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Jim Wohlpart resigning as University of Northern Iowa provost to lead Central Washington University
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Jim Wohlpart resigning as University of Northern Iowa provost to lead Central Washington University

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CEDAR FALLS — Jim Wohlpart announced Thursday he is resigning after six years as the University of Northern Iowa's provost to lead Central Washington University.

He will become president in June of the Ellensburg, Wash., public university, which had a total enrollment of 15,818 during 2019-20, according to its website. UNI had 10,497 students that year and enrollment dropped to 9,522 this fall.

“It has been a deep honor to partner with so many faculty, staff and administrators across campus to elevate the great work of teaching, learning, scholarship and service here,” Wohlpart said in a UNI news release. He added that working with students at the university has been one of the best parts of his job.

“I’m excited to start this new role and will leave campus with many wonderful memories and lasting relationships,” he said.

UNI President Mark Nook said Wohlpart excelled at one of the most difficult positions at any university, overseeing academic and operating budgets with numerous stakeholders. He also helped steer UNI planning during the tumultuous past year of the pandemic.

“Jim is an outstanding administrator who inspires those around him and has built a culture of collaboration and trust across campus,” Nook said in the news release. “He contributed greatly to the university’s vision in recent years and has made UNI a better place. We will be continuing this work.”

Leaders of the Faculty Senate and the United Faculty bargaining group also praised Wohlpart's tenure at the university.

"I have very much enjoyed working with Provost Wolhpart. His leadership greatly benefited UNI," said Amy Petersen, faculty chairperson, noting that "he cared deeply" for staff and students.

"His leadership style was authentic, collaborative and often inspirational," she said. "He listened deeply and worked to cultivate and elevate the strengths of the faculty. Even in the most difficult times, he supported and encouraged faculty to grow and develop in ways that filled their passion and also served the university.

"He made a number of significant contributions that will continue to shape our campus and future after his departure," Petersen added. "Most noteworthy in my role and interactions with him, he worked diligently to improve shared governance on campus and create a culture of communication, problem-solving and action toward the common good."

Becky Hawbaker, United Faculty president, said he was effective at partnering with university employees.

"Jim leaves behind a number of enduring legacies at UNI, but for me the most important was re-establishing a productive, collaborative, and trusting relationship between faculty and administration after the devastation (of) the closures of programs and Price Lab School in 2012," she said. "Although the union still had our disagreements with some of his decisions, there were many more great decisions we made together. I'm proud of that collaboration, was honored to serve with him and wish him all the best."

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Mark Braun, executive director of the Iowa Board of Regents, offered congratulations to Wohlpart in a statement, saying he "has served UNI with great distinction." 

"In addition to being an outstanding chief academic officer, he provided extraordinary campus leadership as interim president after the departure of former president Bill Ruud in 2016," said Braun.

"While this is clearly a loss for UNI, the board is excited for Provost Wohlpart as he accepts this great professional opportunity," he added. "We wish him well in all his future endeavors."

Ron Erickson, Board of Trustees chairman at Central Washington, said in a news release that Wohlpart’s comprehensive academic and leadership experience in higher education set him apart from other candidates for president.

“Jim understands that we must elevate the civic engagement of our students in order to ensure a thriving democracy,” said Erickson, adding the urgency of that charge has never been greater. “His vision is one Central has long shared: to be a place of learning and growth that both supports and challenges students as they develop into fully informed citizens.”

Wohlpart came to the job of provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at UNI in June 2015 from Florida Gulf Coast University, where he was a dean and English professor. Just over a year after arriving, he was named interim president when Ruud left to head Marietta College in Ohio. He remained in that position until January 2017, when Nook became UNI's president.

In the meantime, Wohlpart applied for the job along with 45 other candidates. He and Nook were two of the three finalists who competed for the position.

During his time at UNI, he created a Leadership Academy to help develop leaders-in-place across campus, helped with preparations for the upcoming Higher Learning Commission Accreditation, revamped the budgeting process to improve transparency and backed efforts to support and retain traditionally underrepresented students.

Wohlpart holds a doctorate in English from the University of Tennessee, a master's degree in English from Colorado State University and bachelor's degree in philosophy from the University of Tennessee.

According to the Central Washington news release, Wohlpart's annual salary will be $400,000.

UNI will launch the search for the next provost this spring to bring a highly-qualified individual to the position, according to the UNI news release. The search process is beginning with campus community discussions.

Photos: Northern Iowa men's basketball vs. Bradley, Jan. 11, 2021

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Education Reporter

I cover local schools and higher education for The Courier, where I’ve been a reporter for the past two decades. I’m a Minnesota native and have previously worked for newspapers there and in Illinois.

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