ABERDEEN, S.D.(Aberdeen American News)- Northern State University’s next president will be returning to the Midwest.
Neal Schnoor, who has been in Long Beach, Calif., since 2019 serving as chief of staff to the president at California State University, has been hired as the next leader of Northern State University.
The South Dakota Board of Regents named Schnoor as Northern’s new president Tuesday afternoon in an on-campus announcement.
In his role as chief of staff, Schnoor often represents the president in his work with internal and external constituencies to advance the university’s mission, initiatives and relationships. He and two other presidential candidates were on campus for interviews last week.
During his interview, Schnoor said his position as chief of staff makes him uniquely qualified.
“Everyone sees the president somewhere,” he said during his interview. “I‘ve had the unique opportunity to see him everywhere. It’s a demanding job. I go into it with my eyes wide open ,and I’m excited about the opportunity.”
Prior to his position at California State University, Schnoor previously served for seven years as a senior advisor to the chancellor for executive affairs at the University of Nebraska Kearney. Before that, he was dean of the School of Education and Counseling at Wayne State College in Nebraska.
Community members told each of the candidates they wanted to see more transparency when it comes to activities on campus and that decisions on campus have a profound impact in the state.
Schnoor replaces Tim Downs, who announced his resignation shortly before the end of the school year.
Downs had overseen many changes during his five years at Northern, including freshmen class growth, new residence halls, the new South Dakota School of Blind and Impaired, a regional science center, athletic fields, renovations to the Barnett Center and the on-campus football stadium and softball field.
He also advocated for nearly 20 new programs during his time at Northern, and growth in graduate programs that contributed to a 30% increase in graduate credit hours this spring.
Downs’ resignation followed the release of newsletters promoting social justice and inviting students to be “uncomfortable” as they start a journey into understanding diversity, equity and inclusion, and efforts by lawmakers demanding Downs put an end to a Diversity Action Pillar Team created this spring or resign, according to an Argus Leader investigation.
There was a letter circulated by lawmakers for signatures on April 16 calling for Downs to resign when the Board of Regents issued a release saying Downs was resigning “to pursue a new opportunity in higher education.”