The State Board of Higher Education has selected David Cook as the 15th president of NDSU. The board interviewed three finalists at its meeting Feb. 23 on the NDSU campus as well as virtually due to the winter weather travel restrictions.
During his interview, Cook talked about his focus on community and the importance of students. “During my visit here, I was blown away by the deep pride the community and the state has for NDSU. There is a tremendous opportunity for partnerships and collaborations across the state,” he said. “Being agile and flexible to student needs is very important and the enrollment issue demands more attention.”
SBHE chair Casey Ryan said, “I would like to thank the co-chairs of the Presidential Search Committee and all the members who volunteered time; we owe the committee a debt of gratitude for the hundreds of hours you dedicated to the process. I have the utmost confidence in Dr. Cook’s leadership skills and commitment to the future of North Dakota State University and the entire state.”
The Search Committee was co-chaired by Jill Louters, SBHE vice chair, and Greg Lardy, NDSU vice president for Agricultural Affairs.
Louters said, “We had a committed group of representatives from all facets of the NDSU and Fargo community and we all knew that we were doing very important work for the future of North Dakota State University. I appreciate everyone who provided input to the presidential search committee. Through the process, we realized that we wanted a president who has a philosophy that is consistent with North Dakota values and has a vision that weaves into that culture. Dr. Cook is that person.”
Lardy added, “We had a dedicated, hard-working team. The campus visits consisted of a thorough interview process from every facet of stakeholders that are integral to the campus community. We held listening sessions to gain input from all facets of the community, both on campus and off, and attendees consistently focused on the importance of leadership, enrollment and research. We all joined the group to find the right leader for NDSU, and today we found the right leader.”
A total of 47 candidates were initially reviewed after meeting qualifications. Last month, five candidates each spent three days visiting campus and took part in public forums, meeting with students, faculty and staff, and interviewing with NDSU’s Presidential Search Committee. The Committee narrowed the field to three finalists on Feb.4. It is anticipated that the new NDSU president will assume office in July 2022.
About David J. Cook, Ph.D.
Cook serves as the vice chancellor for the Office of Public Affairs and Economic Development at the University of Kansas. KU is one of 66 Association of American Universities institutions in North America, comprised of 2,800 faculty, 7,200 staff and 28,100 students. The flagship institution of Kansas and Big-12 conference school has an annual budget of $1.2 billion. It has five campus locations across Kansas and supports dozens online degree programs.
Cook’s primary responsibilities are to shape and promote KU’s strategic priorities, advance the institution’s reputation and brand, and advise and represent the chancellor across stakeholders, including the Kansas Board of Regents, state and federal legislators, donors, alumni, athletics, faculty, staff and students. Cook’s economic development role focuses on growing entrepreneurship, collaborating with industry, commercialization, providing student success and experiential learning opportunities, and aligning educational offerings with workforce needs of the region to create jobs and enhance the social mobility of students and citizens of Kansas. A cornerstone of this effort is the expansion of KU’s Innovation Park, which houses more thn 60 corporate tenants and start-up companies, with plans in the next 15 years to expand over 800,000 square feet of new office and wet-lab space through a $500 million capital investment.
Prior to his current position, Cook was vice chancellor of the KU Edwards Campus in Overland Park, Kansas. Under his leadership, the Edwards Campus enrollment grew by more than 40% in six years. Growth was supported by the overhaul of enrollment management, strategic marketing, and student services and academic program development processes, which led to the launch of nearly 40 new academic degree programs and certificates – many for diverse and non-traditional students. It also involved working with shared governance and university leaders to launch a School of Professional Studies – the first new school at KU since 1993. Cook also led the university’s professional and continuing education operation, providing a broad range of non-degree education and executive trainings to 50,000 participants annually. It included the administration of the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center, a 275-acre campus that educated the majority of municipal, county and state law enforcement officers in Kansas.
Cook spent 14 years at the University of Kansas Medical Center — the final seven years as a member of the leadership cabinet. KUMC includes schools of medicine, nursing and health professions, with 2,100 faculty, 4,000 staff, 3,300 students and a $100 million research budget. Across multiple roles, he represented and led KUMC’s strategic interests with key constituents and stakeholders across Kansas, a critical function for the state’s lone academic medical center. This included creating and leading the Institute for Community Engagement which collectively enrolled more than 35,000 health professionals in accredited Continuing Education programs; connected more than 6,000 telemedicine participants; provided over 120 outreach flights for in excess of 2,000 patient consultations; and recruited dozens of physicians to practice in rural/underserved communities to alleviate health profession shortages. The institute also supported 54 active community-based grants totaling $25.3 million, typically focused on health disparities facing vulnerable populations.
Cook earned tenure in KU’s School of Medicine and was later promoted to the rank of professor in KU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. As a faculty member, he’s taught over 20 different courses in both the School of Medicine and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. His research achievements include being a Principal or Co-Principal Investigator on nearly $11 million in extramural funding. He has been funded on 30 different grants and contracts totaling nearly $31 million.
Cook was an American Council on Education Fellow at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill where he studied UNC’s School of Public Health, its overall research enterprise, its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and overall community engagement. During the fellowship, he visited and studied dozens of universities to better understand opportunities and challenges facing higher education. One specific initiative involved studying how diversity, cultural competency and professionalism were managed at other universities, bringing lessons back to KUMC to launch a Diversity Council which is still active today.
Cook earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Kansas. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Iowa State University. He lives in Olathe, Kansas, with his wife Katie. They have three children – Gage, Ella and Peyton.