Nichols becomes finalist in Idaho presidential search

Staff Reports

SDSU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Laurie Nichols is one of five finalists for the presidential opening at the University of Idaho.

It would not be the first time Nichols has served as a president, 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. 

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

SDSU President David Chicoine briefed university employees of Nichols’ candidacy as a finalist in his “Monday Morning Message” on Sept. 30. 

“Many of us have benefited from Laurie’s work,” Chicoine wrote. “Her leadership and experience make it seem inevitable that she will serve as a university president someday. I wish her the best as the process unfolds.”

From 1994 to 2008, Nichols served as both dean and professor in the College of Family & Consumer Sciences at SDSU. During that time, among other items, her college raised $3 million annually for scholarship programs, retention within the college went up 8 percent and created a new Ph.D. program in nutritional sciences. Nichols graduated from SDSU in 1978, earning a bachelor’s of science degree in Home Economics Education and then received her Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Colorado State and Ohio State University, respectively. 

The other finalists include Donald L. Birx, the chancellor at Penn State University – Erie; Jack McGillen Payne, the senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources at the University of Florida; James L. Applegate, a consultant for the Lumina Foundation for higher education and Chuck Staben, provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of South Dakota. 

Idaho has 11,408 students on its main campus and is the state’s land-grant school with 130 undergraduate degrees and 126 graduate degrees. The school’s Board of Regents is expected to name a replacement this month after each candidate participates in open forums and receptions around the state. The university has been without a president since Duane Nellis left for Texas Tech University in March for the same position.