Laurie Stenberg Nichols, the last of five finalists for the next University of Idaho president, will be on campus today for open forums and meetings.Nichols is currently the provost and vice president for academic affairs at South Dakota State University — the school she has spent the most time at during her career.
Nichols’ open forums will take place at 9:30 a.m. in the Administration Auditorium and 3:30 at the 1912 Center.
Nichols has worked at SDSU since 1994 — she was the dean and a professor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences until 2008. That year, Nichols took a break from SDSU to take on the role of interim president at Northern State University in South Dakota. She returned to SDSU in 2009 and has held her current position ever since.
Thomas Hawley, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Northern State University, was the Dean of Education at NSU during Nichols year at the university. He said he’s always seen her as a strong leader and was not surprised when she was announced as a finalist at UI.
“I believe she was the only female president that Northern State ever had whether it be a president or interim and I thought that whether she was a female or not it didn’t make any difference because I thought she was and excellent leader and a very strong visionary and had lots of great ideas,” Hawley said. “She led the university for a year as interim president and, in fact, at the May graduation our faculty and staff gave her a standing ovation so that kind of tells you what kind of person she was and the breath of fresh air that she brought to our campus.”
Prior to becoming an administrator at SDSU, Nichols held several teaching and research positions at SDSU, Iowa State University, Ohio State University and Wayne State College. Nichols was also an assistant professor at UI from 1988-1994, and received tenure at the university in 1994.
Prior to her time in higher education, Nichols spent five years teaching home economics at high schools in South Dakota and Colorado.
Hawley said Nichols’ extensive experience at SDSU — the land-grant institution of South Dakota — has provided her with the knowledge necessary to run a land-grant university. He said her leadership style relies on working with people to further her vision for the university.
“I find her to be an incredibly energetic, enthusiastic person who is just a fine person to work with. She sets high expectations and holds herself to those expectations, but also expects those expectations of people that she works with,” Hawley said. “I think she’s a participatory leader. She wants input and she works very closely with the faculty and staff and other administrators to develop a consensus on how things need to go. But I think she also has a vision and she sees the things that need to get done and she moves the groups toward those areas of trying to get solutions in a consensus kind of way.”
David Chicoine, SDSU president, issued a statement when Nichols was announced as a finalist at UI, saying her efforts at SDSU have resulted in many significant achievements for the university.
“She led the development of the university’s new five-year strategic plan, IMPACT 2018,” Chicoine said. “She has been one of the university leaders behind the student success programming that has helped boost student retention by more than 5 percent over the past two years.”
Chicoine said Nichols also emphasized the need for accreditation of academic programs, and now 32 of the university’s programs have been accredited.
“Many of us have benefited from Laurie’s work. Her leadership and experience make it seem inevitable that she will serve as a university president someday,” Chicoine said. “I wish her the best as the process unfolds.”
Nichols earned her undergraduate degree in home economics from SDSU. She earned her master’s in vocational and adult education from Colorado State University, and her doctorate Ohio State in family and consumer sciences education.
Hawley said one of Nichols most significant contributions during her year at NSU was an increase in fundraising for the university. He said she took deans with her to fundraising campaigns, which proved to be effective in increasing donor support.
“I know that South Dakota State has undertaken a number of fundraising campaigns over the last few years so I think she would be excellent,” Hawley said. “Once you get to meet her you’ll see she just has a very warm and engaging personality. I can’t imagine anyone not liking Dr. Nichols.”
Kaitlyn Krasselt can be reached at email@example.com.