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Former Lt. Gov. Kate Marshall among finalists for new higher ed chancellor

Jacob Solis
Jacob Solis
Higher Education
Lieutenant Gov. Kate Marshall on the final day of the 81st session of the Nevada Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent).

The slate of three finalists to head the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) will include former Democratic Lt. Gov. Kate Marshall, the latest high-profile Nevada political figure to enter the higher education fray. 

Announced as part of the release of a Board of Regents meeting agenda late Wednesday, Marshall is joined by Charles Ansell, the Reno-based vice president for research at the nonprofit Complete College America, and Lawrence Drake, interim president of Bethune-Cookman University in Florida, in the chancellor finalist pool. 

Ansell also served for four years as the chief operating officer of New Hampshire’s community college system, while Drake — before his higher education career began in 2021 — led Coca-Cola’s Africa division for 28 years. 

A regents select committee will meet next Thursday for final interviews with the three candidates and vote on a recommendation for the full board, which will make the formal selection at a special meeting next Friday, June 30.

Marshall, an attorney, was elected lieutenant governor in 2018 alongside Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak. She later resigned the post in 2021 to join the Biden administration as an adviser to state governors, a position she left in February. She now works for the The Impact Project, a progressive nonprofit focused on state-level economic policies, and worked on an ultimately vetoed bill in the 2023 Legislature that would have required the state to adopt drug prices negotiated by Medicare.

Previously, Marshall served two terms as the state treasurer from 2007 to 2015, before losing a bid for secretary of state in 2014. Marshall also ran and lost a 2011 special election in Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District to now-Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV). Before her political career, Marshall was an attorney, receiving both a bachelor’s and law degree from the University of California, Berkeley. 

If Marshall is selected, she would become one of several former elected officials to join the leading ranks of Nevada higher education, following the appointment of former Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval as UNR president in 2020. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) also briefly served as a vice chancellor under Chancellor Dan Klaich before mounting a bid for the U.S. Senate in 2016.

Whomever the regents select will succeed outgoing Acting Chancellor Dale Erquiaga, a former leader of the state’s K-12 department who pledged to exit the role after this year’s legislative session. After initially signing a contract ending at the end of the 2023 calendar year, Erquiaga is now set to depart at the end of this month.  

The new chancellor will enter NSHE’s top job after a tumultuous decade for the state’s higher education system, now set for its fourth new chancellor in four years.  

In 2020, then-Chancellor Melody Rose replaced the outgoing Thom Reilly, who served three years and stayed beyond an initial departure date in a bid to steady the system during the earliest months of the pandemic. 

By 2021, Rose entered a protracted internal battle with leaders of the Board of Regents, both over her interactions with college and university presidents and over her backing of COVID vaccine mandates for students and employees. That fight culminated in Rose filing a hostile work environment complaint

An external investigation into that complaint did not substantiate claims Rose made of sexist bias within the system, but it  laid bare the stark internal divisions and emergent factions on the board. The episode ended with Rose’s departure in early 2022, alongside a $610,000 buyout of her contract by the system. 

Separately, the system and the Board of Regents have continued to clash with the Legislature, which passed two measures this year aimed at curtailing the board’s authority. The first, AB118, will reduce the size of the board from 13 members to nine, and reduce the length of regents’ terms from six years to four. 

The second, SJR7, is a proposed constitutional amendment from the 2021 legislative session that, if approved by voters next year, would remove regents from the state constitution and treat higher education like other state agencies. 

Regents were critical of both measures, saying in part that AB118 would reduce rural representation and concentrate power among members from Southern Nevada, while SJR7 came as a response to individuals on the board and in NSHE who have long since departed. 

But lawmakers and Gov. Joe Lombardo both have signaled an intention to pursue additional changes to higher education’s governing structures — and in so doing, have often cited turmoil at the top of the ladder. 


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