The UND search committee announced its three finalists last week. Andrew Aramacost, Laurie Stenberg Nichols and David Rosowsky will interview with the State Board of Higher Education next week, but the question remains: is interim President Joshua Wynne still a candidate?
The answer from multiple board members? No.
Quiet murmurings about Wynne’s potential candidacy may finally be put to rest. Four North Dakota State Board of Higher Education members, the body that hires and fires presidents, gave definitive "no" answers when contacted by the Herald earlier this week.
Board chair Nick Hacker, board vice chair Casey Ryan, member Don Morton and student member Kaleb Dschaak all considered Wynne out of the race for full-time president.
The Herald asked Wynne several times throughout his presidency if he was considering putting his name in for consideration. During a conversation on Nov. 15, Wynne declined to give a definitive "yes" or "no" answer.
“I'm flattered by what you have indicated and I'm trying to do the right thing and the best thing for UND,” he said during the phone interview. “I do trust the process.”
But if he was interested, Wynne may have run out of time, according to multiple board members. Per board rules, to apply for the full-time position, he would first would have needed to resign the interim role. He didn't do that.
“I think there were plenty of opportunities to have been a candidate, but we’re on the final list and we have three strong candidates that I’m excited to interview,” Hacker said.
Ryan echoed Hacker’s sentiment.
“He was given the opportunity to put his name out there but he chose not to,” Casey Ryan said. “He knew he would have to resign as interim president. If his name were to be put in now it would destroy the whole search.”
Ryan said the committee does not want to start the entire process again. He said the committee has chosen strong three finalists and UND will have a new president on Dec. 3.
Ryan said there hasn’t been any talk among board members about including Wynne in the conversation.
Kaleb Dschaak, the student member on the board and a UND junior, also considers Wynne to be out of the candidate pool.
However, board member Dan Traynor wouldn’t count him out completely.
While Traynor noted that Wynne hasn’t expressed an interest to him directly. He also hasn’t had any conversations with board members about the topic since the pool was cut down last week.
When asked if Traynor believed it was too late for Wynne to be considered for the job, Traynor said:
“I think it’s late. I won’t say it’s too late,” Traynor said earlier this week.
“He's done an exceptionally good job as the interim, which we expected him to do,” Traynor said. “He's been a great leader of the medical school for all these years. And he's done exactly what the board anticipated. The fact that I'm getting people calling me telling me that he should be the selection is a credit to just the really exceptional work that he's done that we expected, frankly, he would do.”
Meanwhile, Traynor is pleased with the pool of three finalists. Traynor said Armacost, the former Air Force Academy leader, is an “exceptionally good candidate.” He added that if the board doesn’t “take the opportunity to seriously consider his application we will regret it.”
He also said he has concerns about Nichols, a former president at the University of Wyoming whose contract was not renewed. Little information is available publicly about the decision. Nichols told the Herald and to media outlets in Wyoming she does not know why the contract was not renewed.
North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott told the Herald Tuesday that Nichols has been cooperative with giving information requested by the search committee.
Kathy Neset and Tim Mihalick chose not to comment to the Herald and instead deferred to the board’s chair, Hacker, citing board policy. Jill Louters did not return a request for comment.