Chuck Staben spoke about his talents on the racquetball court, revealed his online bridge addiction and produced periodic laughs from the audience as the fourth of five presidential candidates to interview for the University of Idaho’s most prestigious position.
At this point, he may be the fan favorite amongst the group of UI students, faculty and community members who have regularly attended the presidential forums — but not just because of his comedic side.
Currently the provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of South Dakota, Staben holds sufficient experience in higher education — and it showed on Thursday.
Declaring himself as a man of numbers, Staben utilized statistics to point out the university’s shortfalls, beginning with enrollment — ironically, the same day UI released enrollment numbers, which have decreased since last year.
He went on to preach the importance of research — another field he holds valuable experience in — stating that while UI has become reputable as a strong research institution in Idaho, the state itself ranks 49th in academic research.
It’s the responsibility of the state’s premier academic institution to aid Idaho in becoming a top-40 land-grant state, and Staben agreed.
Staben acknowledged that his fundraising ability has been underutilized at USD, but specified he would plan on making fundraising a top priority. Staben said he is not too embarrassed to ask for money, a trait desperately needed at UI.
Finally, he addressed a question so many students, faculty members and administrators have pondered since former president M. Duane Nellis jumped ship for Texas Tech University.
At the University of Interim, do you see yourself holding the position so many have vacated, or will you treat UI as a stepping-stone?
Staben addressed the question directly, much to the audience’s relief. UI’s presidency would be the last stop of his career.
While his wife resides in Kentucky, Staben hopes that the pair will relocate permanently, rather than temporarily.
During his hour-long forum, Staben delivered the kind of message that should make the selection process much more difficult for State Board of Education members. For the fifth and final candidate, who is scheduled to appear today, it’ll prove a large hurdle to overcome.
And as a result, we can sit comfortable knowing that the university will almost surely be in good hands.