Ricardo Maestas, one of four finalists for Montana State University Billings’ chancellor position, said Thursday that he resigned from a Texas university presidency in 2013 because he felt he’d done what he was hired to do and it was time to move on.
“I left Sul Ross (State University) because I’d essentially accomplished the goals that I’d wanted to achieve and wanted to move on to my next employment opportunity,” he said.
Maestas stepped down as president of Sul Ross, in Alpine, Texas, in November 2013 after four years on the job.
Reports from media in the area described the resignation as unexpected and noted that it came just a week after Maestas fired the school’s entire football coaching staff amid accusations of player abuse and a booster providing money to players.
He was then reassigned to a position as assistant to Brian McCall, chancellor the Texas State University System, which includes Sul Ross and seven other institutions.
However, Maestas said Thursday that his resignation was not related to the football firings and had already been in the works.
“There’s no connection at all,” he said. “My intent already was to move forward. I had already reached all of my goals and the chancellor agrees with that.”
He said that he was hired in 2009 to address Sul Ross’ declining enrollment and set up programs for student success. Maestas said that, by the time he left, during a two-year span enrollment increased about 12 percent — from about 1,850 students to around 2,040 — on the main campus following a “precipitous drop in enrollment” that saw annual dips of as much as almost 10 percent.
Among other goals Maestas touted, he said he found funding for and hired a “top-notch” enrollment management vice president, helped put in place retention programs that are beginning to pay off and brought in communication software that made it easier to reach potential students.
“Not only was it stemmed, it was completely turned around,” he said.
“When I left there, we were seeing enrollments last fall and this past spring that were increasing, and it’s seeing significant increases in applications for next fall. It’s not rocket science, it’s just a lot of very basic, roll-up-your-sleeves hard work.”
Terry Leist is chairman of the 18-person MSUB chancellor search committee. He said Tuesday a national search firm hired to assist in the search fully vetted each candidate and the committee is confident in the firm’s background checking efforts for the candidates.
Maestas visited MSUB at the beginning of the week as one of four finalists for the soon-to-be-open chancellor position after Rolf Groseth retires in May. Maestas hosted an open forum with faculty, staff, students and community members.
He said the position appeals to him because of MSUB’s focus on students, its emphasis on diversity and its potential for growth in the Billings region.