Trustees Select Laurie Nichols as UW’s 26th President
An experienced educator who currently serves as the chief academic officer at South Dakota State University has been named the 26th president of the University of Wyoming.
Laurie Nichols was offered a contract by a unanimous vote of the UW Board of Trustees today (Friday) and has accepted the position. She will take office by July 1, succeeding President Dick McGinity and becoming the first woman president in UW’s history.
“This is just an incredible opportunity for me, and I am beside myself with excitement at being able to come to Wyoming,” Nichols says. “It’s a great university and a wonderful state, and I don’t think I could have found a better place and a better fit.”
“We’re delighted to have someone of Dr. Nichols’ experience and enthusiasm agree to take the reins of the University of Wyoming,” says Board of Trustees President Dave Palmerlee. “We’re confident she will work well with the trustees and UW’s many stakeholders to lift the university to new heights of excellence.”
The terms of Nichols’ contract are still being finalized, but it will be a three-year contract with an annual base salary of $350,000, a $48,000 housing allowance, a $25,000 retention payment and a $35,000 contribution to a deferred compensation plan.
Nichols has been the provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at South Dakota State since 2009, helping the university of about 12,600 students advance on a number of fronts. Before that, she was dean of the SDSU College of Education and Human Sciences from 1994 to 2008. From August 2008 through mid-June 2009, Nichols served as interim president of Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D.
She began her career in higher education as a member of the faculty of the University of Idaho from 1988 to 1994. Both South Dakota State and the University of Idaho are land-grant universities like UW; so are Colorado State University and Ohio State University, where Nichols earned her graduate degrees.
“I just really love the mission of land-grant universities -- I have spent my whole life at them, and I am a product of them,” Nichols says. “I believe in the mission of teaching, research, service and outreach, and I’m delighted that I will be leading a university that embraces that mission.”
Nichols says she looks forward to traveling around Wyoming to become more familiar with its people and issues facing the state. Her top priorities include becoming deeply familiar with UW’s budget and financial system, which has been identified for significant upgrades; addressing the need for faculty and staff salary increases; and increasing diversity among the UW workforce and student body. Those issues and many others will be addressed in a strategic planning effort she aims to undertake as soon as possible.
The trustees’ vote completed a search process that began in April, when the Board of Trustees solicited public input on the approach it should take to select a successor to McGinity. The process has included two search committees composed of members of the faculty, staff, student body, UW Foundation and community representatives; public meetings to seek input on the desired qualifications and characteristics of the next president; public meetings on campus with the three finalists; electronic voicing of input to the board from the campus community and others on the strengths and weaknesses of the finalists; and board interaction with leaders of the UW Faculty Senate, Staff Senate and Associated Students of UW.
“The most consistent feedback I received from UW faculty was about how much they appreciated the presidential selection process. It opened up genuine and meaningful dialogue about the current opportunities and challenges at UW as well as the next president’s role in moving the university forward,” says Tucker Readdy, chair of the UW Faculty Senate. “The faculty expressed excitement about the unique strengths that Dr. Nichols possesses, and we look forward to welcoming her into the University of Wyoming family.”
Nichols was born and raised in South Dakota. A first-generation college graduate, she received a bachelor’s degree in education from South Dakota State in 1978. She then earned a master’s degree in vocational and adult education from Colorado State University in 1984 and a Ph.D. in family and consumer sciences education from Ohio State University in 1988.
She and her husband, Tim, have two college-age daughters.
Arrangements are being made for Nichols to visit the UW campus again in the near future. She plans to make periodic visits to UW before she takes office later in 2016.
“We will develop a transition plan that will include me sitting down with people around the campus and the state to learn more about the university and the state,” Nichols says. “That way, by the time I start, I’ll be a little further down the path.”
About Laurie Nichols
-- 2009-present: Provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, South Dakota State University.
-- 2008-2009: Interim president, Northern State University.
-- 1994-2008: Dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences, South Dakota State University.
-- 1988-1994: Assistant and associate professor in the School of Family and Consumer Sciences, University of Idaho.
-- 1986-1988: Graduate assistant in home economics education, Ohio State University.
-- Ph.D. in family and consumer sciences education, Ohio State University, 1988.
-- M.Ed. in vocational and adult education, Colorado State University, 1984.
-- B.S. in education, South Dakota State University, 1978.