Northwestern State University President Dr. Jim Henderson was selected Thursday in a unanimous vote of the Board of Supervisors of the University of Louisiana System to head the system that includes NSU and eight other institutions across the state.
Henderson, whose name was the only one submitted for consideration by a search committee comprised of members of the board, will officially assume the presidency of the state’s largest higher education system on Jan. 1 of 2017.
He will succeed former Louisiana Tech President Dr. Daniel Reneau, who has served as interim president of the system since Dr. Sandra Woodley resigned from the position in late 2015.
“Jim’s career has uniquely prepared him for this role,” Reneau said. “Higher education in Louisiana is facing some of its most challenging times and I think the Board made an excellent selection to best position the System to combat the challenges ahead.”
Henderson, who has guided Northwestern to substantial enrollment increases since becoming president in January of 2015, said, “It is with a deep sense of humility and appreciation that I accept this prestigious position even though I obviously have some mixed emotions about leaving a university that has been such an important part of my life.”
He stated, “Part of my heart will always be with Northwestern and its people. But the system presidency will allow me to maintain a close association with my alma mater and the Natchitoches community and at the same time provide opportunities to create a positive impact on higher education statewide.
“I am inspired by the confidence that the search committee and Board of Supervisors demonstrated in me with this unanimous selection for the system presidency,” Henderson said. “I will work diligently with the board in helping to make our universities even stronger and more vibrant in these challenging times for higher education.”
Henderson said, “Louisiana’s colleges and universities have been dramatically affected by budget cuts and other crises for nearly a decade, and a sea change in policies, direction and strategies will be required to reinstate our institutions to the position of prominence which they deserve. The system office will be at the forefront of those efforts in the years ahead.”
The new president-elect of the system said, “We have dynamic board members and progressive presidents of universities in the system with the vision and expertise to make the University of Louisiana System one of the most productive and successful in the nation. It will be exciting to be a part of that process.”
Henderson was recommended to the Board of Supervisors of the University of Louisiana System by the national higher education search firm R.H. Perry & Associates which conducted a nationwide review to identify potential candidates for the position.”
One of the 20 largest higher education systems in the nation, the University of Louisiana System governs Northwestern State University, Louisiana Tech University, Grambling State University, University of Louisiana-Lafayette, University of New Orleans, Nicholls State University, University of Louisiana-Monroe, McNeese State University and Southeastern Louisiana University. Total enrollment of system schools is more than 90,000.
Northwestern’s enrollment has increased by 9 percent since Henderson assumed the presidency. This fall’s gain of 7 percent from 9,179 to 9,819 was the largest numerical and percentage increase among University of Louisiana schools.
Under Henderson’s leadership, the university has established numerous new and realigned market-responsive academic programs that better serve business and industry and graduates entering the workforce.
His tenure at NSU has also been highlighted by enhanced activities and experiences for students, upgraded campus facilities, expanded marketing initiatives, innovative new recruitment programs and substantial increases in fund-raising and alumni engagement.
Henderson has extensive experience in higher education and state government. He was chancellor of Bossier Parish Community College for nearly six years before becoming president of NSU. Enrollment at BPCC soared by 86 percent under his direction, and degree and certification completions increased by 90 percent.
He served from 2005 to 2009 as Senior Vice-President for Career and Technical Education for the entire Louisiana Community and Technical College System. Enrollment in the system grew by 98 percent during that period.
Henderson was Director of Administration and Workforce Development for the Louisiana Department of Labor from 2001 to 2005 and worked in the private sector in hotel management for 10 years before beginning his service in state government.
A native of Shreveport, Henderson is a 1994 graduate of Northwestern with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English. He earned a master’s degree in administration from the University of West Florida and a doctorate in management from the University of Maryland-University College.
His wife Tonia is also a Northwestern graduate who has been engaged in a successful career as an executive in television advertising and sales. They have three children, Reagan, Nicholas and Alexander.