NDSU presidential candidate David Cook highlighted diversity and inclusion, athletics, research, enrollment and his vision for the university during an open forum presentation at the Memorial Union on Jan. 26. Cook, vice chancellor for public affairs and academic development at Kansas University in Lawrence, is the first of five candidates who will visit campus for interviews and meetings.
“You have an amazing foundation,” Cook said of NDSU. “Great things are happening here. I can tell the university is ready for that next big step. That makes it very special and exciting. (NDSU) is the kind of place I want to be.”
Cook said research, enrollment, university advancement and engagement with the community and legislators would be his top priorities as president of NDSU. He said a strong background with state and federal relations, athletics, economic development, strategic communication and marketing would help him to successfully perform the job.
As the “right hand of the chancellor” at Kansas, Cook said his role often puts him face-to-face with state and federal legislators, busines owners, community members and students. He said creating relationships is vital to a president’s success.
Cook applauded NDSU athletics for national success that has created a nationally-recognized brand for the university. He works with Kansas athletics in his current role and said both academic and athletic success are important to a university.
Cook was vice chancellor of the Kansas University Edwards campus in Overland Park for several years. Before that, he spent 14 years at the University of Kansas Medical Center, including seven years as a member of the leadership cabinet. He also earned tenure as a professor at Kansas University’s School of Medicine and in the College of Liberal Arts.
A first-generation college student, Cook said it’s important to him to create educational opportunities for more students. “It’s about educating more students and changing more people’s lives,” he said of higher education. “It’s changed my life. I can get behind that every day of the week.”
Cook said he helped Kansas Edwards find ways to reach more students, leading to a 40% enrollment increase. “There are lot of strategies to do that,” he said. “It’s something I’ve done before. It’s a team effort. It’s about finding brilliant people who are smarter than you. It’s about getting everyone moving in the same direction and getting out of the way.”
Diversity, inclusivity and respect also are priorities for Cook. “As president, (diversity and inclusion) is something that’s important. We all want to do better and do more. We have to make this a welcoming place.”
Cook earned his bachelor’s degree at Iowa State University in Ames. He earned his master’s and doctorate degrees from Kansas University.
Cook was an American Council on Education Fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he studied the institution’s School of Public Health, its overall research enterprise, its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and overall community engagement. After the experience, he helped launch a diversity council at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
Other candidates also are slated to hold open forums, which are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. in Memorial Union’s Oceti Sakowin Ballroom. Debra Larson, provost and vice president of academic affairs at California State University at Chico, is scheduled to make her presentation on Thursday, Jan. 27. Michael Tidwell, immediate past president of University of Texas at Tyler, is set for Friday, Jan. 28. Hesham El-Rewin, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at Marymount University in the Washington, D.C., area, is set for Wednesday, Feb. 2. Mary Holz-Clause, chancellor for the University of Minnesota Crookston and acting executive chancellor for Crookston and University of Minnesota Morris campuses, is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 3.
The NDSU Presidential Search Committee will recommend an unranked slate of finalists to the State Board of Higher Education. The board will conduct final interviews on the NDSU campus on Wednesday, Feb. 23, with the selection of the next NDSU president announced thereafter. It is anticipated that the new NDSU president will assume office in June.
For more information or to watch video of any of the candidate presentations, visit the Presidential Search web page.
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