Three new faces at SDSU

Ruth Brown

Ruth Brown

Laurie Nichols

Provost Laurie Nichols officially took over her position as SDSU’s new provost on June 22. After spending 15 years as the dean of the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, Nichols has grown to have a passion for SDSU.

“Being a dean for so long was critical to my new position as provost,” said Nichols. “I really became very connected to the students and academics at the university.”

Last year, Nichols took a leave of absence for one year to take the position of the interim president for Northern State University in Aberdeen.

“I really enjoyed working at Northern, but it is nothing like SDSU,” said Nichols. “It’s a great school but was much more of a liberal arts campus than SDSU was. I found through working there that I was a much more versatile person than I thought I was.

“I did miss the people at SDSU though; and I missed watching the football and basketball games,” said Nichols. “Even though I was at Northern last year, I was definitely still cheering for the girls’ basketball team when they did so well in the tournament.”

Nichols said she has numerous goals that she would like to see on campus in her time as provost.

“Working with the president (David Chicoine), one of our major goals is to enhance the quality of our academic programs,” Nichols said. “There are a handful of programs that aren’t yet accredited, so that is something that I would like to see happen.”

Another goal of Nichols’ is to continue to push the university to grow as a research institution.

“We really are the research facility for South Dakota,” Nichols said. “I just think that we have some great programs and we are really making an effort to improve their facilities and continue to help the research programs improve.”

Nichols said that one of the best improvements is the renovation of Shepard Hall with its new labs as well as the Avera Health and Science Center, which will be used for teaching.

“I just hope that our students leave SDSU feeling like they have had a successful education and really hit the ground running,” Nichols said.

An additional goal of Nichols’ is to improve how SDSU’s faculty and programs are organized.

“An example of that is that we recently split the College of Family and Consumer Sciences into two colleges,” said Nichols. “The new college is called the College of Education and Human Sciences.

“I would also like to roll out a really great leadership program at SDSU,” Nichols said. “We want to empower both students and faculty.”

Recently, SDSU started a program called Lead State, which is a group of about 50 sophomores who work together to improve their leadership skills.

“Everyone involved with Lead State is very enthused about the program and they are just a great group of people,” said Nichols. “They really hope to keep it going and get more people involved.”

Nichols is originally from the Colman/Flandreau, S.D., area and she did her undergraduate work at SDSU with a degree in home economics education. She later taught in Hill City, S.D.

Nichols earned her master’s degree from Colorado State University in continuing and adult education. Her Ph.D. came from Ohio State University in family studies and human development.

Nichols said she is looking forward to continuing to meet more people in her new position and form a strong network of communication.

“I really am a people person and I enjoy face time with people,” Nichols said. “The students here are just so great because they really, for the most part, come from normal and modest backgrounds.

“They don’t assume that anything is just handed to them because of where they came from,” said Nichols. “They just work really hard and end up doing the greatest of things; I find it so refreshing.”

Some of Nichols’ hobbies include running every morning and spending time with her family. Nichols has two daughters, 13-year-old Hannah and 15-year-old Jordan. Her husband, Tim Nichols, is the dean of the Honors College at SDSU.

“Another interesting thing about me is that I make a mean strawberry rhubarb pie,” joked Nichols.

Joel Rauber

Joel Rauber, was named head of the Physics Department at SDSU on July 10 after years of working in the Physics Department.

“I came to SDSU in the fall of 1985 and I have really enjoyed my students and colleagues in teaching,” said Rauber.

Rauber will be teaching courses including Quantum Mechanics this fall, but he said his favorite course to teach is Relativity, because his graduate work focused on that topic.

Rauber earned his bachelor’s degree in physics at Emory University, in his hometown of Atlanta, Ga., and earned his Ph.D. in physics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“I always had an interest in science and in academia for that matter,” Rauber said. “I have been teaching since I was in graduate school.”

Rauber said that he hopes to strengthen enrollment and see the undergraduate physics program grow.

Last year, the Physics Department got a Masters of Science in physics and Rauber said he hopes to see a doctorate in physics program eventually.

“We used to have an engineering degree with an emphasis in physics, but now that we have the graduate program for physics I really hope to see it grow,” said Rauber.

Something else Rauber has hopes for is a nuclear engineering major.

“Currently most of the nuclear plants were built in the ’60s and ’70s, so most of the people running them are nearing retirement age and there will be a need to replace them,” said Rauber. “With this need, a nuclear engineering major could be very useful. It’s interesting because although nuclear energy is radioactive, it can actually be a very clean source of energy when used properly.

“A nuclear engineering major could be very useful for students; it’s important for them to be educated in a broad area of physics,” said Rauber.

Rauber’s wife, Maria Ramos, is the department head of modern languages at SDSU and together they have an 8-year-old daughter, Anna.

“I have really enjoyed my time spent in Brookings,” said Rauber. “I like the community and the university’s students and teachers.”

Justin Sell

Another new face at SDSU is Justin Sell, who replaced Fred Oien as the athletic director.

“I really hope to continue to build momentum in the change from being a Division II to Division I school,” said Sell. “I think SDSU has a great athletic department and I am looking forward to seeing some positive improvements.”

Sell joined SDSU on May 29 after working at the University of Northern Iowa for 10 years.

“When I heard about the position opening the first thing I did was go to the school’s Web site and read their mission statement,” said Sell. “I thought that I would fit in to the campus and the mission of the institution very well and my family and I have really liked being here.”

Sell said after reading the mission statement he felt that SDSU was a place where he would want to work.

“Something I have really learned to love about SDSU is people’s values and their work ethic,” said Sell. “People are so passionate about this school and I really love everything about it.”

Sell moved here with his wife and four children, who are between the ages of 8 and 13.

“Brookings is really a great place to raise a family and the people have been really great,” said Sell. “The people are what really make a difference.”

Some other goals that Sell has for the athletic department include increasing Jackrabbit Club membership and ticket sales; as well as seeing the academic performance of student athletes improve.

“I think we really need to prepare to make people understand what happens next with the transition into a Division I school,” said Sell. “The success of the athletic department depends on the efforts of everyone. This is something I can’t do alone.”

Sell also said he has plans to improve communication between the athletic department and faculty, staff and students as well as meeting with coaches.

“We have a really great athletic department right now, and I feel like I’m here to just help it continue growing,” Sell said.

#1.881592:3646263228.jpg:JUSTIN SELL MUG.jpg:Justin Sell is the new athletic director for SDSU. He hopes to continue to improve SDSU’s transition in becoming a Division-I school. :Courtesy Photo