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NDSU PRESIDENCY: Four move forward

FARGO -- A committee narrowed the list for North Dakota State University president to four semifinalists, including two with North Dakota ties. The search committee spent the weekend interviewing eight candidates and selected these four to bring ...

Dean Bresciani
Dean Bresciani

FARGO -- A committee narrowed the list for North Dakota State University president to four semifinalists, including two with North Dakota ties.

The search committee spent the weekend interviewing eight candidates and selected these four to bring to campus in late April and early May for further interviews:

- Dean Bresciani, adjunct professor and former vice president for student affairs for Texas A&M University.

- John Gardner, vice president for economic development and global engagement for Washington State University and former director of the NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center .

- Gary Miller, provost and vice president for academic affairs and research at Wichita (Kan.) State University.

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- Bill Ruud, president of Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania and a Grand Forks native.

The committee cut from consideration Richard Davenport, president of Minnesota State University, Mankato; Tom Keon, business dean for the University of Central Florida; Priscilla Nelson, professor of civil and environmental engineering of New Jersey Institute of Technology; and Benjamin Ogles, dean of arts and sciences at Ohio University.

The most debate came with the elimination of Nelson, the only woman still in the pool and a candidate with a strong research background.

Kalpana Katti, NDSU distinguished professor of civil engineering, advocated for Nelson because of her honesty during the interview and her background with the National Science Foundation.

"We will make national news for things other than the flood if she's one of the candidates," Katti said.

Other committee members said Nelson didn't have enough experience with fundraising, working with legislators and other roles a president has.

"I would have loved to have a female candidate or a female president, but I don't think she's the right person," said Kris Sheridan, president of Park Co. Realtors.

Committee chairman Steve Swiontek said he feels good about the strength of the candidates coming to campus. On May 13, the committee will name three unranked finalists to send to the State Board of Higher Education.

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"Our work is going to be cut out for us," Swiontek said.

Here's a closer look at the candidates the committee interviewed Sunday:

- Ruud's interview started with Swiontek asking the UND alumnus where he received his undergraduate degree.

"A small teachers college up the road," joked 57-year-old Ruud, who wore an NDSU lapel pin to the interview.

Ruud, a third-generation North Dakotan who was among the finalists for the UND presidency in 1999, said he wants to come home.

"Make no mistake, I'm very happy where I am. I enjoy it. I'm not being run out of town," Ruud said. "But the opportunity to come home and give back to a state that gave me a launch is truly an honor."

- Bresciani, 50, said he was drawn to the NDSU job because it's rare to find a research university that retains its focus on students and its land-grant mission.

He and the vice presidents he worked with at Texas A&M are no longer serving as vice presidents after a new president came in with a directive to clean house, Bresciani said.

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"To this day, if the political situation was different, all of those vice presidents would be enthusiastically received back," he said.

Bresciani said if he's hired at NDSU, his message would be: "I hope you've enjoyed these last couple months off. It's time to get going again. NDSU can't sit on its heels and lick its wounds right now."

- Davenport, 64, told the committee he enjoys his current presidency but would like the opportunity to move another university forward.

"I want to really sink my teeth into a good challenge," he said.

Committee members said Davenport would be a strong fundraiser, but they had concerns about his answers to questions about research, his communication style and that he put too much emphasis on international travel.

Dalrymple writes for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Herald.

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