Presidential Search

The Opportunity

The South Dakota Board of Regents invites nominations and expressions of interest in the position of president of Northern State University, one of six universities governed by the board.


The regents seek a visionary, innovative, collaborative, long-term leader who can advance Northern’s significant achievements as a dynamic, welcoming, liberal arts environment for undergraduate and graduate students.


The president serves as the chief executive officer, responsible for the successful management of all facets of the university. The nine-member Board of Regents (BOR) governs public higher education in South Dakota. Board members are appointed by the governor for six-year terms; one student regent is appointed for a limited term. The BOR employs a full-time staff in its offices in Pierre. Dr. Brian Maher serves as executive director.


Northern serves more than 3,000 students, including dual credit, graduate and international students, from its picturesque 75-acre campus located in Aberdeen, a thriving community of 29,000 on the South Dakota plains. NSU is a premier, residential university characterized by outstanding instruction, extraordinary community relations and wide-ranging extracurricular opportunities. The university is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in the liberal arts and in graduate and professional education.


The university’s primary sources of support are state appropriations and tuition and fees. Other major sources include the Northern State University Foundation, federal funds (grants and awards) and auxiliary services. More information about the university can be found at For more information about candidacies, nominations or other suggestions, please see Procedure for Candidacy below.



PERSONAL QUALIFICATIONS AND QUALITIESA group of students strolls campus near Great Plains East

The successful candidate will thrive in a public university system led by a Board of Regents and executive director. NSU is poised to attract its next president following its significant investment in modernizing the campus with state-of-the-art facilities, including three new residence halls; the Harvey C. Jewett IV Regional Science Education Center; and a completely expanded, remodeled and rehabilitated theater and fine arts building. Northern is also currently completing construction on a new regional sports complex, including a new football stadium, scheduled for grand opening in fall 2021. Learn more at Master Plan.


The successful candidate will possess the following qualities, experiences and characteristics:

  • A strategic and forward-thinking visionary that brings people together to forward initiatives and goals for the university.
  • The ability to effectively shape productive and collaborative relationships with multiple constituencies and be a champion for the university.
  • A student-centered leader who will enrich the student experience, and foster a culture of innovation and excellence.
  • An outstanding communicator and listener with a willingness to embrace the university’s culture and traditions.
  • The ability, insight and organizational skills needed to develop talent, build and empower effective teams and incorporate best practices.
  • A transformational, energetic presence with entrepreneurial spirit to enhance both image and support of the college.
  • The highest personal integrity, ethics, and an executive presence demonstrating a strong moral compass, with kindness and humility.
  • The ability to effectively organize information and priorities and make prompt, sound decisions in the midst of complex and exacting circumstances.
  • Business sense and success in finance, budget allocation, and resource generation with private gifts.
  • Knowledgeable about key issues affecting public universities, including enrollment, retention strategies and innovations in education and will be willing to take risks as a change agent.
  • The ability to positively and effectively engage with the local community through development of interpersonal connections and relationships with community leaders and local industry partners, the successful candidate will be visible, approachable and integrated in the Aberdeen community.
  • An earned doctorate or a combination of graduate degree and senior level experience that would earn the respect of the academic community is required.

PROCEDURE FOR CANDIDACYSouth side of Jewett Regional Science Center

Nominations and applications will be accepted until an appointment is made, within the practical limits of the process as finalists are identified. The position will be available in July 2021. For fullest consideration, materials should be submitted by May 23, 2021.


Applications should include a letter describing how the candidate’s interest and qualifications match those described herein; a current vitae or resume; and a list of at least five references, including all telephone, email and postal contact information.


All nominations and applications should be sent electronically to If interested parties have questions they can reach out to Dr. Brian Maher, executive director of the South Dakota Board of Regents, or Kayla Bastian, system director of Human Resources, at 605-773-3455.


All names will remain confidential except those of individuals invited for campus interviews.


Northern State University is an Equal Employment Opportunity Employer and encourages the nominations and candidacies of individuals from underrepresented groups. Applicants with disabilities are invited to identify any necessary accommodations required in the application process.


The material presented in this leadership profile should be relied on for informational purposes only. This material has been copied, compiled, or quoted in part from NSU documents and personal interviews and is believed to be reliable. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, the original source documents and factual situations govern.


About NSU


Since the university was established as the Northern Normal and Industrial School in 1901, progress has been a constant in curriculum and life at Northern. In its 120-year history, Northern’s faculty and staff have continued to meet the needs of students at the university level and those in K-12 education through traditional, distance delivery and online teaching. As time passes and technology advances, NSU remains dedicated to providing superior and affordable education to students.


Today, Northern fosters personalized attention to students similar to that found in small, independent college settings at an affordable public university tuition cost. Students praise its capacity to encourage their positive intellectual, social and personal growth during their formative years.


AcademicsA smiling student works in a Northern lab.

NSU maintains the highest standards of excellence in academic rigor and fosters engaged learning through both traditional and nontraditional teaching opportunities. The university offers a comprehensive curriculum featuring more than 50 academic programs. Northern offers associate, baccalaureate and graduate degrees. While the university has always been known for graduating a superior level of teachers in South Dakota, today it is also known for superb instruction in fine arts, business, and arts and sciences. Students are enrolled in programs in the NSU College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the School of Education, the School of Fine Arts and the Graduate School. Northern also has an accelerated nursing program offered in partnership with South Dakota State University, and collaborative programs in pre-engineering with SDSU, and in pre-law with the University of South Dakota.


Northern holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. NSU teacher education programs are accredited by CAEP, and they comply with South Dakota Department of Education guidelines. Music programs are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music. The art program is accredited by National Association of Schools of Art and Design. The school’s theatrical and musical offerings consistently attract large audiences from around the region. Northern is also accredited by the ACBSP, CACREP and NACEP. The university is  in the process of achieving full membership in COPLAC. Since 2001, NSU’s Center for Statewide E-learning, unique to South Dakota and the Midwest, has provided small, rural high school students across South Dakota with high school coursework in areas of teacher scarcity. As of January 2021, there were 2,954 total student registrations for E-learning, an increase of nearly 15 percent year-over-year.



Several major campus improvement projects have been completed in recent years at Northern. New and renovated facilities on campus since 2016-17 have an added value of over $110 million. Those include the expansion of the Johnson Fine Arts Center, Northern’s main performance facility; construction of three brand new residence halls offering suite-style living; addition of the Athletic and Recreation Fields project, which includes a soccer competition field, football practice field and pavilion; and the opening of the state-of-the-art Harvey C. Jewett IV Regional Science Education Center, which enhanced research and science education for NSU students as well as K-12 students around the region. In fall 2021, an on-campus regional sports complex will open, including a new football stadium and softball field. Through a unique, collaborative partnership between Northern and the School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (SDSBVI), a new SDSBVI facility was constructed near the NSU campus, which will be instrumental in the success of Northern’s new M.S.Ed. in Special Education with a specialization in visual impairment.


StudentsThree smiling students on campus

In fall 2020, Northern State University enrolled 3,431 students and saw slight growth in headcount for the year. The university particularly saw growth in graduate students, and it experienced its fifth consecutive year with a freshman to sophomore retention rate above 73 percent. While most NSU students are from South Dakota and surrounding states, Northern draws students from all over the country and the world. NSU continues to attract an increasing number of high-achieving students, particularly to its growing honors program. Students have numerous opportunities to work side by side with faculty on undergraduate research projects. Northern is also committed to non-traditional and first generation student success. Students see Northern as a nurturing university with low student/faculty ratios (average class size of 17) and personalized student/faculty interactions. Students see Northern as a welcoming university with a community feel, with dedicated professors who care about their ability to succeed in life. 


Students are hard-working in the classroom and beyond, as opportunities abound for campus involvement in organizations such as student government, student newspaper, band and choral groups, theater productions and intramural sports. They are enthusiastic about outdoor activities including hiking, fishing, hunting, and enjoying a snowy day in winter.


One vital component of enrollment success at NSU is the WolfPACT, the highest guaranteed scholarship program in South Dakota. A student’s award amount is based on ACT score as well as high school GPA, with the highest award being $12,000 over four years. These are significant scholarships at a university whose annual tuition, room and board costs total approximately $17,000.


Northern State University’s NCAA Division II athletics program has one of the strongest community and regional fan bases in the country. The NSU men’s and women’s basketball programs have led the nation in attendance for NCAA Division II for an unprecedented 13 years running. Northern participates in the expanded Northern Sun Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.



NSU’s vibrant campus community thrives on teamwork, cooperation and mutual respect in an environment that is diverse in knowledge, culture and worldview. Faculty members at Northern State University take deep pride in their teaching and in student development.


There is opportunity to expand research and grant-related activity on campus. Northern faculty believe in the academic strength of their work and seek greater visibility and recognition of the quality academic environment they have worked so hard to create over many years. They welcome the strong partnership of an engaged and supportive president who will help them achieve at even higher levels. Facility enrichments have been made in support of this expanded role and include a new science center, research greenhouse, a completely remodeled performing arts center, and upgraded technology in many instructional classrooms.


Resources and alumni

The Northern State University Foundation, campaign committee and the leadership team of NSU have recently completed the Educational Impact Campaign, which raised more than $60 million for a new South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, new athletic and recreation fields, and an on-campus regional sports complex.


About Aberdeen

Aberdeen is a vibrant community that offers the welcoming atmosphere of a small town while boasting big-city amenities. The city features a thriving arts scene, excellent schools, and abundant recreational and outdoor activities. The university enjoys a positive and strong relationship with the community and region. Located in the northeastern section of South Dakota, Aberdeen is the business, medical and cultural center for the region.


Along with serving as a hub for smaller communities in the region, Aberdeen is also an attractive tourist destination. The city is a prime destination for pheasant hunters and anglers. The well-known Wylie Park and Storybook Land are popular draws for families, both local and visiting. Downtown Aberdeen is home to the historic Capitol Theatre, hosting numerous live and film productions year-round, as well as the annual South Dakota Film Festival. Local performance venues range from an outdoor summer concert series to largescale indoor spaces such as the Dakota Event Center.


Northern is a highly valued asset of this growing community and key to its economic development, generating about $229 million of annual economic impact to South Dakota. There is extraordinary community support for Northern, with plentiful employment opportunities for students and active engagement among community members in the cultural and athletic activities of the campus.




Strategic Action


Northern State University will provide diverse academic, civic, social and cultural opportunities that prepare students through the liberal arts and professional education for their future endeavors, while also enriching the local and regional community.



Northern State University will be regionally recognized as a student-centered, diverse community dedicated to excellence in teaching and learning, creativity and global awareness.



Northern State University’s students, faculty and staff are committed to the following values:



Building a culture of inclusion, belonging and collegiality that respects diversity in knowledge, culture and world view



Pursuing rigor and excellence in education, inquiry and engagement for the benefit of our students, state and region



Adhering to the highest standards of honesty, fairness and transparency with a commitment to responsible stewardship of resources


Learn more about Strategic Action HERE.