First Presidential Forum Allows Community To Interview Former Texas Tech President

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ATHENS — A candidate vying to be the next president of Ohio University said his goals would include growing the school’s research profile, strengthening relations with the community  and prioritizing diversity and inclusion.

Dr. M. Duane Nellis fielded questions from students, faculty, alumni and community members during Wednesday evening’s public forum held in Baker Center.

Nellis said he would work to raise the University’s prominence through research and creative activity.

“That’s such an important part of the overall identity of Ohio U. as a research university and also, not only basic research, but creative activity, the full spectrum of scholarship.”

Bringing in the best minds to work in Athens and removing some of the bureaucracy with research would be the path to accomplishing that goal.

“We would want to be competitive as far as startup packages for success, making sure that faculty, not only that we get them to come to Ohio U., but that they feel supported and strengthened.”

Texas Tech University went from the “Very High Research Activity” Carnegie Classification to a “Highest Research Activity” classification during Nellis’ tenure.

Nellis stepped down for his position at Texas Tech in January of 2016, but stayed with the university as a tenured faculty member working on strategic priorities. He previously led Idaho University from 2009 until 2013, held positions at Kansas State University and served as a dean of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences at West Virginia University.

Members of the audience who are alumni of the university asked how he would get former students involved in more than just fundraising.

He said he and his wife Ruthie would be active in engaging and recruiting alumni.

“Interacting with them, talking about the university, getting them excited about the university. But also where they’re willing to provide assistance and support.”

A diverse community of students and faculty was another goal touched on in several questions from the audience.

Nellis cited several initiatives implemented at Texas Tech to recruit and retain minority and international students, as well as faculty.

“It’s just having that directed sensitivity that is really, really important in searches so that we do have more role models across the spectrum as far as the diversity of our faculty, staff and students.”

The initiatives led to an increase in the hispanic student population at Texas Tech from 18 percent to 24 percent and an increase retention rate among African American students, according to Nellis.

One member of the audience asked Nellis to elaborate why he stepped down from his position with Texas Tech nearly a year ago.

“We accomplished a number of the major goals that I had,” he responded. “There was a change in the system administration at Texas Tech and I just felt the timing was right for me to do other things.”

He went on to say his current position has allowed more time in the classroom. And that has helped inspire him in his search for the “new leadership direction” mentioned in a letter announcing his resignation.

Dr. Dean Bresciani is scheduled to participate in the next forum on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in Baker Center. He currently serves as the president of North Dakota State University.

To read more on the candidates, read Susan Tebben’s report from after the University released its list of finalists.