New position created for CU system president’s former chief of staff

Angelique Foster will be assistant vice president for strategic initiatives

University of Colorado system president Mark Kennedy, who was then president of the University of North Dakota, speaks April 26 during an open forum at Macky Auditorium at CU Boulder. Kennedy has hired Angelique Foster, his chief of staff at UND, to fill a new position at CU.
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The former chief of staff for the University of Colorado system’s new president will join him in Colorado in a newly created position.

Mark Kennedy has chosen Angelique Foster to serve as assistant vice president for strategic initiatives, a new position in which she will serve as a project manager for the strategic planning process, according to a news release.

The Board of Regents have tasked Kennedy with developing a strategic plan, so Foster will fill a new role in assisting that, CU system spokesman Ken McConnellogue said. Her annual salary will be $132,000 and she will work out of the CU system offices in Denver.

Senior Vice President Leonard Dinegar, to whom Foster will report, submitted a search waiver to hire Foster for the position without opening it up to other applicants, according to McConnellogue. Vice President Kathy Nesbitt approved the waiver. Waivers are allowed if there is a person who has the skills or experience required for the position.

“She’s had experience and a track record of running a strategic planning process, essentially project managing it,” McConnellogue said of Foster.

Foster was Kennedy’s chief of staff during his tenure as president of the University of North Dakota. According to reporting by the Grand Forks Herald, they have worked together since 2012, when Kennedy was the director of the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

“Obviously, she’s got a rapport with the president and that gives her a head start,” McConnellogue said.

Kennedy previously faced criticism in North Dakota for some of his decisions regarding Foster.

In fall 2018, he changed her title from special assistant to chief of staff, according to the Herald. Her annual salary was increased by $30,000 with the change.

Foster had later decided to move to Texas, but in February the Herald reported she would be allowed to stay on as chief of staff and work remotely. The position included up to $25,000 in reimbursements for her travel expenses.

Dan Traynor, a member of the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education, opposed the decision to allow Foster to work remotely.

“I reject the notion that the chief of staff position can be properly performed remotely for any extended arrangement,” Traynor told the Herald. “A chief with no staff is no chief of staff.”

Traynor also said he believed the decision to allow Foster to work remotely was contrary to the state board’s policy, which requires university presidents to ensure university assets are directed toward the institution’s teaching, research and service. He cited concerns that faculty and staff at North Dakota public universities had not received pay raises for two years.

Kennedy later said at a CU forum that he was addressing pay inequity, but should have done it more broadly across the university.

The university later said Foster would work on campus through April, then stay on for six months as it continued to search for a replacement.

Kennedy told the Daily Camera that the remote work was always meant to be a six-month trial period. Foster’s total compensation still was less than the salary commanded by any of the search finalists that were not deemed as qualified, he said.

“As part of my listening, when I heard that response I pivoted and adjusted and there will be no reimbursements for travel,” he said then.

Initially, Kennedy said he felt the issue got so much attention because “some people couldn’t understand how a young African-American woman from the South could be as qualified and worthy” to do the job as others.

After receiving backlash in North Dakota for the statement, he told the Camera that “North Dakotans are very welcoming, inclusive people that have made Angelique feel warmly received.”

Ed Schafer, a former governor of North Dakota and the interim president before Kennedy at the university, called Kennedy’s statements “hogwash.”

“The reason I call it hogwash is the issue wasn’t Angelique,” he said in an interview. “The issue was the president had changed her job description. In my opinion, when in a public institution, when you start creating new positions you need to do it formally.”

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