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William L. Kibler Tapped for Sul Ross State Presidency

Dr. William L. Kibler

Dr. William L. Kibler has been tapped as the new president for Sul Ross State University in Alpine.

Texas State University System Chancellor Brian McCall announced his decision this week, saying Kibler has a "passion for students, a deep appreciation for faculty and a vision for Sul Ross that is grounded in excellence."

Kibler's a former Aggie, having received his PhD from Texas A&M, and he's currently the Vice President for Student Affairs at Mississippi State University.

Per state law, his appointment has to be approved by the university system's governing board, but he's expected to take up the position sometime before the fall semester starts.

Kibler says he and his family were "honored, humbled and thrilled" to hear the news, and he says his first steps will be simply getting to know all the people and stakeholders involved with deciding what the university's future looks like.

Sul Ross has struggled against declining enrollment numbers in recent years, which means the school's also lost out on tuition dollars as students chose to forego higher education, sometimes because high-paying jobs in the oil and gas industry are more tempting than raking up student debt.

But there have been signs of a turnaround. The university's class size grew by 24 students from 2012-2013 - a small jump, but still significant enough for the school reward its faculty with a 3% raise.

Kibler says he's seen similar struggles at Mississippi State, though he admits the problems likely weren't as dramatic as the millions of dollars in revenue losses Sul Ross has been through.

"We saw through the last 10 years dramatic effects on our institution based on changes in our economy," he says.

Kebler says getting students back in the door and the tuition dollars flowing again starts with a collaborative approach to the problem.

"We need to work creatively to be sure that we mitigate the impact on the institution," he says, "but more than that, minimize the impact on our potential students and our current students and their families, and see how Sul Ross can be a partner in what they're trying to do in their lives, rather than being somehow some type of competition."

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.