Western Kentucky University has its next president.
The school’s board of regents voted unanimously Friday to offer the job to Timothy Caboni.
The 47-year-old currently serves as vice chancellor for public affairs at the University of Kansas.
He was formally introduced as WKU’s next president at a Friday afternoon news conference.
In an interview with WKU Public Radio, Caboni said his top challenge as the school's next leader is figuring out how to retain more first-year students.
"Those first-year students that we recruit must graduate in four years. Right now we're losing about a quarter of those students, and that's not acceptable. I've told that to faculty, staff, students, and anybody else who will listen. We're going to do better, and we're going to do better starting next year. It's going to take the entire community creating a culture of completion."
Caboni will come to WKU at a time when the school, like other Kentucky higher education institutions, is beginning to have part of its state funding based on certain metrics, such as graduation percentages. The New Orleans native says he welcomes the idea with open arms, while pointing out 36 other states already have some kind of performance-based funding model for public colleges and universities.
"Tennessee is 100 percent performance funding based. It does a couple of things, I think. Number one, it keeps universities focused on the things that are important. What gets measured, gets done. And the other thing it does is really create internal opportunities for conversations around prioritization, goal-setting, and then achievement."
Presidential search committee chairman Dr. Phillip Bale said Caboni was the best of an outstanding pool of applicants, including eight finalists brought to Nashville for face-to-face interviews. Dr. Bale says Caboni is taking over WKU at a time when many are questioning the value of higher education.
“Bricks and mortar universities are going to have to prove why they are valuable and why students and parents will want to send those students, still, to universities like ours," Dr. Bale said.
Caboni will take over duties as WKU’s tenth president July 1.
President Gary Ransdell announced a year ago he would be stepping down this summer after 20 years at the school.