A year into the search for its next president, the University of New Mexico has settled on a list of finalists.
The school’s Board of Regents on Friday identified the top five candidates for the job, a pool that includes the University of Idaho president, the University of Missouri provost, leaders from academic health systems in California and New York, plus the former provost of Lehman College.
Each of the five candidates have scheduled on-campus interviews and open forums this month. Regents are expected to make a hiring decision the week of Oct. 30-Nov. 3.
The chosen candidate will become the university’s 22nd president, and the eighth person in that job – counting interims – since 1998.
Finalists, and the date they will host their open forums at UNM’s Student Union Building, are:
• Dr. David A. Brenner, Monday, Oct. 9, 1:15 to 2:30 p.m.
Brenner, a gastroenterologist, has since 2007 served as University of California San Diego’s vice chancellor for health sciences and School of Medicine dean. His oversight includes a pharmacy school and UC San Diego Health, which has about 9,000 employees and includes three hospitals, a cancer center and clinics, according to its website. A graduate of Yale University’s School of Medicine, he has also taught at Columbia University and been editor-in-chief of the journal “Gastroenterology.”
• Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 1:15 to 2:30 p.m.
Since 2010, Kaushansky has been Stony Brook University’s senior vice president of health sciences and medical school dean. The Stony Brook Medicine network encompasses six schools, two hospitals, a children’s hospital and clinics. He held prior positions at the University of Washington and University of California San Diego. He attended medical school at the University of California Los Angeles.
• Anny Morrobel-Sosa, Ph.D., Tuesday, Oct. 10, 1:15 to 2:30 p.m.
She is founder and president of The Micaela Group, a consulting firm that works with universities, colleges and school districts on aligning their mission “with organizational structure and resources” and on recruiting and developing women and minority faculty and students in STEM disciplines. She was previously provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the City University of New York’s Lehman College, 2012-16, and the College of Science dean at the University of Texas at El Paso, 2007-12. Morrobel-Sosa earned her doctorate in physical chemistry from University of Southern California. She has been a finalist for at least two other president positions in the past year: Salem (Mass.) State University and West Chester (Penn.) University.
• Charles “Chuck” Staben, Ph.D., Tuesday, Oct. 17, 1:15 to 2:30 p.m.
Staben has been president of the University of Idaho since 2014. The land-grant institution in Moscow, Idaho, has about 12,000 students and its total operating budget in 2016 was $470 million. He had former positions as provost at University of South Dakota and associate vice president for research at University of Kentucky. He has a doctorate in biochemistry from University of California Berkeley. He made national news last year with his decision to drop the Idaho football team from the Football Bowl Subdivision to the Football Championship Subdivision starting in 2018.
• Garnett Stokes, Ph.D., Monday, Oct. 23, 1:15 to 2:30 p.m.
Stokes has served the past 2½ years as provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Missouri, though she recently spent two months as interim chancellor at the school with approximately 30,000 students. She came to Missouri from Florida State University, where she was provost and executive vice president for academic affairs from 2011 to 2015, briefly stepping into the role of interim president. She has a doctorate in industrial/organizational psychology from University of Georgia.
UNM Board of Regents President Rob Doughty called the finalists a “very accomplished group.”
“The search committee found them to be outstanding candidates with great enthusiasm for UNM and its future,” Doughty said in a prepared statement.
The Journal emailed interview requests to each finalist Friday afternoon. Stokes responded that she did not have time for an immediate interview but that she was “honored to have been chosen as a finalist” and eager to meet the community during her visit later this month. Morrobel-Sosa said she is currently in the Dominican Republic. Staben said he was in meetings Friday afternoon.
Kaushansky said it was too premature for an interview, but that he “thoroughly believe(s) in the incredible potential of the University of New Mexico to make a huge impact on the lives of its students and graduates, and through them, on the well-being of the entire state.” An attempt to reach Brenner through a UC San Diego spokesman was unsuccessful.
One notable candidate who did not make the finals is New Mexico Higher Education Secretary Barbara Damron, who had expressed her interest in the position earlier this year after she said multiple people nominated her for the job.
The regents chose the finalists this week, working from a slate of semifinalists picked by a search committee made up of approximately 20 people from both inside and outside the university. The university also paid $111,000 in fees and expenses to a professional search firm, Isaacson, Miller, to help in the process.
Committee member Ray Birmingham, UNM’s head baseball coach, said he felt the process was professional, fair and represented a number of constituencies.
“I wish we could’ve done it sooner, but it’s going to get done and … everybody took it serious, because this is very important for not only the university of New Mexico but the state,” he said.
UNM has had a rocky couple of years. Its state appropriation has shrunk by about $27 million, or 8 percent, since 2016, and it has reduced staff positions by about 13.5 percent in that period. It is operating under the terms of a U.S. Justice Department agreement following a federal investigation into its handling of sexual assault claims, and both state Auditor Tim Keller and New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas launched investigations this year into financial management of its athletic department.
Doughty said each candidate has a full day of meetings when they visit campus this month. They have scheduled sessions with top administrators, deans, faculty, Health Sciences Center representatives, regents and others. They are not meeting with Gov. Susana Martinez or anyone in her administration, Doughty said.
The regents will solicit feedback from the groups the candidates meet. They are also collecting online surveys to get additional input from the campus community. More information is available at presidentialsearch.unm.edu.
The regents’ pick will take the UNM reins from Chaouki Abdallah, who has served as interim president since January. Abdallah, the school’s provost, succeeded Bob Frank, who left at the end of 2016 – about five months before his five-year contract expired – after a dispute with regents. He had already announced his plans not to pursue a new contract. His annual salary as president was $362,136.
Doughty said he could not yet say when the new president might start, and that the salary and benefits will be negotiated at the time of the offer.
The board “is very aware of the University’s financial situation and will ensure that executive compensation is fair and reasonable,” Doughty said in a statement.