Charlie Bicak (pronounced buy-sack) was strongly impacted by the value in a collaborative style during his graduate school days. While completing his doctoral program at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins, he became involved in the program of the Natural Resource Ecology laboratory (NREL). “It was, entirely, a collaborative and interdisciplinary project,” Bicak says. “To complete our research projects with a high level of value and quality required us to have chemists, ecologists, zoologists, botanists, anthropologists, philosophers, and a statistician, as well as ranchers and other land managers. In other words, it required the collaboration of a host of experts to be successful. The human condition was often a key element of our scientific investigation of natural and agro-ecosystems.”
This sort of embracing approach is the kind that Bicak plans to practice as UNK’s new Senior Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs. A teacher and a researcher at heart, he explains, Bicak returns to UNK with more than a decade in higher education administration. He most recently served as the Dean of the School of Natural Sciences at St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX, over the last four years. Previously, he was also chair of the Biology Department at California State University, Bakersfield, and of course, Bicak was the chair of the Biology Department, here, at UNK for seven years. A longtime resident of Kearney, Bicak was a professor of biology here from 1992-2005. The late Laddie Bicak, Charlie’s father, served the Kearney campus as a faculty member in Biology from 1962-89, and as Dean of the Graduate School from 1969-78.
While letters from former students have been one of his sustaining motivations through the years, Bicak says his ongoing passion for higher education is fed by the opportunities he recognizes in contributing to “the greater good of the university.” He is particularly excited about how he feels he can contribute at a deeper level from his new position in the vice chancellor’s chair. “I don’t mean to imply that I can solve all problems, but rather, I think that as vice chancellor, I will positively contribute to the mission of UNK on a broader plane.”
The foundation to his agenda as he comes on board, Bicak says, includes, “Continuing to support all the good that’s going on here both academically and in the student life. There is a breadth of achievement across this campus and excellence in each college.”
Bicak says, too, that he is very impressed with UNK’s healthy balance between teaching and research and will do all he can to maintain that condition. Also, he says, he’d like to help enhance existing programs through prudent management of resources to help increase enrollment and bolster recognition of UNK. “If you’d asked me 20 years ago about the importance of enrollment management, my answer certainly would have been different,” Bicak reveals. “Enrollment Management is key to our advancement and growth.
In the past, all faculty worked at retention. Today, clearly, all of us— staff, faculty, administration, students, alumni and more—are recruiters, too.”
Finally, Bicak says, “Wedded to my collaborative approach is my sincere desire to be consultative. I work hard to listen.”