Haskell Board of Regents president discusses new university leadership, goals for board

photo by: Contributed

Brittany Hall, a member of the Shawnee Tribe, has served as the president of Haskell Indian Nations University's Board of Regents since May of 2022.

The president of Haskell Indian Nations University’s Board of Regents has confirmed to the Journal-World that the university’s newest listed president is intended to be the permanent one.

Brittany Hall, who has served as president of the Board of Regents since last May, told the Journal-World Friday morning that Frank Arpan has been selected as the university’s next permanent leader, pending some final steps at the federal level. Arpan was named Haskell’s vice president of academics in May of 2022. More recently, he was listed as president on the university’s website, but it was unclear how long ago he’d been placed in the role.

“We are very excited, and we feel very confident that Dr. Arpan is going to be the one that we’ve been waiting for,” said Hall, an enrolled member of the Shawnee Tribe.

Arpan’s appointment would end a more than yearlong search for Haskell’s next permanent leader; the university’s last permanent president, Ronald Graham, was removed from office in May of 2021 following an internal investigation and criticism that he was stifling students’ and faculty’s free speech rights. Since then, Haskell has had a number of interim leaders, including Tamarah Pfeiffer and Julia Good Fox.

Hall, for her part, is approaching a year since being elected as the board’s president; to her knowledge, she’s the first Shawnee Tribe member to serve in that role. Hall is a technical assistance research coordinator for the University of Kansas’ Life Span Institute and has previously taught as an adjunct professor at Haskell. She also serves in a number of other roles across the community, including on Peaslee Tech’s board.

The Board of Regents plays a key role in selecting a university president, but Hall said she and her fellow board members also had other important goals they’d like to accomplish in the immediate future.

One of them is getting the board’s vacant seats filled. The board had only nine members before Hall joined in 2021. Since then, she said they’ve found two more members and hope to fill the remaining three seats by May. That would be the first time Haskell has had a full 15-member board since at least 2015, Hall said.

“I really like being in this position, obviously, and I think I can help be that leader for the Board of Regents,” Hall said. “The board, we truly feel — and this is all of us unanimously, obviously (knowing) everyone has their own thoughts, opinions and feelings, and that’s how we should be as humans — everyone has the same goals and we want the best for Haskell.”

Hall said the board was also looking forward to getting some of Haskell’s other administrative positions filled, now that they’ve found a president. That includes the vice president for academics and vice president of university services; both roles are currently filled by acting appointees. Hall said those roles, along with the presidency, are key leadership positions for the university.

“Having a full board and having a great relationship with the (Bureau of Indian Education), I truly believe this board is going to be the board to push us into the future,” Hall said.

Hall said she also spoke last summer with her fellow board members about being more visible on campus, and since then they’ve made another change: They’ve decided to meet quarterly instead of just twice a year. The board just had its first-quarter meeting on Monday, in fact, and they’ll meet again in May, July and September. That, she hoped, would help the Board of Regents to take a more hands-on approach around campus.

Hall, who graduated from Haskell in 2012, said that as an alumna she’s especially proud to be in her current position after having had a good experience there as a student, and she wants an even better experience for students who attend Haskell now, as they’ll be the leaders of the next generation.

A sign on the wall in one campus building has served as a particular inspiration for Hall on that front. In Tinker Hall, previously where the university’s football team locker room was, a faded sign reads, “Have you made your ancestors proud today?” It’s a quote she has long held close to her heart.

“I want to think that what I do every day affects my people positively, obviously, and that I have made my ancestors proud,” Hall said. “I try to think every day in everything I do — whether it’s personal, home life with my son, professional at KU, professional at Haskell, networking — have I made my ancestors proud in these conversations, these dialogues, these decisions? I try to think like that.”


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