Nichols not selected for Idaho top job

Marcus Traxler Editor-in-Chief


 SDSU provost and vice president for academic affairs Laurie Nichols was not selected as the next president of the University of Idaho Monday, after a month as one of five finalists in the search. 

UI announced that its new president would be Chuck Staben, provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of South Dakota. 

Nichols said Tuesday that the experience in being a finalist in Idaho will only benefit her going forward. 

“I learned a great deal about what it takes to interview for a presidential position and in doing so, I was able to assess 


 doing so, I was able to assess my strengths and weaknesses so that I know how I might improve in the future,” she said.

She said the interview process was an enlightening one and that she believes that seeing the university up close affirmed that SDSU is on a solid course in higher education. 

“Obviously, doing one’s homework is very important in preparing for an interview so I learned quite a bit about the University of Idaho in this process,” Nichols said. “I found that learning about one of SDSU’s peers provided new ideas and also confirmed for me things that we are doing very well at SDSU.”

The opportunity at UI, which is located in Moscow in the northern Palouse region of the state on the Idaho-Washington border, was a chance for Nichols to old return to old stomping grounds. She was an associate professor at UI from 1988-1994. 

Nichols has president experience, albeit on an interim basis. For the 2008-09 academic year, Nichols served as the interim president at Northern State, with the understanding that she would return to SDSU after one year in Aberdeen and after NSU found a president of its own. 

Nichols visited the campus in Moscow, Idaho during October and participated in a public forum. According to The Argonaut, the student newspaper at UI, she indicated that her experience with the university was one of the reasons she applied for the position. 

“I am thrilled to be staying at SDSU and continuing in a position I completely enjoy,” Nichols said. “We have many good things happening here and I could not work with better colleagues and students.”

UI has 11,408 students on its main campus and is the state’s land-grant school with 130 undergraduate degrees and 126 graduate degrees. Staben will take over for Don Burnett, the dean of UI’s College of Law, in March under a three-year contract paying $350,000 a year. Burnett took on the role of interim president after UI’s previous president, Duane Nellis, left to become president of Texas Tech.

UI has struggled with a higher-than-normal turnover rate in the president’s post in recent years. Nellis served at the school for just four years, and his predecessor, Tim White, also served about four years.

“Land grant universities, including the University of Idaho, improve lives and strengthen our society,” said Staben in a prepared statement. “Leading this University is a privilege that I value deeply.”

Nichols thinks that Staben will be a good fit at UI. 

“I wish Chuck Staben the best as he assumes the President’s position at the University of Idaho,” she said. “Chuck is a colleague of mine and I think he will do a great job.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Associated Press contributed to this story.