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Mayville State presidential search picks 5 candidates

Gabriel Salander, a senior from Larimore, N.D., walks across campus Friday at Mayville State University. The university is one of many in the North Dakota University System with an origin in the state Constitution. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

The search for the next president of Mayville State University took a step forward this week with the Thursday announcement of five semifinalist candidates.

After conducting long-range interviews earlier this week, the MSU Presidential Search Committee has extended invitations for campus visits to Tom Corti, vice president for student affairs at Farmingdale State College in New York; Bernell Hirning, interim associate vice president and associate regional dean at National University in Fresno, Calif.; and Brian Van Horn, associate provost at Murray State College in Murray, Ky.

The committee also selected internal candidate Keith Stenehjem, MSU vice president for academic affairs, and Tim O'Keefe, dean of the College of Business and Economics at Longwood University, in Farmville, Va.

O'Keefe previously served as chair and director of the UND School of Entrepreneurship, a position he resigned about a year ago. He is unrelated to the former CEO of the UND Alumni Association and Foundation, who is also named Tim O'Keefe.

The five men are now in the running to be the president who follows Gary Hagen, who has been in his position for more than a decade and has been at MSU for more than 40 years. Hagen announced his retirement late last summer and will likely be leaving office sometime this July.

The semifinalists have been invited to campus for a series of interviews scheduled for March 5-7, according to Andrew Pflipsen, MSU vice president for student affairs.

Pflipsen is co-chair of the presidential search committee, a title he shares with Casey Ryan, a representative of the State Board of Higher Education. Members of the SBHE plan to make the final hiring decision in late March at their next regular meeting.

Pflipsen said the semifinalist candidates bring different strengths to the table, but all in some way "aligned with what we were looking for in presidential search portfolio."

In meetings with MSU faculty, staff and students, he said, stakeholders indicated they "wanted someone who would be a champion for the university" and who understood rural issues and settings. The five candidates now invited to come meet with those stakeholders and interview with the committee seem to fit that mold, Pflipsen said.

The group of semifinalists was whittled down from a total applicant pool of 45 names forwarded to the committee by executive search firm AGB Search. Of those applicants, committee members asked a set of 12 to interview through a digital platform. That group, consisting of 10 men and two women, produced the remaining group, the order of whose campus visits has yet to be set.

Pflipsen said the search committee is ultimately aiming to forward three unranked names to the SBHE for their final choice.

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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