NU regents set to approve presidential search committee members Thursday

By: - October 18, 2023 2:43 pm

Regent Tim Clare, chair of the NU Board of Regents. Oct. 5, 2023. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

LINCOLN — The University of Nebraska Board of Regents is set to approve a search committee Thursday to find the university’s ninth president.

University of Nebraska President Ted Carter. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

The list of proposed committee members, released Wednesday ahead of this week’s meeting, primarily includes the regents and the respective student and faculty leaders at each NU campus. 

The proposed makeup differs from the last presidential search committees in 2019 and 2014. 

The Presidential Search Advisory Committee is designed to assist the regents in selecting the next NU president and is charged with broadly consulting the university’s principal constituencies. The composition is set by the board and is expected to include administrators, faculty, students, the University of Nebraska Foundation and the general public.

2023 proposed search members

The 2023 committee — proposed by Regents Jim Scheer of Norfolk, Jack Stark of Omaha, Barbara Weitz of Omaha and Kathy Wilmot of Beaver City — lists 22 members. They include the eight elected regents, all four student regents and the faculty senate presidents across NU’s four campuses.

The students and faculty are: 

  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln: Paul Pechous, 7-12 special education major, and Kelli Kopocis, assistant professor of practice in the Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction.
  • University of Nebraska at Omaha: Hakim Lotoro, molecular biology and biomedical sciences major, and William Melanson, associate professor of philosophy.
  • University of Nebraska at Kearney: Temo Molina, political science and business administration double major, and Chris Extrom, professor of inorganic chemistry.
  • University of Nebraska Medical Center: Katie Schultis, medical student, and Amar Natarajan, professor in the Eppley Institute.

The remaining six members include leaders from industry sectors in Lincoln, Omaha, Norfolk, Gothenburg and Gering:

  • Leah Barrett, president of Northeast Community College (Norfolk).
  • Scott McPheeters, ag producer and vice chair of the Nebraska Ethanol Board (Gothenburg).
  • Heath Mello, president and CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber and previous vice president for external relations at NU (Omaha).
  • Jane Miller, chair-elect of the University of Nebraska Foundation (Omaha)
  • Rob Otte, general counsel of US Property Inc. (Lincoln)
  • John Stinner, retired president and CEO of Valley Bank and Trust Co. of Gering (Gering)

Mello and Stinner are former state senators, as is Scheer of Norfolk.

Regent Tim Clare of Lincoln, current chair of the board, will lead the committee. He did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Previous search committees

This year’s search committee composition appears to deviate from the membership selected in the most recent searches, which brought Hank Bounds and Ted Carter to Nebraska.

For example, the 2019 committee — chaired by then-Regent and now-Gov. Jim Pillen — included 23 members consisting of just four regents, one student regent and one Faculty Senate president. 

The remaining members included deans, an associate athletic director for football at UNL, UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey Gold, a third-year medical student and businesses such as the Nebraska Farm Bureau and Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

During the 2014 search, the regents and student regents divided themselves among two committees: a Presidential Search Outreach and Advisory Committee and a Presidential Search Screening and Selection Committee.

Clare and former Regent Bob Phares of North Platte chaired the first with 21 members; former Regent Howard Hawks of Omaha chaired the second with 13 members.

Each committee included administrators (chancellors or deans) and a broader array of faculty across NU’s campuses. They did not include students beyond the student regents.

The Nebraska Legislature in 2016 changed future searches to require NU to name only one priority candidate for top university positions, including NU president and campus chancellors, so the committees had to find multiple public candidates in 2014.

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Zach Wendling
Zach Wendling

Zach Wendling recently graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a double major in journalism and political science. He has interned for The Hill and The News Station in Washington, D.C. He reported for the Nebraska News Service and The Daily Nebraskan before joining the Nebraska Examiner staff as an intern.