Published: Jan 12, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Jan 12, 2013 05:44 PM
N.C. Central University is closing in on the search for its next chancellor, with short list of candidates now under consideration.
Harold Epps, an NCCU trustee who chairs the search committee, said the pool had been narrowed from 65 initial candidates to between five and eight people.
The committee aims to narrow the list to three finalists to submit to UNC President Tom Ross by late January or early February, Epps said in an interview. Ross will then make his choice, and the UNC system’s Board of Governors will elect the new chancellor.
“I’m encouraged with the depth and breadth of the candidates,” Epps said. “We will have tough choices to make and that’s what we want.”
He said the candidates bring various skills and backgrounds to the table. They represent a wide range of experience, from sitting presidents to chief academic officers to private sector professionals and those with skills in both business and academia. And, Epps added, “he or she” could be in place in the spring, or by July 1 at the latest.
Some of the candidates have already visited the NCCU campus in Durham, Epps said, while others have not.
The next leader will succeed Interim Chancellor Charles Becton, who took on the role last August after the abrupt departure of Charlie Nelms, who at 65 announced that he would leave a few weeks before the start of the fall semester. Nelms had been on the job for five years.
The committee is looking for people who can commit to a longer tenure – six to 10 years, Epps said. NCCU wants a leader who can pursue public-private partnerships, leverage NCCU’s position in science and technology fields and boost fundraising, Epps said, while maintaining the proper balance of athletics and academics after the university’s move from NCAA Division II to Division I.
“In higher ed today,” he said, “you need people who can walk on water.”
The next leader will take the helm at NCCU at a time when the university had taken steps in lift academic standards and graduation rates.
The university increased the required minimum grade point averages. Returning students must have a 2.0 grade point average to remain in school. That has forced underperforming students to leave campus, which is expected to improve completion rates of students in the long run.
Nelms received praise for implementing that change, as well as efforts to improve customer service on the campus.
But his departure still baffles many.
Nelms said he was retiring, but he received a severance payment of nearly $57,000, or two months’ salary, and UNC system officials refused to discuss the reason for the payout, citing confidential personnel information. After Nelms’ announcement, Ross briefed trustees about a personnel matter behind closed doors. When asked if the matter was related to Nelms, Ross said, “in part, yes,” but declined to elaborate.
The former chancellor has since established a nonprofit called Destination Graduation Initiative. Nelms’ website lists him as director of the effort, which is billed as a way to help historically black colleges and universities increase their retention and graduation rates.
In an email Tuesday, Nelms said his graduation initiative was proceeding and he would share the results on his blog and in higher education publications.