UND presidential candidate Laurie Stenberg Nichols spent part of Tuesday, Nov. 19, talking about how the University of Wyoming increased enrollment during her time as president and what UND could do to follow suit.
Nichols, interim president at Black Hills State University and former president of the University of Wyoming, spent time talking with students, staff and community members Tuesday to round out her interviews on campus.
During the community forum, Nichols spoke about enrollment and enrollment issues at the University of Wyoming. When Nichols first arrived on the Laramie, Wyo.-campus she was faced with a budget crisis and had to make around $50 million worth of cuts, to go along with those cuts Wyoming was projecting to lose about 600 students before Nichols arrived on campus. The university ultimately lost about 200 to 250 students that year, Nichols said.
However, seeing a declining enrollment for several years before she arrived in Wyoming, Nichols said the university chose to create a strategic enrollment plan. Nichols said the university brought in an outside firm to help UW build the strategic plan
“If you take the time to do a really good strategic enrollment plan, you really have a great road map in front of you for how we can stabilize enrollment, and then grow it over time,” she said.
Enrollment ultimately grew on campus at the University of Wyoming, and Nichols credits part of that rise to the strategic enrollment plan. Nichols said she was unaware if UND had a strategic enrollment plan, but encouraged the university to consider putting one together if it did not.
Nichols was also provost of South Dakota State University in Brookings, S.D., for several years..
If Nichols were to be selected as president, she would be the first female president in UND history.
Nichols also met with students and staff on Tuesday. It completes her two-day visit to the campus.
During the staff meeting, one audience member asked Nichols about her contract with the University of Wyoming.
Nichols said she didn’t want to speculate on the reason the contract was not renewed because she still does not know why the decision was made.
Wyoming’s Board of Trustees, similar to North Dakota’s Board of Higher Education, chose not to renew Nichols' contract earlier this year. Little information has been made available publicly about the split, but the Casper Star Tribune reported in September that an apparent quiet investigation was being conducted regarding Nichols. Nichols told the Herald Monday, she was not aware of any investigation at that time.
During the staff meeting, she again encouraged people to read more about the decision.
Nichols was the fourth of six candidates set to interview for the UND presidency. Robert Marley, Chuck Staben and David Rosowsky were on campus last week to meet with the campus community. On Wednesday, Paul Tikalsky and Andrew Armacost will be meeting with students, faculty, staff and community members as the interview process winds down at the school.
The UND search committee will meet Friday, likely whittling the number of candidates to three. Those three finalists will then be interviewed by the State Board of Higher Education during a Dec. 3 meeting on the UND campus. The board is expected to name a president then.