NU Board of Regents Chairman Tim Clare discusses president search, interim role and more

Nov. 21, 2023, 8 a.m. ·

Board of Regents Chairman Tim Clare
The search for the next University of Nebraska president is underway. Board of Regents Chairman Tim Clare said the application for the position is open for candidates. (Photo by Jolie Peal/Nebraska Public Media News)

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The University of Nebraska president application is officially open for candidates.

NU Board of Regents Chairman Tim Clare said the board has the search firm, the advisory committee and the leadership profile. Now, it’s time to find the right person to fill the job.

“We are now in a position where we're full steam ahead with trying to get candidates in,” he said. “I'm cautiously optimistic that we'll have this process completed, so that a priority candidate will be brought forward, vetted and then voted on sometime in the first quarter of this year.”

Originally, the board’s goal was to have a new president by the time current NU president Ted Carter left at the end of the calendar year. However, Clare said there were challenges with lining up calendars and that the board wants to take time to find the best candidate.

This led to Clare recommending Chris Kabourek, chief financial officer for NU, to be the interim president.

“He knows the budget, inside and out, and has really been a real asset to the entire university system,” Clare said.

The board will vote on Kabourek becoming interim president at their Dec. 1 meeting. According to Clare, Kabourek won’t be considered for the permanent role. However, Clare said he believes Kabourek will be able to effectively lead NU until a new president is hired.

“He said, ‘I'll do whatever it takes to help,” Clare said. “To me, that type of attitude is the type of attitude that we need throughout not only the system office, but in each of the campuses.”

The 22-member presidential search committee includes all of the regents along with the four student regents. This is a change from previous presidential searches.

“What this does is enables each one of us to fulfill what one of our top priorities is, and that is the hiring of a president,” Clare said. “They're not only going to be involved with the interview of one or two or three candidates or looking at the resumes. They're going to be involved, the entire board will be involved in the entire process of narrowing it down.”

At listening sessions across the NU campuses in early November, people discussed the topic of the state’s political climate. Clare said a good university president takes all opinions into consideration when making decisions.

“Look at Ted Carter, for example. I have no idea if he's Republican or Democrat, I honestly don't,” Clare said. “I've probably spent more time with him than virtually anybody, and I can't tell you what political party he is. President before him, Hank Bounds, great friend. No idea what his political beliefs are, and he was able to navigate through some difficult situations. Going back to J.B. Milliken, he was a friend of mine before I got on the board. Then, once I joined the board, I didn't know his political leanings either.”

Clare said the university can show students how to respect each other’s differences.

He also said students shouldn’t see an impact from the president’s search, as long as the search stays short.

“We've got good leadership that can step in, and everybody else can provide a little bit extra effort, the student won't miss a beat, right? The university will continue to move forward,” Clare said. “But if we draw this thing out over a long period of time, then I think you're right, because what happens is you lose that vision, so you become somewhat of a rudderless boat.”

Clare said the board wants to find a new president as quickly as possible, while also not rushing the process and settling on a candidate that won’t fit the university.

The ideal candidate, according to Clare, is someone who exhibits the Nebraska “it.” He heard this said from multiple people throughout the listening sessions.

“That's a hard thing to describe but if you're from Nebraska, you just know it,” Clare said. “It's a humble, hard working, roll up the sleeves, doesn't matter who gets the credit, we're going to all work together because rising tide lifts all ships type of thing, for the benefit of the entire institution.”

The next president will be leading the university through a roughly $58 million budget shortfall. Clare said finding duplicate areas in the university and cutting back on those will open opportunities to expand other programs, like agriculture.

“We've got a Silicon Valley of the prairie,” Clare said. “Why can't we be the Ag-Tech hub in the entire country?”

Another issue Clare said the next president will need to focus on is getting the university back into the Association of American Universities.

“I think the AAU represents excellence,” Clare said. “It represents top quality. It represents prestige. It's something that I think is reflective of the University of Nebraska, and we need to be in that institution or that association.”

According to the leadership profile, the search committee is looking for a candidate who communicates, puts students first and has a “One Nebraska” approach, among other qualities.

The board also has nine leadership pillars they are looking for in a candidate, which share some sentiments with the profile that was created.

“They are pillars that I think are extremely important, at least from the board standpoint, that we're looking for,” Clare said. “It's not something that we say ‘Eight out of nine is good, so that's what we're looking for.’ It's got to be 100 percent.”

The nine leadership pillars were created during the last presidential search that brought Carter to the university.

The presidential search committee will finalize a list of candidates, and the Board of Regents will narrow it down to one priority candidate. The candidate will go through a 30-day public vetting process followed by a final board vote.