Chuck Staben, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, will be the fourth candidate to visit the University of Idaho as one of the top five finalists for the next university president.
Staben will be on the Moscow campus Thursday for his turn in the hot seat at open forums at 9 a.m. in the Administration Auditorium and 3:30 p.m. at the 1912 Center in Moscow.
Staben has held his current position at the University of South Dakota, since 2008. Prior to that, he worked at the University of Kentucky for nearly 20 years.
Brian Rymond, professor of biology at the University of Kentucky, was on the hiring committee in 1989 when Staben was hired as an assistant professor. Rymond said he and Staben worked closely together during Staben’s time at UK.
“He makes a very good first impression,” Rymond said. “He’s a bright, articulate, friendly person. I think people respond to that.”
Staben went on to hold a number of positions at UK, including a year as the vice president for research.
Although Staben’s background is primarily in research — he earned both his bachelor’s degree and his doctorate in biochemistry and has been a biology professor for much of his professional career — Rymond said Staben’s knowledge encompasses more than science.
“He’s very intellectual,” Staben said. “He knows a lot about a lot of different topics. It’s not limited to science. As part of his administrative capacity at the University of Kentucky, he was responsible for essentially doling out money as an assistant vice president for research.”
Phil Carter, media relation’s manager at the University of South Dakota, has worked with Staben since 2008 and said Staben has tried to combine his research knowledge with his administrative duties at USD.
“I know that he’s very strong on research,” Carter said. “His background at the University of Kentucky … was with research and I know that he’s tried to combine that aspect with faculty here at the University of South Dakota since his arrival.”
During his time at USD, Carter said Staben has worked to increase the diversity of the student population by recruiting in the Native American communities that surround the university.
“I think he’d be a great advocate for diversity,” Carter said. “I know that’s what he would like to see more of at the University of South Dakota. That’s one of his main goals. He strives for diversity and engaging students of all cultural backgrounds to be a part of campus.”
In 2012, Staben was a finalist for the presidency at Wichita State University in Kansas. He received some backlash from USD students for comments he made during an open forum at WSU — stating Wichita State’s climate and population was more suited to his tastes.
Carter said he thinks the University of Idaho would be a perfect fit for Staben in terms of size, location and mission statement. Carter called Staben a fair provost and said he thinks that would translate into his role as a university president.
Both Carter and Rymond said Staben is an effective and engaging communicator — a skill they said has served him well as an administrator.
“He’s a quick read and can size up a situation well and that means he knows how to speak to people,” Rymond said. “He communicates really well with students, staff and faculty. While he was here, he was a faculty representative to one of the sororities. I think your first impression will be a good one. It’ll tell you something about the man.”
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