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An associate provost and professor at Montana State University in Bozeman has been named interim chancellor at Montana State University Billings.

Ron Larsen, who was head the department of chemical and biological engineering at MSU, will take over for MSUB Chancellor Mark Nook early next year, according to a release from MSU.

The University of Northern Iowa announced Wednesday that Nook will become president of the institution in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Nook is expected to assume that position on Feb. 1, the same day Larsen will take over at MSUB.

"MSU Billings is a remarkable institution in a vibrant community," Larsen said in a release. "I am very excited to work with students, faculty and staff during this interim appointment."

Larsen has been associate provost at MSU since 2011. In that position, he has worked on the senior management team of the university's Office of Academic Affairs, working on accreditation, program review, state initiatives and other duties.

He has been an MSU faculty member since 1985, and he became head of his department in 2002.

After getting his bachelor's degree at MSU, Larsen earned his doctorate in chemical engineering from Pennsylvania State University.

While in Billings on Friday, Larsen said that he wants to carry on the work that Nook started. He said that will include a focus on student retention, which has been a point of emphasis for Nook.

In February, Nook announced plans to boost student retention by 10 percent in five years. MSUB's retention has increased slightly, and this fall the university said the rate for freshmen was 54.5 percent.

MSU President Waded Cruzado said Larsen is "superbly qualified," for the interim role. She echoed the core goal.

“The most important thing is to retain the students who have already declared that this campus is their university of choice," she said. "So how do we do that? We need to do that in strong partnership with the faculty members.”

Cruzado said she was grateful to Nook and his wife, Cheryl, for their work at MSUB.

In the coming months, a committee will search for the next permanent MSUB chancellor. That effort will be based at MSUB, though MSU will be involved. The Bozeman university oversees MSUB as part of the Montana University System structure.

Nook said on Friday that he plans to meet with Larsen over the coming months to help with the transition.

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General Assignment Reporter

Reporter for The Billings Gazette.