The search is over! JuliAnn Mazachek is the sole finalist for MSU’s presidency


Colin Stevenson

JuliAnn Mazachek is the sole finalist for MSU’s presidency, Mar. 7.

After a months-long closed search, MSU and the Texas Tech system finally pulled the curtain back to reveal JuliAnn Mazachek as the sole finalist for the position of president. The news first came out during the Texas Tech board of regents meeting Monday morning via teleconference, where the board unanimously approved a vote to name Mazachek as the sole finalist. Fanfare and decorum followed soon after at a reception held in Comanche Suite in Clark Student Center at noon of the same day. Tedd Mitchell, chancellor of the Texas Tech University system, presided over the event and introduced Mazachek, who also spoke.

Mazachek, the vice president for academic affairs at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, is leaving Washburn after three decades. Her titles have included dean of the business school, vice president for academic affairs and president and CEO of the Washburn University Foundation.

Mark Griffin, vice chair of the Texas Tech board of regents and chair of the presidential search committee, said the committee received over 60 applications for the position from candidates across the nation before narrowing the field down to seven finalists. After a round of interviews, the committee agreed unanimously on Mazachek.

Texas Tech System Board of Regents Vice Chairman Mark Griffin thanks many who assisted in the search for MSU's new president at the announcement, Mar. 7.
Texas Tech System Board of Regents Vice Chairman Mark Griffin thanks many who assisted in the search for MSU’s new president at the announcement, Mar. 7. (Colin Stevenson)

Mitchell said Mazachek’s experience and business acumen made her stand out as a candidate, and both qualities played a large role in her selection.

“So we were looking for someone who would have not only the background in higher education that was necessary for the nuts and bolts of running a university, but if possible look for somebody that had a really good business background as well. Because, as you know, this is a big business. And somebody that has a background in business, in administration and in fundraising. Because a huge part of what the presidency here will be working toward is a very robust fundraising opportunity for not just the Wichita Falls community but for this entire area,” Mitchell said.

Griffin echoed the endorsement of Mazachek’s credentials, and said her experience makes her a strong choice. 

“There’s nothing that’s going to happen here that she probably hasn’t seen or experienced. And she brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise, but more importantly, she brings a fervent commitment to this institution, and an inclination to engage in the community. That’s very important to her,” Griffin said.

Mitchell said Mazachek’s background as a first-generation college graduate stood out as an example of why she is a good fit for MSU.

Texas Tech System Chancellor Tedd Mitchell speaks to the audience at the announcement of MSU's new president, Mar. 7.
Texas Tech System Chancellor Tedd Mitchell speaks to the audience at the announcement of MSU’s new president, Mar. 7. (Colin Stevenson)

“If you look at MSU’s history, the tradition here, you’ve got a university that has done a remarkable job not only at serving Wichita Falls and the surrounding community, but serving students, many of whom are first generation who otherwise would not have had an opportunity to access higher education,” Mitchell said. “Dr. Mazachek is also a first-generation college student. So she knows exactly what it’s like to come from a home where you may or may not have the opportunity to go to college. So when you’re looking for that type of leader that can be transformative in young folks’ lives, in offering them opportunities like this, it was one of the things that just really made her stand out.”

MSU's new president JuliAnn Mazachek shakes hands with Texas Tech System Chancellor Tedd Mitchell as the former walks up to speak, Mar. 7.
MSU’s new president JuliAnn Mazachek shakes hands with Texas Tech System Chancellor Tedd Mitchell as the former walks up to speak, Mar. 7. (Colin Stevenson)

In addition to making sure the choice for sole finalist was a good fit for MSU’s past and future, members of the presidential search committee also stressed the independence of MSU had been, and will continue to be, respected. Nine members of the 12-person committee came from MSU or the greater Wichita Falls community, with the remaining three spots being filled by representatives from Texas Tech.

Griffin said both the committee and the entire search process were deliberate in identifying what members of the MSU community felt were the most important challenges for the new president to tackle. He said Texas Tech made sure to listen to that feedback and allow it to guide the search.

“We didn’t want to be presumptuous,” Griffin said. “Coming from Tech, I needed the search committee and the constituents on campus and in the community to let us know what the challenges are. We want to grow the enrollment, ok? That was what I heard. We want to expand the educational opportunities. That’s what we heard. Those two things were the preeminent aspects.” Griffin added that, “We’re not going to compromise the integrity of the liberal arts offerings. Not in any form or fashion. What we want to do is grow and expand, and being part of a system like this, we can bring other tools to bear.”

Austin Strode, economic senior and student body president, was one of the nine MSU or Wichita Falls-based members who served on the search committee. Strode said as student body president, he tried to make sure the needs of all students would be addressed by the choice for president. 

“I’d say the biggest thing is just making sure that I felt all areas of the student body were being represented. I mean, that’s a very cliche answer, but at the end of the day, that’s my job, you know? I’ve got to set aside my own beliefs and make sure MSU students are being represented, and every single one of them,” Strode said.

Strode said, in trying to accomplish that goal, he encountered little to no pushback from other members of the committee.

“I mean, everyone on this committee, when we got into the room and we were doing interviews and meeting and conducting the process, it kind of stripped away everyone’s titles. I mean, you have regent members, doctorates and there’s me in my undergrad here at MSU. But I felt very much that my voice was heard as the student body president,” Strode said.

Strode also stressed that Texas Tech gave MSU plenty of leeway in the selection process.

“Especially, you know, they hammered home this is very much an MSU, Wichita Falls community search. Everyone’s voice was heard. It wasn’t Tech coming in to put a president. It was we, as MSU and our community, are picking it, and we’re just getting support,” Strode said.

Texas state law requires that new university presidents must wait at least 21 days before taking office as a review period. Mazachek will be eligible to begin her new role in late March, but no official date was announced at the event for when she will assume the role of president.