Commencement 2024 Information

Commencement 2024 Information

HU Selects Six Presidential Finalists

By Martin Salazar,  Las Vegas Optic

Two current Highlands University officials — one a high level administrator and the other a faculty member — are among six finalists vying to be the school’s next president.

The names of the six finalists selected by the university’s Presidential Search Committee were released publicly on Thursday afternoon.

The two local candidates are Teresita Aguilar, Highlands provost and vice president for academic affairs, and William Taylor, a Highlands economics professor who served as the university’s finance vice president for nearly three years.

The other finalists are:
• Sam Minner, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Radford University in Radford, Va.;
• Brian Levin-Stankevich, president and professor at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah;
• Darcy Zabel, interim president at Friends University in Wichita, Kans.;
• And Lucas Lamadrid, vice president of Higher Education Programs at Three-W International in Belmont, NC.

Each of the finalists holds a terminal degree in his or her field.

“I’m extremely encouraged for the future of the university,” said Doyle Daves, who headed the Presidential Search Committee and who heads the Highlands University Foundation.

Each of the finalists will be on campus in the coming days and weeks to take part in meetings with various groups, including faculty, staff, students and the community at large. They will also be interviewed by regents, who will ultimately hire the next president.

Three campus visits are scheduled for this week.

Forums begin Tuesday, with Aguilar, followed by Taylor on Wednesday and Minner on Thursday. The three remaining candidates will be on campus the following week.

Levin-Stankevich will be at Highlands on April 28; Zabel will be here on April 29 and Lamadrid on April 30.

The public is invited to take part in a community open forums with each of the candidates scheduled for 1 to 2 p.m. on the day the finalist is on campus. The community forums will take place in Margaret J. Kennedy Alumni Hall.

Aguilar has served as Highlands’ provost since January 2014. She is a first-generation college graduate who earned her doctorate in higher education from the University of North Texas. She holds a B.A. in Recreation from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, in Belton, Texas, and an M.S. in therapeutic recreation from the University of North Texas. She is also working on an M.A. in spirituality from the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio.

Prior to coming to Highlands, Aguilar worked at Our Lady of the Lake University for nearly nine years, ending her tenure there as director of the school’s Center for Mexican American Studies and Research.

Our Lady of the Lake is a church-affiliated, liberal arts university in northwest San Antonio.

Taylor was appointed interim vice president for finance and administration at Highlands in February 2008. He held that position until August 2010, when he returned to the faculty.

From 2005 until 2008, Taylor served as dean of the Highlands School of Business.  Prior to that — from 2003 to 2005 — Taylor was the state Legislative Finance Committee’s assistant director for fiscal policy.

Taylor has also been active in the community. He currently serves on the board of directors for MainStreet de Las Vegas, having previously served a stint as the organization’s president. Taylor and his wife, Rose, have also been honored by the Citizens Committee for Historic Preservation for restoring local buildings.

Taylor holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of New Mexico, a master’s in public policy studies from the University of Chicago and a B.A. in history from the University of California at Los Angeles.

Minner is the chief academic officer at Radford University, which has nearly 10,000 students. he has held the position of provost and vice president for academic affairs at Radford since 2011. Among the significant accomplishments he cites are strong enrollment growth, significant improvements in grant submissions and funded proposals and restructured honors and international studies programs.

Minner also states that he was the founding dean of the School of Health Sciences and Education at Truman State University, a position he held from 2000 to 2011.

He earned his Ph.D. in cognitive and behavioral disabilities from the University of Arizona in Tucson. He earned his M.S. in learning and behavior disorders and his B.S. in elementary and special education, both from Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, Ill.

Levin-Stankevich has served as president of Westminster College since June 2012. Westminster College is a 3,000 student, private college in Salt Lake City, Utah. The school operates as a non-profit and has been ranked among the top 20 western regional universities by U.S. News.

He has previously served as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin -Eau Claire and as interim president of Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Wash.

Levin-Stankevich notes that in the past 10 years he has led the creation of three campus strategic plans.

He earned both his Ph.D. and master’s in history from the State University of New York at Buffalo and his B.A. in history from Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. He was a Fulbright Fellow at St. Petersburg University in Russia, where he studied law and has done post-doctoral work at the Warrington College of Business Administration, part of the University of Florida.

Zabel has served as interim president of Friends University in Wichita since March 2014. Friends University is an independent private Quaker-heritage regional university. The school’s enrollment is 3,000.

She previously served as the university’s vice president for academic affairs.

Prior to friends University, Zabel worked with the University of Connecticut’s TRIO programs for six years as a tutor, a teacher and administrative coordinator.

She earned both her Ph.D. and master’s degree in English from the University of Connecticut and a bachelor of arts in English from Mount Holyoke College for Women.

Lamadrid has served as vice president of higher education programs for Three-W international since June 2013. Three-W International is a private company founded in 1998 that specializes in recruiting and managing international students at high schools and universities in the U.S. and Canada. He manages all operations and budges in the company’s developing higher education division.

LaMadrid has previously served as vice president for enrollment management and student affairs at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina.

He earned his doctor of philosophy in religion from Duke University, his master’s degree in divinity at the University of Notre Dame and his bachelor of arts in economics and English from Marquette University.

The search process
Roughly four dozen people applied to be Highlands’ next president. Regents appointed a search committee to whittle down the applicant pool and asked the group to provide them with the names of six finalists.

The Presidential Search Committee spent last Monday and Tuesday interviewing semifinalists.

The person regents select for the post will replace Jim Fries. Fries announced in October that he plans to retire this summer after nearly eight years at the university’s helm.

Campus forum schedules and candidate CVs are online at


Reprinted with permission