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With University of Northern Iowa Provost Jim Wohlpart headed west to lead Central Washington University — already delivering video messages to that campus and participating in Zoom introductions with students, faculty and staff — UNI is in hot pursuit of a successor.
The campus has chosen four finalists to visit the Cedar Falls campus this week and next.
Vandana Kohli — dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at California State University Channel Islands, just up the coast from Los Angeles — participated in a public forum Wednesday afternoon.
Kelly J. Burke, vice provost and dean of the graduate college at University of North Carolina Greensboro, participated in one Thursday.
The third and fourth finalists are scheduled to participate in public forums at the same time May 3 and May 5. Their names will be made public 24 hours before their campus visits.
Wohlpart on Jan. 14 announced he’s leaving UNI in June to take over as president of the Ellensburg, Wash., public university. Central Washington that day also announced its 15th presidential hire and released a video-recorded message from Wohlpart, who also participated in hourlong Zoom conversations with students, faculty and staff.
In Wohlpart’s message to Central Washington, he touted his new campus’ leadership priorities as attracting him to the job — including its desire for someone with deep commitment to inclusion and diversity; who values transparency and shared governance; and has a record of supporting sustainability.
Addressing his inclusion and diversity priorities, Wohlpart said, “Our democracy is frayed.”
“As an institution of higher education, we can be a catalyst in the project of weaving this tattered cloth back together so that our country can realize its deepest dream,” he said. “In order to create this forward-looking vision for higher education, and for Central Washington University to be a model for other institutions of higher education, together we must rethink how leadership happens across our university, elevating shared governance and communal decision-making.”
Inviting everyone in the campus community to “become a leader in place,” Wohlpart praised the “Wildcat Way,” referencing that school’s mascot.
“I have already experienced, though in a limited way through the search process, the welcoming nature of the Wildcat community,” he said. “As we develop our vision for the future, we have the opportunity to expand our capacity for openheartedness to ensure that all whom we welcome into our community truly feels that they belong.”
Wohlpart earned a bachelor’s and doctorate in English and philosophy from the University of Tennessee — getting a master’s in English at Colorado State University in between. He’s served as UNI provost since 2015 — including a stint as interim UNI president, a job for which he was one of three finalists.
The board went with UNI President Mark Nook, and Wohlpart returned to his provost position — where he in 2020 earned $280,251, according to a state database. As Central Washington president, according to his new contract, Wohlpart will make an annual salary of $400,000 — plus benefits and up to $20,000 in travel and moving expenses.
Nook is earning an annual salary of $357,110 — but his package includes a deferred compensation payout that will top $700,000 in 2025.
Wohlpart’s new initial three-year contract has his tenure as president officially starting June 21 and running through July 31, 2024 — with the option to extend.
Both campuses are four-year public universities.
UNI, which awards doctorate degrees, reported a fall undergraduate full-time equivalent of 7,749 students. Central Washington, which awards as its highest degree a master’s or postmasters certificate, reported a fall undergraduate full-time tally of 9,235.
Both of the UNI provost finalists who have been named have spent some time in the Midwest.
Kohli — although teaching and leading since the early 2000s at California State in Los Angeles, Bakersfield, and Channel Islands — earned her doctorate at Michigan State University in demography. Before that, she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in India at Lucknow and Panjab universities.
Burke has been an administrator at the University of North Carolina Greensboro for decades and on faculty there since 1989. Before that, she earned an associate of arts in music from Onondaga Community College; a bachelor of music from Eastman School of Music; a master of music from Eastman; and a doctorate of musical arts from the University of Michigan.
Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.
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