- Associated Press - Thursday, March 26, 2015

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - The search for the next North Dakota University System chancellor was narrowed down to eight applicants Thursday, including a man who held the job until quitting nine years ago amid a power struggle with a university president.

Robert Potts gained several close friends when he led the system from 2004 to 2006, but he departed after a dispute that began with former NDSU president Joseph Chapman and ended when some board members sided with Chapman. Chapman later resigned over criticism of his spending.

Potts went on to become chancellor of Arkansas State University and president of that state’s university system. James H. McCormick, a consultant for the search, told board members that Potts agonized about applying for his old job, but is interested in reuniting with old friends.

“As far as I know, things went real well for him in Arkansas,” McCormick said.

Potts and the other seven applicants will be invited to participate in video interviews on April 14. The board will then pick finalists for face-to-face interviews.

The pool includes state Sen. Tim Flakoll, provost for the Tri-College University in Fargo, who advanced despite worries by some board members that he doesn’t have the highest degree awarded in his field. Flakoll made it to the final round in the last chancellor search, but lost out to Hamid Shirvani.

Another applicant with local connections is Mark Hagerott, a Mandan native and Rhodes scholar who became a leading cybersecurity expert and professor with the Navy. Board members said they were impressed with Hagerott’s application letter, in which he talked about his desire to come home.

Rounding out the field are Paul Turman, vice president for academic affairs for the South Dakota Board of Regents; Sylvia Moore, former deputy commissioner for academic research and student affairs for the Montana university system; Michael Thomas, president and CEO of the New England Board of Higher Education; Keith Miller, former president of Virginia State University; and Robert Donley, executive director and CEO of the Iowa Board of Regents.

The board bought out Shirvani’s contract two years ago after receiving complaints from some students, faculty and school presidents over his leadership style. Shirvani, who spent about a year in the position, said he was given a mandate to improve graduation rates and was merely doing his job.

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