Apr 15, 2024

Charlie Bicak, longtime UNK educator and administrator, named interim chancellor effective June 1

Posted Apr 15, 2024 7:00 PM
Charlie Bicak (Courtesy of UNK)
Charlie Bicak (Courtesy of UNK)

Todd Gottula

UNK Communications

KEARNEY – University of Nebraska Interim President Chris Kabourek announced today that he has named Charlie Bicak, a University of Nebraska at Kearney alum and longtime educator and administrator whose connections to UNK date back more than 60 years, as interim chancellor effective June 1. Bicak’s appointment is subject to approval by the Board of Regents.

Bicak most recently served as senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs from 2009 to 2022. If confirmed, he will succeed current Chancellor Doug Kristensen, who is stepping down from the role after leading UNK for the past 22 years. Kristensen’s last day at the helm will be May 31.

“Charlie Bicak is the right person to keep UNK moving forward through this transition period,” Kabourek said. “He knows the campus and the community well, he is an outstanding champion for UNK’s mission to serve rural Nebraska, and he has the knowledge and relationships necessary to pick up where Chancellor Kristensen will leave off.

“I’m so grateful that Charlie and Marylin have agreed to answer this latest call to service to students and Nebraska. Under Charlie’s leadership, the campus will be in good hands while we take time to conduct a robust national search for a permanent chancellor.”

Bicak said: “I thank Interim President Kabourek for the opportunity to serve my alma mater in this way. UNK means so much to me and my family, and I will do whatever I can to support our students, faculty, staff and greater community as we continue to deliver the quality, affordable education and skilled workforce that rural Nebraska needs. The University of Nebraska at Kearney is an outstanding institution in which the best teaching, scholarship and service are witnessed daily. Marylin and I are humbled and excited to be part of the UNK community.”

A Kearney Catholic High School graduate, Bicak has deep ties to Kearney and UNK. His late father, Laddie, was a longtime faculty member at UNK. After working summers on the campus grounds crew, Bicak enrolled at UNK, then known as Kearney State College, in 1970, and played football for the Lopers for two years before earning his bachelor’s degree in biology education in 1974.

He taught at Westside Community Schools in Omaha, earned master’s and doctorate degrees and began his career in academic at California State University. He returned to UNK in 1992, teaching in the Department of Biology for the next 13 years, including service as department chair and assistant to the dean. He received the Teaching Excellence Award from the Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce and the Leland Holdt/Security Mutual Life Distinguished Faculty Award, presented annually to a UNK teacher-scholar for outstanding achievements in education, research and service.

After serving as dean of the School of Natural Sciences at St. Edward’s University in Texas for four years, Bicak returned to UNK for good in 2009.

As senior vice chancellor, Bicak oversaw numerous initiatives at UNK, notably playing a key role in the successful partnership with the University of Nebraska Medical Center to expand health care education in rural Nebraska. UNK and UNMC opened the Health Science Education Complex in Kearney in 2015, and construction is underway on the Douglas A. Kristensen Rural Health Education Complex, which will further expand UNMC programs on the UNK campus.

Bicak also developed a new general studies curriculum that has given students greater flexibility in earning their degree, expanded the Kearney Health Opportunities Program with UNMC, and launched the Kearney Law Opportunities Program, a partnership with the Nebraska College of Law that trains students for legal careers in rural communities. He also collaborated with the University of Nebraska at Omaha to bring a master’s program in social work to UNK.

Bicak retired from the senior vice chancellor’s role in 2022, but he has remained engaged in bringing the rural health partnerships to fruition.

Bicak will serve as interim chancellor until a permanent successor is named.

A 13-member search committee is helping to guide the chancellor search, with assistance from executive search firm CarterBaldwin. The search firm and search committee will host public listening sessions on campus to gather input on what qualities and skills the University of Nebraska President’s Office should seek in the next UNK chancellor.

Kabourek said those listening sessions will likely take place in the fall to ensure maximum faculty and student participation.

Bicak added: “I would like to acknowledge the remarkable legacy of Chancellor Doug Kristensen. His commitment and relentless determination have set a standard for leadership that will endure. His unwavering dedication has made UNK a better place daily. I’m honored to follow in his footsteps and grateful for his friendship.”