The Chosen: UNF President Search Down to 12 Candidates


Colin McCann

The Presidential Search Committee Meet to decide on the semi-finalists

Colin McCann

On Feb. 1, the Presidential Search Committee met once again. This time to review candidate material in order to narrow down the choices.

The committee was given a chance to review the material for the 75 candidates prior to the meeting. That way during the meeting the committee could spend more time talking about the preferred candidates. The end result was a list of twelve final candidates the committee believes might best serve UNF and the UNF community.

President of Parker Executive Search Laurie Wilder reminded the committee they were deciding who they wanted to learn more about because candidates on paper may seem different in person.

The top twelve candidates are Irma Becerra, Kelli Brown, Vincent Carilli, Kevin Carman, John Floros, Yi Li, Frank Neville, Rhonda Phillips, Latha Ramchand, Charles Robinson and David Szymanski.

Candidate Summaries

All of these candidates have more goals, experience and other qualifications than can be written in a single article. The below summaries do not depict the complete potential of the candidates. The names of the candidates will have their resumes attached. 

Wilder said the candidates “come from all walks of life.” They come from different positions and therefore bring different things to the table.


Irma Becerra advised several organizations, in particular NASA, and led several projects with NASA and other organizations as well.

Irma Becerra, is a Provost and Chief Academic Officer at St. Thomas University. She has also received numerous degrees in engineering at Florida International University and the University of Miami. As someone who knows a lot about knowledge management and disaster management, Becerra can assess and manage situations that may be difficult for others to manage. Becerra has also led million dollar projects.

She has published more than 60 peer-reviewed published works and over 100 pedagogy publications.Georgia College

Kelli Brown is the Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs, and a Professor in the School of Health and Human Performance, at Georgia College and State University. Brown has a lot of experience mentoring students. During Browns time at Georgia College, the graduations rates and the amount of faculty have increased. Brown has also been involved in million dollar renovations at Georgia College.


Carilli highlighted his community involvement in his resume.
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Vincent Carilli is the vice chancellor for Student Life at the University of Tennessee. As the vice chancellor, Carilli leads student experiences out of the classroom. He also manages services for the students like career services, student health, and student conduct. Additionally, Carilli works with student and family programs and the Office of the Dean of Students.

Carman received approximately $9.6 million for his research with the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Gulf of Mexico Alliance and several other organizations.
University of Nevada, Reno

Kevin Carman is the executive vice president and provost as well as a professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Nevada. His position as executive VP and provost has given Carman experience leading and overseeing the university’s colleges. He also takes over as the chief executive officer when the president is absent. Additionally, Carman has worked with incoming freshmen and led in the revision of curricula.

“I have published more than 130 research articles, book chapters and other publications, more than 110 research abstracts, and have made numerous scientific and technical presentations, more than 300 of which have been invited.” LinkedIn

John Floros is the dean of the College of Agriculture, the professor of Food Science and Engineering, and the director of Research and Extension at Kansas State University. Floros is a leader in academics, a food scientist and an experience researcher. He also has experience with funds, budgets, and the development of partnerships.

Yi Li’s cover letter described the hardship he and his family faced growing up during the Cultural Revolution in China, where “education was considered suspect.” California State University, Northridge

Yi Li is a Professor of Mathematics and the Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at California State University. As the VP of Academic Affairs, Li has shown leadership experience. Some of Li’s goals are increasing student retention and graduation rates. Li also encourages inclusivity and student progression academically, professionally, and personally.

Frank Neville is a former senior U.S. diplomat with 15 years of experience in high-profile leadership roles at embassies in Asia and
Latin America.LinkedIn

Frank Neville has had experience as the chief of staff and vice president of Communications and Marketing at George Mason University. He has 28 years of leadership experience in communications, public relations, strategy, operations and board management. As a leader in communications and public relations, Neville has had a lot of experience working with groups and individuals. This experience plays a positive role in the management and creation of partnerships.


Rhonda Philips was awarded the U.S. Fulbright Commission Senior Specialist Award, Panama for several years. Purdue University

Rhonda Phillips has been the dean at Purdue Honors College since 2013. She has experience as a school director, research center director, program director, and tenured faculty member at Perdue University, Arizona State University, and the University of Florida. In addition to leadership skills, Phillips has experience developing partnerships and programs, fundraising, and strategic planning.

Latha Ramchand won several awards for her publications including Best Paper Award in International Finance.
University of Houston

Latha Ramchand is a Dean and Professor of Finance at the University of Houston. She has experience in leadership development, business development, economics, and workplace diversity. She also has experience working with clients from a range of industries.



In 2008, Charles Robinson was given the Martin Luther King Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award by the Fayetteville MLK committee.University of Arkansas

Charles Robinson has been the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs at the University of Arkansas since 2015. He has experience with budgeting and working with over 350 personnel throughout 30 departments. One of his goals is to increase student retention and graduation rates.

Thompson has been a frequent presenter at national and regional conferences throughout the country. University of Oregon

Roger Thompson is the Vice President for Student Services and Enrollment Management at the University of Oregon. Thompson is committed to the development of organizations, as well as providing leadership and accomplishing strategic goals. He also has experience working and collaborating with students and a team of over 1,500 people.

David Szymanski was the JCPenney Chair of Retailing Studies at Texas A&M University.  University of Cincinnati

Finally, David Szymanski is a Dean and Professor of Marketing at the University of Cincinnati. He is also the former Vice President of Business Affairs. Szymanski has experience in academics, leadership, and business. Additionally, he is a top marketing researcher.

After over an hour of discussion and coming to a consensus on the final candidates, the committee moved on to discuss the interview questions. Candidates will be asked around 11 main questions, along with some follow-up questions. These questions will revolve around a number of important topics like professional background and experience, challenges in higher education, diversity and inclusion, and student success. Other topics include community engagement, economic development, experience and innovation in fundraising, leadership, ethics and integrity.

Following the discussion about interview questions, President of the UNF Faculty Association Dr. Radha Pyati asked how the committee plans on getting feedback from the upcoming forums from Feb. 12 to 15. Wilder said a survey will be created for those who attend the forum asking what they believe are the candidates weaknesses and strengths. The results will then be taken to the Board of Trustees. Interviews for the semi-finalists will take place on Feb. 6 and 7.

For further information on the candidates, you can read their letters to the presidential search committee here.

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