SIOUX CITY | Briar Cliff University has narrowed its search for its next president, with the goal of having the new leader in place by early next year.

University officials have been trying to fill the vacancy, created when

Hamid "Ham" Shirvani announced his resignation as president in July, after 14 months on the job. His tenure officially ends with the conclusion of the fall semester in early December. The college said Shirvani would continue to work on special projects, under the direction of the board of trustees, but Rachelle Karstens, the university’s chief of staff and legal counsel, would oversee day-to-day operations.

Asked by the Journal if any presidential candidates had been interviewed on campus, Sister Kate Katoski, chair of Briar Cliff University’s Board of Trustees, issued this statement.

“The search for the next president of Briar Cliff University is underway. In the coming weeks, finalists for the position will be invited to tour Briar Cliff’s campus and meet with our students, faculty, staff and other constituents," Katoski said. "In early 2018, we look forward to naming a new President who supports Briar Cliff’s Franciscan values and mission to remain a top choice for academic excellence.”

Katoski's statement did not identify any of the candidates, or how many finalists were under consideration.

Shirvani, a controversial figure who has drawn both praise and criticism for his management style during two decades as a college administrator in North Dakota and California, was introduced in April 2016 as the 10th president of Briar Cliff, which was founded as a Catholic college for women and began admitting men in the late 1960s. Shirvani succeeded Bev Wharton, who led Briar Cliff for 15 years, the longest tenure in its 85-year history.

During his brief stint with the college, Shirvani drew criticism for some of the changes he began to implement. A number of longtime faculty and staff also departed the college. In May, the board of trustees in May dismissed reports that Shirvani was investigated for sexual harassment, saying it "inaccurately and inappropriately cast a cloud" over his leadership.

In announcing his resignation, Shirvani said it was not "an easy decision for me to make, and is a result of a combination of family, personal and professional considerations."

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County and education reporter

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