Sixty-one candidates applied to become the next president of UND. The field has been pared to three finalists, who will meet this week with the State Board of Higher Education.
Remaining are Andrew Armacost, former dean of faculty at the Air Force Academy; Laurie Stenberg Nichols, interim president at Black Hills State and former president at the University of Wyoming; and David Rosowsky, former provost and current professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Vermont.
Tuesday, the board is expected to decide who will be the 13th full-time president in UND’s history.
Our choice? Armacost.
Armacost oversaw instruction for 4,000 cadets in 32 academic disciplines at the Air Force Academy, according to an Air Force press release upon his retirement earlier this year. He directed the operation of five support staff agencies and faculty resources involving more than $350 million, the release noted.
A brigadier general, his appearance at UND was decidedly without any hint of military flair. We find that important, since a traditional military management approach likely will not gain favor on the Grand Forks campus. He said his leadership model is “love your people.” That Armacost is widely known as “Uncle Andy” adds to his appeal on a public university campus.
Decision-making in the military is entirely different than decision-making on a public university campus. While presidents have the final say, the best method is to make a decision after hearing all concerns and, at times, after building consensus. He seems to understand and embrace this.
Armacost spoke of his commitment to student success. He noted the Air Force Academy doesn’t always, as widely believed, get the absolute best students. Yet in his role he was chiefly responsible for molding all cadets into the next wave of the nation’s leaders.
Importantly, he said he has been active in affinity groups, including talking with minority and LGBT students.
His 30-year background in the Air Force is a good fit for UND, one of the top aeronautics schools in the nation. Having an Air Force veteran leading the local campus could provide a firm relationship between the local Air Force base and the university, and also could be beneficial if the nation pursues President Donald Trump’s dream of a Space Force.
He comes without any apparent baggage.
The other two finalists would make fine presidents. They obviously are experienced and talented, but also come with risks that Armacost doesn’t appear to have.
Nichols, especially, has the requisite background and the regional ties so many seek. Her public appearances went well, but nobody knows why her contract wasn’t renewed at Wyoming. Even she said she doesn’t know.
Without specifics, putting her in the top position at UND would be a gamble.
In his previous role as provost and senior vice president at Vermont, Rosowsky had a vote of no-confidence from a small number of faculty related to his work on a controversial budget model. We don’t see that as an unforgivable glitch on his resume, but we also don’t feel his current role as an engineering professor stacks up to Armacost’s leadership resume.
The prudent choice is Armacost.