Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Four Black Hills State University presidential candidates visit campus

Bridget Schneller
BHSU students meet with presidential candidate Steve Elliott Monday afternoon.

Dr. Laurie Nichols served the Black Hills State University student body and staff for nearly five years. Now, as she prepares to retire from BHSU, the Spearfish community and the South Dakota Board of Regents prepare to welcome a new commander-in-chief into office heading into the Spring 2024 semester.

On April 27, Dr. Nicols announced her retirement as the president of BHSU through a newsletter published on the BHSU website. 

“Leading Black Hills State University has been a wonderful experience,” said Dr. Nichols in the newsletter. “I am so thankful for the path that led me there and the team we’ve built. I am confident in the vision and future of BHSU and feel that the university is strong and well-posed for the next leadership.”

Four candidates arrived on campus Nov. 13; each one a potential successor to Nichols. Each candidate participated in several interviews and events. The first was an introduction and Q/A with the student body on campus; students were provided the opportunity to meet and question each candidate in the E.Y. Berry Library in order to form a preference of which candidate they would prefer to become the next president of BHSU.

That same day, the candidates met with the BH faculty on campus, and with the general public at The Joy Center for a chance to familiarize themselves with the Black Hills community as a whole.

The candidates then met with Dr. Nichols one-on-one for a short interview and a campus tour. The following day each candidate interviewed with the administrative members.

Each group (student body, faculty, community, and administration) is represented by a member or members of the fifteen-person search committee tasked with finding and selecting the best candidates for the presidential position.

“So when the students meet with each of the four candidates, those two students that serve on the search committee will be there,” Dr. Nichols said. “At the end of each of the sessions, they’re actually going to ask everybody there to fill out an evaluation form and turn it in. So for everybody wondering how their opinion will make a difference, it’s because their constituents will ask for their opinion and reflect that.”

Although the South Dakota Board of Regents will effectively make the final call when it comes to selecting a new president at BHSU, the board members plan to rely heavily on the feedback they receive from the faculty, student body and community.

“My experience [with the Board of Regents] so far has been that our voice is very important,” said Dr. Abigal Domagal, a faculty member on the search committee. “The Board really has kept out of it, and we’ve very much directed the selection process.”

 The search committee began working in the summer of 2023; around 60 applications were up for review – the committee’s job was to narrow it down to 10.

The number was then reduced to four following hour-long interviews via Zoom. The final four were invited to campus to complete the interview process.

The final four candidates include Dr. Matt Cecil, Dr. Fredrick Chilson, Mr. Steve Elliott and Dr. Angie Fincannon. While each candidate has previous leadership experience at other universities, none of them have held positions of presidency over an entire school.

Dr. Cecil currently works as the provost and vice president for academic and student affairs at Northern Kentucky University. In the past, he has worked as a dean, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Minnesota State University, and held faculty positions at Wichita State University and South Dakota State University.

Dr. Chilson currently holds the same positions as Dr. Cecil at Lewis-Clark State College (LCSC). Previously, he worked as a dean at LCSC and was a faculty member at Easter New Mexico University and Adams State University. 

Marine Corps veteran, Mr. Elliott, now serves as the vice president for academic affairs at Wayne State College where he has worked since 2003 as a faculty member, department chair and dean. Although Mr. Elliott does not hold a Doctorate, he obtained a master of fine arts degree which is the highest obtainable degree in that field.

The fourth candidate, Dr. Fincannon, is currently the dean of the College of Business at the Indiana Institute of Technology. Before that, she worked as a volleyball coach, faculty member, dean, assistant provost and athletic director at Taylor University. She was also the vice chancellor for advancement at Purdue University in Fort Wayne.

The next president of BHSU will officially take over office at the beginning of the Spring 2024 semester. But before that, Nichols plans to assist the new president as much as she can to ensure a smooth transition for the student body and faculty on campus. She will also assist with the ongoing annual budget case until she is officially out of office.


About the Contributor
Nathan Feller, Editor-in-Chief