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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published March 25 2010

Hanson, Coston eliminated from NDSU president search

The next North Dakota State University president will come from the outside.

The search committee decided in split votes Wednesday to eliminate interim President Dick Hanson and Vice President D.C. Coston from consideration.

A majority of committee members said Hanson and Coston do not have the credentials or the breadth of experience the other candidates bring.

Six candidates will be invited for interviews April 10-11 in Fargo.

The committee will conduct reference checks on another five candidates who applied late and may interview them as well.

The vote was 5-14 in support of Hanson, with one committee member not present for the vote.

Student body president Amber Altstadt voted for Hanson and said he has established a strong connection with students.

Hanson received support from the two higher education board members on the committee but did not have votes of any NDSU faculty, staff or vice presidents.

Several said Hanson, former president of Waldorf College in Iowa, did not have the experience with large land grant institutions that other candidates bring.

“I don’t think Dr. Hanson’s background or experience puts him in the same level as the other candidates,” said committee member Barry Batcheller, president and CEO of Appareo Systems.

Committee member Kalpana Katti said many faculty members have said that in recent months it feels like the momentum at NDSU has ended.

“It feels like a feeling of doom is on us every day,” said Katti, distinguished professor of civil engineering.

Kevin McCaul, dean of science and math, said if committee members had seen Hanson’s application without him already being at NDSU, he would have been cut from the search earlier.

“He does not have the breadth of experience that we’re looking for,” McCaul said.

Higher Education Board President Richie Smith supported Hanson, saying he’s a known commodity and he’s stood up to the pressure of several challenges in his time as interim president.

Hanson did not return a call seeking comment.

The vote was 4-16 in support of Coston. The main criticism was that his background was too narrow.

Some committee members said it was a mistake not to advance the internal candidates.

“It’s a bit disappointing that those two internal candidates did not make the cut,” said member Paul Langseth, vice chairman for the State Board of Agriculture Research and Extension.

In an interview after the meeting, Coston said he looks forward to his future at NDSU.

“Needless to say, I’m disappointed, but I’m enjoying my time here, and I’ll look forward to continuing to serve North Dakota and North Dakota State University with vigor and energy,” Coston said.

The goal is for the next president to begin by fall semester. Hanson is serving as interim president through June 30.

The committee will forward at least three names for the full higher education board to consider.

Current candidates

The NDSU president search committee will invite these six candidates for interviews:

- Dean Bresciani, 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.

- Thomas Keon, dean of business administration for the University of Central Florida.

- Priscilla Nelson, professor of civil and environmental engineering and former provost of New Jersey Institute of Technology.

- Benjamin Ogles, dean of arts and sciences at Ohio University.

- William Ruud, president of Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania.

Committee members will do reference checks on these five candidates who were added late to the search. The committee will meet Tuesday to determine if they want to invite some or all of them for interviews.

- Richard Davenport, president of Minnesota State University, Mankato.

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

- Michael O’Brien, dean of the College of Arts and Science, University of Missouri, Columbia.

- Vishwanath Prasad, vice president for research and economic development, University of North Texas, Denton.

- Colin Scanes, vice chancellor of research and economic development and dean of the graduate school, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590