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Seventh president comfortable at Nevada State College

As Nevada State College prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary, the school is once again breaking in a temporary new leader.

He’s hoping to remove "temporary" from his job title, though.

"I don’t see this as a short-term appointment," said Bart Patterson, who was appointed NSC’s interim president last month. "I see it as a long-term opportunity, both for me and the college."

Patterson, previously the state higher education system’s vice chancellor of administrative and legal affairs, is NSC’s seventh president since opening in 2002.

He was appointed last month when President Lesley Di Mare accepted a job to lead a state university in Colorado.

"I’ve had a pretty good background with Nevada State College," said Patterson, an attorney who joined the state higher education system in 2001.

He was NSC’s general counsel from 2004 to 2005.

Jason Geddes, chairman of the higher education system’s governing Board of Regents, said the board will conduct a national search for a new president. He said Patterson is welcome to apply.

"Bart has expressed interest," Geddes said.

Although it is system policy to conduct a search whenever a state college or university needs a new president, that policy has been suspended in recent years as the Board of Regents has dealt with a volley of state budget cuts.

Neal Smatresk, UNLV’s president, was promoted in 2009 from the provost’s office without a search. And Di Mare, the departing NSC leader, had held her interim position for more than a year before she left, taking over after former president Fred Maryanski died.

Now, however, the NSC search is about to start at the same time the board is already conducting searches for presidents at Great Basin College, a community college in Elko, and the University of Nevada, Reno, whose president also died while in office.

Geddes said an NSC search committee is being formed right now. The hope is to have a new president in place before the start of the next academic year.

Patterson comes on board at NSC with the support of college insiders and the chancellor, who recommended him for appointment.

"Over the time I have worked with Bart, I have found him to be a tireless worker, a superb partner, a trusted advisor, and a self starter," Chancellor Dan Klaich wrote in a memo to board members.

Patterson, who turns 50 on Sunday, said he identifies with the mission of Nevada State as a middle tier in the higher education system between the community colleges and the research universities.

"You have a faculty and staff here who I think are uniquely enthusiastic about what they do," he said.

He said his parents were both educators. Two of his children are students at NSC, while a third is studying at the College of Southern Nevada.

"I’ve always been interested in going back to a campus," he said. "I really wanted to be a part of working directly with the students, the faculty."

He joined the higher education system here after serving in private practice, mostly corporate law, for a decade.

He said top priorities will be improving retention and graduation rates — which is a top priority systemwide — and dealing with budget cuts while still growing as an institution.

NSC, with about 3,000 students, is the only public college in Nevada that saw significant enrollment increases this year. That is despite taking the largest cut in state funding when measured as a percentage. The system took a 15 percent cut. NSC’s cut was twice that.

Patterson said he believes the college can fill a vital role in Nevada by serving students who might not fit in at the universities. The college has the largest portion of minority and first-generation college students of any institution in the state. Despite that, the college received its accreditation earlier this year with a largely glowing report from the accrediting agency.

"I think Nevada State is in a terrific place right now," he said.

Contact reporter Richard Lake at rlake@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0307.

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