UNK names three finalists for senior vice chancellor position

KEARNEY – Following a national search, the University of Nebraska at Kearney has selected three finalists for the position of senior vice chancellor for academic affairs.

The finalists are: Laurie Couch, associate provost for undergraduate education and student success at Morehead State University; Rai Kathuria, assistant vice president for university academic affairs at Indiana University; and Kristen Majocha, dean of the College of Social Sciences and Human Services and College of Education and Liberal Arts at California University of Pennsylvania.

Reporting to the chancellor, the senior vice chancellor for academic affairs serves as the chief academic officer of the university, providing administrative leadership, direction and evaluation for all academic activities and faculty affairs of UNK.

Charlie Bicak has held the position since March 2009. He plans to retire this spring.

A series of forums are scheduled to allow members of the campus and Kearney communities to meet the finalists and provide feedback.

Laurie Couch
Monday, March 28
Location – Copeland Hall 142
2:30 to 3 p.m. – Student Forum
3:15 to 4:45 p.m. – Faculty/Staff/Community Forum

As associate provost for undergraduate education and student success, a position she’s held since 2016, Couch is responsible for faculty development, curriculum and program review, instructional technology, academic policy, strategic planning and budgeting and student success initiatives at Morehead State University.

She has worked closely with faculty through shared governance to develop numerous new academic programs and revise the general education and first-year seminar course. Through her leadership, student retention and graduation rates increased significantly, completion rates in gateway courses dramatically improved and equity gaps for at-risk students decreased.

Couch established the Center for Career Development and Experiential Education, which supports career preparation and student engagement through undergraduate research, education abroad, service learning and internships, and she co-directs MSU’s Quality Enhancement Plan to connect these high-impact practices to students’ career competencies. She also served as a member of MSU’s SACSCOC Compliance Team for the institution’s 2021 accreditation site visit, and she is MSU’s liaison to the Kentucky Council for Postsecondary Education, where she is a member of the Council of Chief Academic Officers and serves on several statewide higher education policy committees.

Couch earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Mississippi State University and a master’s degree and doctorate in experimental psychology from the University of Tennessee.

Kristen Majocha
Thursday, March 31
Location – Copeland Hall 142
3 to 3:30 p.m. – Student Forum
3:45 to 5 p.m. – Faculty/Staff/Community Forum

A U.S. Navy veteran and first-generation college graduate, Majocha has served as a dean at California University of Pennsylvania since 2018. She oversees three campus locations and more than 250 faculty and staff members.

Her focus on student success led to improved rates of retention and persistence by 7%, graduation by 4% and retention of international students by 50%. She actively works with faculty and government officials to create pathways that ensure student support and develop responsive academic programming.

Majocha is a champion of the teacher-scholar model, where faculty research informs the classroom, students participate in research opportunities with their teachers, and the results inform best practices in the job market. Her leadership style is steeped in the servant-leader model, and she completed the Penn State Academic Leadership Academy and Jenny Bloom’s Appreciative Administration program.

Majocha played a key role in developing Pennsylvania Western University, and she previously served as assistant vice president of academic affairs and director of international program support and services at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from Slippery Rock University and a master’s degree in communication and doctorate in rhetoric from Duquesne University.

Rai Kathuria
Monday, April 4
Location – Copeland Hall 142
3 to 3:30 p.m. – Student Forum
3:45 to 5 p.m. – Faculty/Staff/Community Forum

Kathuria has served as assistant vice president for university academic affairs at Indiana University and director of the Office of Collaborative Academic Programs for IU Online since 2017. He’s also an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Indiana University East, one of seven IU campuses that collectively enroll more than 91,000 students.

In his role as an assistant vice president and director, Kathuria oversees 56 collaborative degrees across all IU campuses. Enrollment in these degree programs increased 17% from fall 2020 to fall 2021. IU Online offers more than 200 online programs, with 8,224 students enrolled in fall 2021 – a 10.5% increase from the prior year.

Kathuria created a scalable and sustainable annual course assessment and five-year comprehensive external program review processes used by all seven campuses, and he serves as a peer reviewer for the Higher Learning Commission and master reviewer for Quality Matters.

He received the Distinguished Faculty Service Award for his exemplary contributions to the campus and community and the Indiana University Bicentennial Medal for his service in support of the mission of Indiana University.

Kathuria earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Delhi, a master’s degree in biochemistry from Jamia Hamdard University and a doctorate in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of Delhi. He also completed Harvard University’s Management Development Program.