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and STEPHANIE DESMON Provost Michael Aiken is one of six finalists for the presidency of the University of Texas at Austin, officials said yesterday. James Duncan, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs for the University of Texas system and search committee chairperson, said Aiken appears on the school's short list for a number of reasons including his experience in both public and private education. "[Aiken is] an outstanding, experienced and competitive candidate," said Duncan, adding that the provost has a combination of "strong academic credentials" and a "good administrative base." Aiken visited Austin for an interview within the last few weeks and is expected to return for both a campus visit and an interview with the University of Texas Board of Regents, according to Duncan. Duncan added the Board of Regents plans to name a president in early November. Aiken, who has been the University's provost since 1987 and is a former School of Arts and Sciences dean, declined to comment yesterday. President Sheldon Hackney said he takes Texas' choice of Aiken as a "compliment" and said it validates an administrative philosophy he has always had. "I like to get the very best people I can in the key positions and when one does that, one is always vulnerable to other people discovering them and offering them the next job in their careers," Hackney said. Hackney added that Aiken would be qualified for the position. "[Aiken] understands universities," Hackney said. "He loves them, understands the faculty culture extremely well, respects the academic process and has very high standards." But he added that although he would be happy for Aiken should he become Texas' next president, "if he [Aiken] doesn't get chosen I'll also be delighted." The finalists, who were chosen from among 183 nominees and applicants, also include Robert Berdahl, vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Laurel Wilkening, provost at the University of Washington; Luther Williams, assistant director for human resources at the National Science Foundation; Henry Yang, dean of the School of Engineering at Purdue University; and Mark Yudof, dean of Texas' School of Law.

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