The University of Nebraska Board of Regents faced a challenge in replacing Hank Bounds as president of the university system. Bounds brought a vision for the university and a knowledge about education that served Nebraska well. However, Bounds resigned earlier this year to return to the South and spend more time with his family.
The regents, though, have come up with an impressive replacement. They unanimously nominated Walter “Ted” Carter Jr. to be the next university president.
Carter has had an impressive 40-year career in the Navy. He is a retired vice admiral and was superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy for five years. He has been a fighter pilot and has commanded aircraft carriers.
So it’s clear that Carter has strong leadership skills that would serve the university well. With four campuses — in Lincoln, Kearney, Omaha and the Medical Center — there can be competing interests. Faculty, students, researchers and state officials can all be pulling at the university in various ways.
A strong leader is needed to keep the focus on serving the state in the best way possible. Through his Navy career and command positions that he has held, Carter has the experience to lead the university system and have the campuses work together.
He made an excellent presentation to community members in Grand Island Monday. He stressed that he is visiting agricultural areas of the state first to learn more about the role that agriculture plays in the state’s economy and how the university supports that role.
This is extremely important. The University of Nebraska is not just for Lincoln, Omaha and Kearney — it serves the entire state. The university’s Extension Service is vital to the state’s ag producers. It provides research that improves yields and increases efficiency. It also leads 4-H programs that help young people learn about agriculture.
So Carter has the right focus.
He also was right when he said the university needs to help train young people to fill technical positions. Many companies in the state say they are lacking skilled workers in computer and technical fields. Carter said the university and businesses need to have a partnership where they work together to fill employment needs and help the state’s economy to grow.
He also stressed the importance of research at the university and that a focus on STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — is important at all of the university’s campus.
But most important of all, Carter stressed, is the student body. The university must strive to meet the educational and employment needs of students in a cost-efficient manner.
He hit all of the right points in his presentation in Grand Island. He has a good strategy for serving the university and the state.
As he travels through Nebraska during this 30-day vetting process, Carter will continue to realize the state’s needs and the role of the University of Nebraska in meeting those needs.
His Grand Island visit showed that he is off to a good start.