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Richard Nelson to serve as next Nicolet College President

April 1, 2015

The Nicolet College Board of Trustees has announced that Richard Nelson has accepted the position of president of the college.

Nelson, who currently serves as provost at Paul Smith’s College in New York, will begin his duties at Nicolet July 1.

Richard Nelson“Dr. Nelson’s extensive experience in higher education and outstanding leadership abilities were precisely what we were looking for in the next president of Nicolet College,” said Ron Zimmerman, chair of the Board of Trustees and Presidential Search Committee. “The board was impressed with Dr. Nelson’s ability to collaborate with faculty and staff across campus at Paul Smith’s College and his ability to recognize talent and then foster the development of these individuals. We are pleased that he accepted the position.”

Nelson has served as provost of Paul Smith’s College for the past nine years. Located in upstate New York, the private, four-year campus has about 900 students.

“It’s an honor to be selected as President of Nicolet College and to have the opportunity to serve the people of northern Wisconsin,” Nelson said. “Nicolet plays such a vital role in providing the training people need to get good jobs and in developing the skilled workforce necessary to a build sustainable and prosperous economy throughout the Nicolet District. This is a very exciting opportunity.”

While at Paul Smith’s College, Nelson:

 - Started many new degree programs and minors in response to student interests and employer demand.

 - Instituted a comprehensive student success program that increased student retention by 10 percent.

 - Led an all-campus strategic planning effort that tied mission, values, and goals to planning, budgeting, reporting, effectiveness assessment, and ongoing improvement.

He also currently serves as board chair of the Adirondack Economic Development Commission and is a member of numerous other community and professional organizations.

Prior to his provost position, Nelson served at the University of Minnesota-Crookston as associate vice chancellor of Academic Affairs; director for the Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources, College Extension Liaison; interim executive director of the Red River Trade Corridor; and chair of the Agriculture Management Division.

He holds a Ph.D. and a Master of Science, both in Food Science from Cornell University; and a Bachelor of Science in Fermentation Science from the University of California, Davis.

Nelson replaces Elizabeth Burmaster, who left in June of 2014 to serve as president of Frederick Community College in Frederick, Md., her hometown. Kenneth Urban, vice president of Teaching, Learning, and Student Success at Nicolet, serves as interim president during the transition.

During the five-month search process, board members sought and received hundreds of comments from community members and those on staff at Nicolet about what they would like to see in the next president.

“It was important to the board to make this a very open and participatory process,” said Bob Martini, Nicolet trustee and member of the selection committee. “The input we received from throughout the district was invaluable and reaffirms just how important the college is to life in northern Wisconsin, and how deeply so many care about its future direction.”

Nicolet offers more than 70 different associate degrees, diplomas, certificates, and apprenticeships programs as well as a University Transfer Liberal Arts Program, where students earn credits towards a bachelor’s degree before transferring to a four-year college or university.

Nicolet is one of 16 colleges in the Wisconsin Technical College System.