The Board of Regents voted Thursday to approve the appointment of DeRionne Pollard as Nevada State College’s eighth president, marking the end of a year-long search to replace outgoing President Bart Patterson.
Regents unanimously approved a four-year contract for Pollard that would pay her $367,273 per fiscal year beginning on August 16, an amount that places her salary roughly halfway between those of the state’s community college presidents and that of the chancellor.
Patterson’s near-10-year tenure in the college’s top had provided long-term stability for Nevada’s youngest college. Founded in 2002, NSC remains the system’s third-smallest institution with a student headcount of just over 7,000 students this spring, even as it saw enrollment headcounts jump more than 93 percent between 2016 and 2020.
Pollard — who is also the first Black woman to become a permanent institution president in NSHE history — will take the reins at a crucial juncture for the college as it looks to sustain its historic enrollment growth through the severe budgeting hardships triggered by the pandemic.
“I [applied] because this mission was compelling to me, and Nevada State College is a place that I think is unique,” Pollard told the board after the vote. “It operates in a space that needs to be elevated and amplified in the space of higher education because the students here are students that we know, for sure, are not only the present but the future of the economy, the state.”
Pollard comes to Nevada by way of Montgomery College, the largest community college in Maryland that boasts three campuses and more than 56,000 students. Pollard has served as Montgomery’s president since 2010, before which she spent two years as administrative and instructional president of Las Positas College in California.
But Pollard’s selection this week came with one notable elephant in the room — that she allegedly misused $70,000 during her time at Montgomery in paying for travel across the U.S. between 2013 and 2016, as well as the hiring of an armed driver.
An inspector general’s report later found no wrongdoing on Pollard’s part, and Vance Peterson, a search consultant hired by the regents for Nevada State College’s national search, told the board that the matter was “fully investigated and found without merit.”
Even so, Regent Patrick Boylan — new to the board as of this year — pressed Peterson and NSHE Chancellor Melody Rose on the issue. Boylan called Peterson’s dismissal of the allegations “flippant,” and he questioned whether Pollard’s expenses on personal protection during her time in Maryland might lead her to incur similar, additional costs as she moves to Nevada.
Rose pushed back on Boylan’s characterizations, saying that Pollard’s conduct was “thoroughly investigated and reviewed” by independent parties that “fully cleared her of any claim of wrongdoing.”
The chancellor also broadly defended the kind of conduct criticized in media reports that spawned the allegations, saying cross-country travel was a necessary function of a college president who must seek philanthropic contributions from “far-flung” alumni. Rose added that the hiring of personal protection is often an unfortunate necessity for officials who are public-facing — a necessity she said she’s also had to personally rely on three times over the course of her career in higher education.
Boylan was the only regent to vote against Pollard’s appointment, though he did later vote to approve her contract.