Wayne State College names Western’s top academic officer its next president

CULLOWHEE – Richard J. Collings, vice chancellor for academic affairs at Western Carolina University since 1996, is leaving that position to become president of Wayne State College in Wayne, Neb.

Richard J. Collings

Richard J. Collings

The Nebraska State College System’s board of trustees announced Thursday, Feb. 5, that it will officially appoint Collings as the 11th president of Wayne State at its regular board meeting Feb. 12. Collings will assume the college’s presidency in May.

“The board was very impressed with the quality of candidates for the presidential position, and we want to congratulate the search committee on its excellent work,” said NSC board chair Sheryl Lindau. “It was a difficult decision, but in the end, we all agreed that Richard Collings was the right person for Wayne State College.”

Collings, 57, has been vice chancellor for academic affairs and professor of political science and public affairs at Western Carolina since 1996. At Western Carolina, he led many academic and administrative initiatives, including creating a residential Honors College, developing technology partnerships with other institutions throughout the nation, and implementing a strategic planning process.

“Rick Collings has played an integral role in Western Carolina’s push to increase academic quality,” said Chancellor John W. Bardo. “Under his leadership, faculty members have embraced the concept of ‘raising the bar,’ and the university is reaping the benefits through enrollment growth, higher SAT scores and an enhanced reputation as a place for student learning. He and his wife, Marilyn, have been wonderful for this campus and community, and they will be a great asset to any place they go.”

Prior to joining the administration at Western, Collings served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Kutztown (Penn.) University for five years and as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Kutztown for two years. There, he helped create a center for the enhancement of teaching to assist with dialogue among faculty members and expanded the honors programs.

A volunteer on many professional and community committees, Collings is a member of the E-learning Council of the University of North Carolina and the Academic Administrators Group of the American Political Science Association. He also was a member of the Mountain Area Health Education Center board of directors and the town of Webster’s planning council.

An author of numerous publications and presentations, he received an award for best faculty paper from the Midwest Association for Latin American Studies. He also earned a Ford Foundation Fellowship and National Science Foundation Traineeship.

“While I am excited about the prospect of leading Wayne State, Marilyn and I are saddened to leave the many friends we have made here at Western Carolina University and in Western North Carolina,” Collings said. “We have had eight wonderful years here, both professionally and personally.”

Collings was one of four finalists who met with the Nebraska State College System, board, faculty, staff, students and community members at Wayne State in late January. Selection of Collings came after NSC administrators visited Western Carolina to meet with his colleagues, faculty, staff and students.

“The site visit confirmed that Richard Collings was, indeed, the person we wanted at the helm of WSC, and we are very pleased that he will be joining the Nebraska State College System,” said Stan Carpenter, NSC executive director. “His experience with enrollment growth and retention, as well as partnerships with other educational institutions will be beneficial for Wayne State College, the NSC system and the state of Nebraska.”

At Western, a campus committee chaired by Noelle Kehrberg, dean of the College of Applied Sciences, has been appointed to conduct a national search for a new chief academic officer, working with the Academic Search Consultation Service, a national search firm. The university is reorganizing the administrative structure of its academic division and moving to a “provost system.” The provost, when appointed, will serve as chief academic officer and the senior vice chancellor authorized to act for the chancellor in the chancellor’s absence.