© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

SEMO names new president

SEMO website

Carlos Vargas-Aburto, currently acting president of Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, will become the 18th president of Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau on July 1.

Vargas, who will succeed the retiring Kenneth Dobbins, was chosen following a wide-ranging search. One of the four finalists for the job was Benjamin Ola Akande, head of the business school at Webster University.

“Southeast Missouri State University is an outstanding university with a national reputation, and I am honored to have been selected as its next president,” Vargas  said in a statement released by the university Wednesday.

Vargas said that when he visited the campus, “I was impressed with the institution’s long history of service to the region and its unique strengths. I know Southeast is deeply committed to being accessible and affordable, and continuing to offer accredited academic programs where graduates can meet the needs of employers.”

The president of SEMO’s board of regents, Jay B. Knudtson, said that the new president has made his mark as an academic leader and financial manager at Kutztown, where he has served first as provost, then as acting president since last July.

“For the past eight months,” Knudtson said, “he has begun to implement his strategic vision for Kutztown and his experience and his commitment to academic excellence make him the ideal choice to lead Southeast Missouri State University institution into the future.

“Having had the pleasure of getting to know Dr. Vargas during the search process, and having spoken with him at length about his vision for our university, I have no doubt that he is the right choice to lead Southeast Missouri State University as we begin a new era in our history,”

Carlos Vargas-Aburto, new SEMO president
Credit SEMO website
Carlos Vargas-Aburto, new SEMO president

Vargas began his career in higher education as a physicist and has worked at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Kent State University and Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio. He was selected out of a field of 46 applicants, which was narrowed first to nine, then four, before he became the unanimous choice of the regents.

Doyle. L. Privette, who led the search, said SEMO was looking for someone “who would honor the past, but will also move the university forward. We wanted someone who understood the mission of a regional comprehensive university, and what makes Southeast unique. 

“We also wanted a candidate who could provide the leadership skills in helping  the university community contribute to its success going forward,” Privett said. “We believe strongly we have found that unique individual in Dr. Vargas.”

Follow Dale Singer on Twitter: @dalesinger

Dale Singer began his career in professional journalism in 1969 by talking his way into a summer vacation replacement job at the now-defunct United Press International bureau in St. Louis; he later joined UPI full-time in 1972. Eight years later, he moved to the Post-Dispatch, where for the next 28-plus years he was a business reporter and editor, a Metro reporter specializing in education, assistant editor of the Editorial Page for 10 years and finally news editor of the newspaper's website. In September of 2008, he joined the staff of the Beacon, where he reported primarily on education. In addition to practicing journalism, Dale has been an adjunct professor at University College at Washington U. He and his wife live in west St. Louis County with their spoiled Bichon, Teddy. They have two adult daughters, who have followed them into the word business as a communications manager and a website editor, and three grandchildren. Dale reported for St. Louis Public Radio from 2013 to 2016.