KEARNEY – With change comes opportunity.
That’s how Chancellor Doug Kristensen is approaching the current leadership transition at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
UNK will start the upcoming academic year with new deans in all three academic colleges, and other important administrative positions also saw recent turnover.
Those leaders who left campus will be difficult to replace, Kristensen said, but he’s excited about the mix of fresh and familiar faces who will step into these roles.
“New people bring new opportunities,” Kristensen said. “They bring the new experiences, ideas and energy that will help us continue to move forward.”
In the College of Arts and Sciences, created last summer by the merger of the colleges of Fine Arts and Humanities and Natural and Social Sciences, Ryan Teten will serve as the inaugural dean. Teten, previously an associate dean and political science professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, takes over for Peter Longo, who will return to UNK’s political science faculty after a three-year stint as an interim dean.
As the first permanent dean, Kristensen said Teten has an opportunity to shape the College of Arts and Sciences and “put it on a trajectory for success.”
“I think that’s an attractive aspect of the job,” Kristensen said.
Another campus newcomer is Tim Jares, who replaces Tim Burkink as dean of the College of Business and Technology. Jares was chair and a finance professor at the University of Northern Colorado’s Kenneth W. Monfort College of Business, where he previously served as an interim, assistant and associate dean.
Burkink, who led UNK’s College of Business and Technology for 11 years, is transitioning to a full-time director role with the university’s Office of International Education after serving as interim director for nearly two years.
The College of Education also has a new leader to succeed Sheryl Feinstein, who retired last week after four years as a dean at UNK. Grace Mims, a professor and chair in UNK’s Department of Counseling and School Psychology, will serve as interim dean while UNK conducts a national search for Feinstein’s permanent replacement.
Kristensen said Feinstein leaves the College of Education in “really good shape,” with the $7.8 million LaVonne Kopecky Plambeck Early Childhood Education Center scheduled to open this fall and a new Teachers Scholars Academy that provides full-tuition scholarships for incoming freshmen majoring in education welcoming its first class next semester.
“I’m very comfortable with the turnover at the dean level,” Kristensen said. “I think you’re going to see our campus get a new shot of energy and excitement.”
In addition to the college deans, Mark Ellis was named dean of graduate studies in March. A former professor, chair and graduate program chair in UNK’s Department of History, Ellis served as interim dean of graduate studies beginning in summer 2018 following Kenya Taylor’s retirement.
He’s among a group of UNK employees recently promoted to administrative positions.
Kelly Bartling, previously assistant vice chancellor for communications and community relations, was selected in May to lead the newly formed Division of Enrollment Management and Marketing.
A consolidation of the departments of Communications and Marketing, Undergraduate Recruitment and Admissions, Scholarships and Financial Aid, Academic and Career Services and the First Year Program, the division will enhance the university’s focus on increasing enrollment and further improving student retention and graduation rates.
“Enrollment will be the single most important issue we face in the next five years. We need to focus on growth and strengthening our enrollments,” said Kristensen, who expects increased competition from out-of-state schools interested in Nebraska students.
“We need to be ahead of that curve,” he added.
He believes Bartling, who reports directly to Kristensen as a vice chancellor, has the passion, experience and skills needed to lead UNK in this area.
The same can be said about Marc Bauer, who was hired in April as UNK’s athletic director after spending a year in an interim role.
Kristensen called Bauer a “unique candidate” with experience in both public education and collegiate athletics.
The former Kearney Public Schools teacher and assistant professor in UNK’s Kinesiology and Sport Sciences Department was a three-time NCAA Division II All-American wrestler at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Bauer was head coach of the UNK wrestling program from 2000 to 2016, leading the Lopers to three national championships and five national runner-up finishes. UNK also won two national dual titles and 18 conference and regional championships during his coaching tenure, and Bauer directed efforts that generated more than $3 million for the program through fundraising and donations.
“He knows what it’s like to be a coach; he knows what it’s like to be around student-athletes; he knows what it’s like to be successful; and he knows what it’s like to go out and raise money,” Kristensen said.
The UNK chancellor was looking for a leader who could provide stability within the athletic department and ensure student-athletes have a good collegiate experience.
“Clearly, Marc was the right fit,” he said.
Another change involving senior administration is the promotion of John Falconer to senior advisor to the chancellor for executive affairs. He replaces Neal Schnoor, who accepted a position at California State University, Long Beach. Falconer joined UNK in 1999 and previously served as director of sponsored programs and director of the Honors Program.
In his new position he will provide counsel and assistance to the chancellor, serve on the administrative Cabinet and supervise the Office of Equity and Compliance, among other key duties.
Kristensen knows there will be a learning curve as these administrative members settle into their new roles and begin building relationships across the community, university system and state. But he’s confident the end result will be something Nebraskans can be proud of.
“We’re in great shape,” Kristensen said. “I look forward to the change and embrace it.”