116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS - Just two years after being named chancellor at Montana State University Billings, Mark Nook is being considered for the top job at the University of Northern Iowa.
The Board of Regents on Wednesday identified Nook as the third and final candidate for the post that opened up over the summer when former UNI President Bill Ruud announced plans to become president of the private Marietta College in Ohio.
Before moving west for the Montana position, Nook developed a portfolio of academic experience in the Midwest - including at Iowa State University, where he earned his master's degree in astrophysics.
Nook earned his bachelor's degree in physics and mathematics from Southwest Minnesota State University and a doctorate in astronomy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
His first professional position was with Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, serving as physics instructor, according to his online biography. He launched his career in public higher education at St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minnesota, as an assistant professor of physics, astronomy, and engineering sciences.
In St. Cloud, he also served as director of the observatory and planetarium, department chairman, secretary of the faculty, and dean of undergraduate studies. He went on to become provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and then interim chancellor for a year.
Before taking up the chancellor duties at MSU Billings, Nook was senior vice president for academic and student affairs at the University of Wisconsin System. That system of public universities - which includes two doctoral research universities, 11 comprehensive universities, and 13 freshman-sophomore colleges - is among the nation's largest public higher education systems, enrolling more than 182,000 students and employing more than 32,000 faculty and staff.
MSU Billings, meanwhile, is much smaller. Its five colleges reported a head count of 4,163 in the spring 2016 semester. That continued a downward trend for the campus, which has seen year-after-year enrollment declines since peaking at more than 5,300 students in the 2010-2011 school year.
The fall 2016 head count was 4,366 - a 1.4 percent drop from the prior year.
Nook has set goals of increasing enrollment and growing the university profile, and in February laid out prospects for improving student retention and graduation rates to that end.
UNI shares similar goals, as it, too, is looking to enroll more students and grow its profile regionally and nationally.
UNI, though, is much bigger - reporting a fall enrollment more than two and a half times the Billings student body.
Nook is scheduled to visit the UNI campus Thursday to participate in campuswide meetings and a public forum at 2:30 p.m.
A 21-member search committee is to then review campus feedback on the three finalists - Nook, Interim UNI President Jim Wohlpart and former Temple University President Neil Theobald - and make a report to the Board of Regents on Monday.
The board is expected to choose a new UNI president on the Cedar Falls campus Tuesday.