Five of Utah’s colleges are currently led by women — an already historic number that could grow by one more this year as Weber State University narrows down its search for a new president.
The Ogden school released its list of four finalists for the position Friday. It includes two women — Melody Rose and Katherine P. Frank — and two men — Frank R. Lamas and Brad L. Mortensen.
The new president, whom the university expects to select by Dec. 6, will replace Charles Wight, who stepped down from the post in June after five years at the helm of Weber State. His replacement will come in at the tail end of a major shuffling of leadership at colleges across the state, with three other presidents also being named this year at the University of Utah, Utah Valley University and Westminster College.
A 21-member search committee spent months reviewing applications for Weber State, according to a news release. The school will host open public meetings next week with each candidate so any student or community member can ask questions.
The Board of Regents, which oversees higher education in Utah, will then hear from the four finalists on Thursday, likely naming one by late afternoon.
“It truly has been a collective effort,” said Nolan Karras, chairman of the Weber State Board of Trustees.
The new president will be tasked with leading a college of more than 28,000 students in northern Utah’s Weber County. Here is an overview of each candidate:
Rose is currently the president of Marylhurst University, a private school in Oregon, which she has led since summer 2014. The campus, though, is shutting down at the end of this year due to declining enrollment and financial losses.
Rose has taken heat for that announcement, with a handful of professors accusing her of not being transparent and accelerating the closure by changing structures at the school without understanding its unique setup, according to an article by The Oregonian. The population there has declined by nearly 1,000 students — about half of its student body — from 2011 to 2018, while tuition increased more than 3 percent.
Additionally, two students are suing the institution for tuition money they said they paid before knowing the Catholic university was going to close after 125 years.
Rose’s tenure there has been a bit bumpy from the start. One year in, students and professors held a demonstration against her decisions to restructure academic departments, lower pay for adjunct faculty and cut classes. She defended the adjustments.
“We’re going to have folks who are uncomfortable with change or affected by change,” she told The Lake Oswego Review.
Rose has also served as chancellor of the Oregon University System and spent 17 years at Portland State University, where she founded the Center for Women’s Leadership. There, she also served as a department chairwoman, vice provost and dean.
She earned a bachelor’s degree from University of California, Santa Cruz, and two master’s degrees from Cornell University.
In the application process with Weber State, her focus has been on making data-driven decisions for students. Her public meeting is scheduled from 4 to 4:50 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 5, at the Student Union Building, 3910 W. Campus Drive, Ogden.
Katherine P. Frank
Frank is the provost and vice president for academic and student life at Central Washington University, where she also teaches English. There, she has focused on sustainability with budgeting and redesigning the general education model.
Before that, Frank served as the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Northern Kentucky University. That college, the largest at the school, was investigated last year after The College Heights Herald reported that a professor there had kept his job despite several accounts of sexually harassing students over 10 years. The instructor received written warnings and Frank advised him at one point to “evaluate carefully correspondence with all students.”
She also served as dean of humanities and social science at Indiana University East and chairwoman of English and foreign languages at Colorado State University-Pueblo.
Frank earned a bachelor’s degree from Bates College and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Washington. Her public meeting is scheduled from 2 to 2:50 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 5, at the Student Union Building.
Frank R. Lamas
Lamas oversees 53 departments and programs as the vice president of student affairs and enrollment management at California University, Fresno, and has spent three decades as a higher education administrator.
During his time at the California campus with 24,000 students, he has led the school’s response to an online threat of gunfire and the overdose death of a student.
“When our students arrive at Fresno State, they are filled with hopes and dreams for their future,” he said in mourning the latter.
Frank previously was an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Arlington and Canisius College in New York. His research focuses on social determinants of student success.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Potsdam and master’s and doctoral degrees at the State University of New York at Albany. His public meeting is scheduled from 3 to 3:50 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 5, at the Student Union Building.
Brad L. Mortensen
Mortensen is the only candidate with experience at Weber State. He has been at the Ogden school since 2004, serving as vice president of university advancement for the past 11 years.
He’s been particularly involved in the community there: as chairman of the Ogden-Weber Chamber of Commerce and of United Way of Northern Utah. He’s worked to create partnerships between local groups and the university.
“We realized that we need to play a more active and engaged role with the private sector, with local government, with state government in this role of economic development,” he told The Standard-Examiner.
Mortensen previously worked for the Utah System of Higher Education, the Utah governor’s office and the Arizona Legislature. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Utah State University, a master’s from Syracuse University and a doctorate from the University of Utah.
His public meeting is scheduled from 1 to 1:50 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 5, at the Student Union Building.