Della Kapocius, the established grant writer for the facility.

Kennedy said the search for Gjovig's replacement is being headed up in part by UND Provost Tom DiLorenzo and former North Dakota governor and interim UND President Ed Schafer, who is a member of the foundation board that oversees the center.

Schafer said the search process has "taken a little longer than we'd thought," adding that the committee was "hopeful for last August" to have a hire. Still, he said he was pleased with the pool of applicants that have submitted their names so far.

"For the next month to six weeks, I'm pretty optimistic ... that we'd have someone that we're trying to bring on board," Schafer said.

Andrew Haffner

Andrew Haffner covers higher education and general assignment stories for the Grand Forks Herald. He attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he studied journalism, political science and international studies. He previously worked at the Dickinson Press.

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