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U of Minn. names just 1 presidential finalist

MINNEAPOLIS — The University of Minnesota Board of Regents announced Friday that there's only one finalist to be the school's next president, just a week after a search committee recommended four candidates.

The candidate, Eric Kaler, is provost at Stony Brook University in New York and holds a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota. Regent John Frobenius reportedly said that Kaler is "an outstanding final candidate," citing as strengths his support of athletics, strong research experience and leadership style.

Current President Robert Bruininks, who has led the state's largest university since 2002, previously announced he would return to the faculty when his contract as president expires in June 2011. The board's search committee considered 148 candidates before settling on four semifinalists, all who came from outside the university.

Names of finalists must become public by state law, and two of the four initial semifinalists dropped out because they didn't want their names made public. The possibility there would be only one finalist did not sit will some professors, who saw an effort to get around the public nature of the process.

"If you're going to be the president of a public university, one of the first things you have to accept is that you're going to be subject to public oversight," said Jane Kirtley, director of the school's Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law. "You might as well get used to it."


Kaler will be invited to campus next week for public interviews and meetings with faculty, staff and students. Regent Dean Johnson cautioned that his hiring "is not a done deal yet."

Kaler told Minnesota Public Radio News he expects to have a busy visit.

"I haven't had enough of a chance yet to really have good conversations with students and faculty and staff about their aspirations for the institution, and about how we can work together and move it forward," Kaler said.

The board is hoping to appoint its next president, the 16th in its history, by the end of the year.

The next president will step into the job amid declining financial support from state government and ensuing tuition increases. According to the job description, the president must be a "creative fundraiser," a "skilled planner and budgeter," an "effective communicator" and a "politically astute leader."

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