In a matter of days, UND will have a new president.
Six candidates, now reduced to three finalists, spent two weeks speaking at campus forums.
The State Board of Higher Education will interview Andrew Armacost, Laurie Stenberg Nichols and David Rosowsky on the morning of Tuesday, Dec. 3. The board is expected to name UND’s next president later that day.
Members of the UND community were invited to participate in surveys about each of the candidates. The Herald requested copies of survey responses for each of the finalists. Here are some of the reviews.
The survey asked respondents to list which session they attended with the candidate and then asked for them to list strengths for the candidate’s effectiveness as president. Finally, they were asked to list any concerns they had about the candidate’s potential as president. The responses were all anonymous.
For Andrew Armacost, former dean of the faculty at the U.S. Air Force Academy, 112 people responded to the survey. Of that number, more than half were staff members. Another 20% of the respondents were students, while about 14% were faculty. The remainder of the respondents were alumni, administration and community members. He was the final candidate to interview.
Many commenters spoke of Armacost’s “strong interpersonal skills” as well as having “strong leadership abilities.” Others commented on his focus on student success. Some responses for Armacost’s strengths were:
“The candidate was personable and professional. The candidate seems like a great leader who is willing to work with others to accomplish tasks. I think he would be a valuable asset for our University based on his prior professional experience and his experience in the military. I'm sure donors and the Legislature would value his opinion, efforts and respect him.”
”Dr. Armacost is the best candidate, among the six, to be the president of UND. He emphasized the importance of having compassion to his constituents (students, staffs, faculty, etc.). He mentioned of being a strong advocate for UND. If UND is looking for a servant-leader quality in a president, Dr. Armacost is the only candidate that presented such quality. He is also the only candidate that expressed commitment to the individual growth and development of student, staff and faculty.”
Though Armacost received much praise throughout his survey, some commented on his lack of experience at an “institution of UND’s size and organizational structure.” Some other concerns listed included:
“In most of his answers, it was clear that the candidate didn't have a full understanding and knowledge on what is a university, how it functions, who are the main players and what are their role and responsibilities. The learning curve to catching up on that knowledge would be extremely steep with no time to do it. For that reason, I do not think that this candidate should be chosen as the next UND president.”
“Might be underestimating the struggles we face with our legislators; might lack perspective - used a lot of AF examples, and while good for that institution, I hope he doesn't expect it to fall into place here.”
For Laurie Stenberg Nichols, former president of the University of Wyoming and current interim president at Black Hills State University, 127 people responded to the survey with a majority of the responses coming from staff, students and faculty members. She was the fourth candidate to visit UND.
Throughout the survey, many respondents noted Nichols’ good communication skills and a track record of administrative experience.
Here are some of the responses to Nichols’ strengths:
“The candidate has a strong track record of administrative experience, including three years as president of a comparable public university where she navigated severe budget cuts. Her work with tribal colleges and relationship building with tribal governments is particularly appealing. The candidate has a forthright, candid air about her and is an excellent communicator.”
“Stressed the importance of students, faculty and staff while still demonstrating awareness of research and athletics at a flagship university. Discussed importance of listening to stakeholders before making decisions and gave examples of when she has done so. Has a great deal of experience with issues important to this region and similar universities. Stressed the importance of interdisciplinary work and how to encourage this under an incentive-based budget model.”
Some expressed concern about Nichols’ recent departure from the University of Wyoming and questioned why her contract was not renewed with the university.
“Concerned about why her contract was not renewed in Wyoming. Was it due to budget cuts? What she not strategic enough? Did she say the wrong thing to a donor or board member? I understand that she may not really even know, but feels like there's a skeleton in the closet that could come out and potentially hurt UND.”
As a person who previously worked under Dr. Nichols, I have grave concerns regarding her interpersonal relationship and emotional intelligence skillset. I see these skills as an integral part of serving as a university president. Dr. Nichols often displayed a lack of tact and diplomacy, politeness and empathy when working with colleagues, faculty, staff and community members.”
There were 128 responses to David Rosowsky’s survey. The margins are similar to other surveys with a majority of the responses coming from staff, students and faculty. Rosowsky is a former provost at the University of Vermont, where he remains as a faculty member. He was the third candidate to visit campus.
Respondents spoke of Rosowsky’s “people-first leadership style” and his genuineness.
“The way he builds his strategic plans through the input of the campus, community and relevant stakeholders is precisely what the community needs at this time to rebuild morale and reinvigorate the university. He is by far and away the best candidate I have seen so far and I hope he is seriously considered to be our next president. He is top notch.”
“Wow. This guy really impressed. His knowledge of our athletic and academic strengths was exciting. He was familiar with our campus and spoke with passion. He seemed truly interested in becoming the next president at UND, and I felt like he would be the right fit. His wife seemed very down-to-earth and easy to get along with. They both seemed very, very likable, and I think our North Dakota alumni pushing for a North Dakota person with be able to hit it off and form a solid relationship with David. He also seemed very well rounded. He was a great listener and would take time to gather all the facts before reacting. I really enjoyed this candidate and hope everyone else liked him as much as I do.”
A few respondents expressed concerns about Rosowsky’s vote of no confidence from 2018. The vote of no confidence, which came from a small number of faculty in April 2018, was related to an incentive-based budget model, similar to one recently in place at UND.
“I have one concern, and it is nothing to do with Dr. Rosowsky, and it has nothing to do with his ability to lead, unite, cultivate or fundraise; it has to do with the no-confident vote in his budget plan at UV. My fear is that many will see that there was a no-confidence vote, and stop at the surface. They will not look into the details. It is important to note that this vote of no confidence was not in Dr. Rosowsky as a provost, but in his proposed budget. This should not be reflected in whether he can be an effective president for UND.”
“Seemed to overemphasize his role in University of Vermont successes rather than acknowledge collective efforts; seemed to want to be a president to serve as a platform for his public speaking and legitimacy; indicated he might steer UND to new directions rather than commit to strategic plan; in another meeting I participated in, he seemed to disregard or have negative attitude toward shared governance.”