Five U of I presidential finalists named

Five finalists are in the running to be named president of the University of Idaho, replacing  Duane Nellis who left  in spring to become president of  at Texas Tech University.

The five are:

James Applegate, a consultant in higher education and philanthropy.

Donald Birx, chancellor and professor at Penn State Erie.

Laurie Stenberg-Nichols, provost and vice president for academic affairs, South Dakota State University

Jack Payne, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and administrative head for the Institute of Food and Agricultural Science, University of Florida.

Chuck Staben, provost and vice president for academic affairs, University of South Dakota.

The candidates will visit Idaho in October and meet with students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members.

Ed Board members plan to conduct interviews in  October and hopes to announce their decision in November.

Birx will meet in an open forum at 5:15 p.m., Oct.9 at U of I in Boise.

Payne will meet in an open forum at 5:15 p.m. Oct. 16 at U of I in Boise.

Times for the other candidates to meet in Boise have not been determined.

Here is the State Board of Education press release:



 (Boise).  The State Board of Education is pleased to announce the five (5) candidates being considered for the position as President of the University of Idaho.

The search committee was impressed by the number of outstanding applicants for the position,” said Emma Atchley, Vice President of the State Board and Chair of the presidential search committee. “I want to thank the 16 members of the committee for their diligence in assessing all those who applied. We are looking forward to having the final five candidates visit Idaho and tour University of Idaho sites across the state.”

The five candidates are listed below. More information about the candidates is available on the Presidential Search site at

James Applegate, Consultant, Higher Education/Philanthropy

Dr. Applegate currently advises national, state, and regional education and philanthropic organizations on increasing the effectiveness of programs to improve college access and success. From 2008 to 2013, Dr. Applegate was Vice President for Strategic Impact for the Lumina Foundation, the largest foundation in the United States focused solely on improving higher education. He previously served as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Senior Fellow for the Council on Postsecondary Education in Kentucky, President of the National Communication Association, and Department and Faculty Senate Chair at the University of Kentucky.  Dr. Applegate graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. in Communication and American Studies from Georgetown College and went on to earn an M.A. and Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Illinois as a University Fellow.

 Donald Birx, Chancellor and Professor, Penn State Erie

In his position at Penn State Erie, Dr. Birx has focused on building a new land grant vision that fosters relationships with industry and partnerships across the campus community. In addition, he co-founded the Center for Life-Long Learning, a modular, stackable and transferable approach to education of non-traditional students that increases diversity and access for disadvantaged students. Prior to his current position, Dr. Birx was Vice Chancellor/President for Research in the University of Houston System in Houston, Texas, and Interim Vice Provost/President for Research at New Mexico State University. He also held positions of increasing responsibility including Vice President and Team Leader of Technology and New Ventures at Systems Research Laboratories Inc., Dayton, Ohio. Dr. Birx holds a B.S. in Engineering Physics from University of California, Berkeley, an M.S. in Bio-Physics and an M.B.A. in Finance from Miami University (Ohio), and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from University of Dayton.


Laurie Stenberg-Nichols Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, South Dakota State University

Dr. Nichols serves as Chief Academic Officer for the 1862 land-grant and flagship research university for South Dakota.  Her duties include providing leadership to undergraduate and graduate academic programs, curricula, academic policies, the university’s 10-year accreditation renewal, first-time program accreditation, faculty affairs, student success, campus operations and the academic budget. Prior to her current position, Dr. Nichols served as Interim President, Northern State University, Interim Department Chair of Nutrition and Food Science at South Dakota State University, and Interim Assistant Director, School of Family and Consumer Sciences, at University of Idaho.  Dr. Nichols holds a B.S. in Home Economics Education from South Dakota State University, a Master’s in Vocational and Adult Education from Colorado State University and a Ph.D. in Family and Consumer Sciences Education from the Ohio State University.

Jack Payne, Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and Administrative Head for the Institute of Food and Agricultural Science, University of Florida

In his current position, Dr. Payne played a major role in the university’s recent $1.7 billion capital campaign. He has created interdisciplinary centers to help lead strategic change within the university’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Science (IFAS), and led efforts that resulted in record-making contracts and grants. Prior to his current position, Dr. Payne served as Vice President for Extension and Outreach and Director of the Iowa Cooperative Extension Service at Iowa State University; as Vice President for University Extension and Dean for Continuing Education at Utah State University; and as the National Director of Conservation for Ducks Unlimited. Dr. Payne holds a B.A. in Biology from Temple University, an M.S. in Aquatic Ecology and a Ph.D. in Wildlife Ecology from Utah State University.

Chuck Staben, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, University of South Dakota

Dr. Staben oversees all academic matters at the university and works with the university vice presidents on priorities and programs. He also has overall budget responsibility of approximately $40 million of state and tuition funds and recently collaborated with the university’s VP-Finance to develop a Responsibility Centered Management budget approach. While in his current position, Dr. Staben has doubled extramural research awards in Academic Affairs and established an educational site at Crazy Horse Memorial focused on Native American students. Prior to his current position, Dr. Staben served as Vice President of Research and the Chair of the Biology Department at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Staben earned a B.S. in Biochemistry from University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from University of California, Berkeley.

Each candidate will visit Idaho and meet with students, faculty and staff, alumni, and community leaders during the month of October. More information about the campus visits is available at

The State Board of Education will interview the five finalists in late October and hopes to announce the new University of Idaho President in November.

For more information about the State Board of Education, visit

Posted in In The Classroom