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NU selects interim chancellor for University of Nebraska at Kearney


NU selects interim chancellor for University of Nebraska at Kearney

Apr 15, 2024 | 12:49 pm ET
By Zach Wendling
NU selects interim chancellor for University of Nebraska at Kearney
University of Nebraska chancellors, from left, Rodney Bennett (UNL), Jeffrey Gold (UNMC), Joanne Li (UNO) and Doug Kristensen (UNK). Dec. 1, 2023. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

LINCOLN — The University of Nebraska at Kearney could have an interim chancellor just one day after NU’s longest-serving leader steps down in May.

Interim NU President Chris Kabourek announced that Charlie Bicak, a UNK alum and longtime educator and administrator with more than 60 years of history with UNK, is his pick for interim chancellor beginning June 1. Chancellor Doug Kristensen, who served in the role for the past 22 years, will step down at the end of the academic year, effective May 31.

The national search for Kristensen’s successor is underway. Bicak’s appointment will be subject to approval from the NU Board of Regents.

Kabourek said that Bicak, who served as UNK’s senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs from 2009 to 2022, is the “right person to keep UNK moving forward” and that UNK will “be in good hands” during the transition to a permanent chancellor.

“He knows the campus and the community well, he is an outstanding champion for UNK’s mission to serve rural Nebraska, and he has the knowledge and relationships necessary to pick up where Chancellor Kristensen will leave off,” Kabourek said in a statement.

Bicak described UNK as an “outstanding institution,” with the best teaching, scholarship and service every day. He played football for the Lopers for two years and graduated from then-Kearney State College in 1974 with a degree in biology education.

He went on to teach at Westside Community Schools in Omaha, earned his master’s and doctoral degrees and served a stint at California State University before returning to Kearney in 1992. He taught in the Department of Biology for 13 years, including as department chair and assistant to the dean, where he earned various awards for his teaching.

Bicak left Nebraska one more time to serve as dean of the School of Natural Sciences at St. Edward’s University in Texas for four years before returning to UNK in 2009.

During his administrative role, Bicak oversaw various efforts to increase UNK’s connection with other NU campuses in Lincoln and Omaha. These included expanding health care education and legal career training. He also helped collaborate for a postgraduate program for social work.

Bicak said he will do whatever he can to support UNK’s community as it continues to deliver a quality, affordable education and skilled workforce. He said Kristensen’s commitment and relentless determination “set a standard for leadership that will endure.”

“His unwavering dedication has made UNK a better place on a daily basis,” Bicak said. “I’m honored to follow in his footsteps and grateful for his friendship.”

With Kristensen’s departure, and Dr. Jeffrey Gold of the University of Nebraska Medical Center the finalist for NU president, the university could soon be on the search for half of its chancellor leadership team. NU’s two other chancellors have been in their roles for fewer than three years.