The Nevada System of Higher Education voted unanimously Thursday to hire former Gov. Brian Sandoval as the new president of the University of Nevada, Reno.
Sandoval, a UNR alumnus, was hired under a four-year contract beginning Oct. 5. His base salary will be $500,000 per year.
“I have believed in the promise of the University of Nevada, Reno, my entire life,” Sandoval said in a statement. “I am extremely humbled and deeply honored to be given the opportunity by the Nevada System of Higher Education and the Board of Regents to lead our university and my alma mater into the future.”
A search committee interviewed four finalists this week for the position: Sandoval, Chaden Djalali, Jennifer Evans-Cowley and Jonathan Koppell.
The selection did not catch UNR by surprise.
The university sent out a media advisory Thursday afternoon prior to the vote saying the Board of Regents “is soon to announce” Sandoval’s appointment as UNR’s 17th president, making him the first Hispanic to lead the school.
The university later issued a correction saying the advisory wasn’t meant to be an official announcement, “but rather a heads up to media” that a press conference was scheduled after the vote.
During the press conference, Sandoval, who was joined by his wife and daughter, said: “As a 1986 graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno, this is a place that is very special to me and I’ve always felt that everything I’ve been able to accomplish in my life and the friends that I’ve made and the relationship(s) that I have, if there was one North Star for all of those things, it was this campus.”
Sandoval, who has a juris doctorate and graduated from UNR in 1986, served as Nevada governor from 2011-19. He won UNR’s University Alumni of the Year award in 2004.
In April, Sandoval announced he was leaving his position as president of global gaming development at MGM Resorts International to focus on pursuing the UNR presidency.
Current UNR President Marc Johnson announced in October 2019 that he planned to leave his job in June to return to a teaching position. But this spring, NSHE regents voted to extend his contract through Dec. 31 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
UNR student body president Dominique Hall told regents Thursday she’s in full support of Sandoval as UNR president and believes he’ll do a fantastic job. But she said it’s a conflict of interest for four regents to disclose a connection with Sandoval and then vote anyway.
UNLV student body president Joshua Padilla said he was concerned that Sandoval has no experience in the educational sector, let alone at a university. And he called it disheartening that it appeared Sandoval had been given the position before the public process began.