After seven months of nationwide searches, public input and campus visits, Laurie Nichols was selected as the next University of Wyoming president Friday morning.
“I think it’s right person, right time,” Provost David Jones said. “I think Dr. Nichols — her experiences, her strengths — are a good fit for what the university needs.”
Nichols spent the last seven years as provost at South Dakota State University. As current UW Provost, Jones noted some experiences and skills she could bring to the presidential position.
“Any time you come up from a provost position, you have a good understanding of how the academic side works,” he said. “You have had more hands-on experience with pretty much everything that’s gone on at the campus.”
Although a final contract is not complete, her annual base salary will be $350,000 with a $48,000 housing allowance, a $25,000 retention payment and a $35,000 contribution to a deferred compensation plan, according to a UW news release.
Nichols will be the first woman to serve as president at UW. Trustee President Dave Palmerlee called Nichols immediately after the meeting, and she accepted the offer.
“She was very excited — over the top,” he said.
Public input was paramount to the search process, Trustee John MacPherson said.
“This morning, the board listened to representatives from the staff, student faculty and student senate who reviewed, before the board, the qualifications and impressions each of their constitutes had as a result of the on-campus interviews, and those comments were all taken into consideration in a deliberation the board engaged in,” he said.
The open presidential search, the first of its kind at UW, was almost universally praised by trustees and the campus community.
“The board is extremely pleased with the process from start to finish,” Trustee President Dave Palmerlee said. “It was very successful. As Tucker Readdy said to us, it could be used as a model for other universities for presidential selection.”
The process began with hiring the search firm Storbeck/Pimentel to find a pool of qualified candidates. Two search committees comprised of trustees, faculty, staff, students and community members sifted through the applications and conducted interviews. Three finalists — Nichols, Jeremy Haefner, provost at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, and Duane Nellis, president of Texas Tech University in Lubbock — visited campus, speaking about themselves and answering community questions.
“We had three wonderful candidates, we would be privileged to have any one of the three,” Palmerlee said. “You are aware of the extensive process we went through, finishing up this morning, and we just coalesced around Dr. Nichols.”
Although the process was long, MacPherson said it was worth it.
“We had a robust discussion, but you saw it was a unanimous decision on the board,” he said. “It’s a long process and a detailed process, but an open process … we took all that into consideration and, ultimately, made our decision. I, personally, believe the board came to the right decision.”
The next steps fall into President Dick McGinity’s lap with developing a transition plan meant to inform Nichols of important UW objectives and happenings before she takes office July 1.
“We have an outline of it, but now that we know who is going to be my successor, we’ll begin the process of laying it out in the next months,” he said.
Overall, the Trustees are excited about the selection and the help the community provided.
“I speak not only for myself but the entire board when I express our feelings of gratitude and appreciation to all those who were involved in this process,” MacPherson said. “Your input and comments were and are sincerely appreciated.”