RENO, Nev. (CBSDFW/AP) – Experienced leaders at universities in Arizona, Texas and Ohio have joined ex-Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval as the four finalists who will be interviewed next week in the search for the next president of the University of Nevada, Reno.

Sandoval, a former federal judge who also served in the Legislature, became one of the favorites for the job at his alma mater when he resigned from MGM Resorts in April in a bid to succeed outgoing President Marc Johnson.

The other finalists the Board of Regents announced this week are:

– Chaden Djalali, former executive vice president and provost of Ohio University, Athens, where he currently is a professor of physics and astronomy.

– Jennifer Evans-Cowley, provost and vice president of academic affairs at the University of North Texas.

– Jonathan Koppell, dean of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions at Arizona State University.

Johnson announced last year he planned to step down in October but agreed to stay on board until December when the hiring process was delayed amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Sandoval served two terms as governor before he became president of global gaming development at MGM Resorts in January 2019.

“The next president will have to guide UNR through an unprecedented pandemic and state budget crisis,” the popular, moderate Republican said in his formal application letter to become the university’s president earlier this month..

Sandoval said it would be his “dream job,” noting he has a lifetime relationship with the school and a personalized license plate – GOPAK – in recognition of the Wolf Pack athletic teams.

Open forums for students and the public, in person and via Zoom, will be held with the four candidates Sept. 14-15.

Feedback from those forums and comments from the hiring committee will be heard on Sept. 16. The Board of Regents is expected to choose a president Sept. 17.

Before becoming vice president and provost at Ohio, Djalali was the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Iowa and chaired the Physics Department at the University of South Carolina.

Evans-Cowley was the vice provost for capital planning and regional campuses at Ohio State University before joining North Texas in 2017.

At Arizona State, Koppell has overseen the largest comprehensive public affairs college since 2011 and previously served as director of the Center for Corporate Governance & Performance at Yale University.

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