Robbyn Wacker, a sociologist and former provost of the University of Northern Colorado, has been named president of St. Cloud State University.

Wacker's appointment was approved Wednesday by the Minnesota State college and university system's board of trustees.

Chancellor Devinder Malhotra described her as "a visionary leader" who's had a distinguished career as a professor of gerontology and a university administrator in Colorado since 1990.

Wacker, 61, will succeed interim President Ashish Vaidya, who has led the university for two years since the sudden death of former president Earl Potter.

Wacker, who was provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Northern Colorado from 2011 to 2017, said she was "honored and thrilled" to lead St. Cloud State. She starts her new position on July 1.

Last October, she drew headlines when she told colleagues that she had been forced out as Northern Colorado's provost. At the time, she sent a memo to colleagues, disputing what she called the university's "cover story" that the job change had been voluntary.

On Wednesday, Wacker explained that she had been abruptly reassigned "when the university found out I was applying for a presidency." But she added that her last position at the school, in fundraising, had turned into "a wonderful experience."

She was previously dean of the college of health and human services, and assistant vice president of graduate education.

"She is a strategic thinker, a visionary leader and an organizational innovator who understands both the challenges and the opportunities for a public, regional, comprehensive university like St. Cloud State University," Malhotra said Wednesday. "She is a pragmatist and yet she has never lost the desire to dream big, which is something the university has always aspired to do."

Malhotra also praised Vaidya for leading the campus "through a very difficult time" after Potter was killed in a 2016 car crash. Potter, 69, had been president of St. Cloud State since 2007.

Vaidya will become president of Northern Kentucky University in June.

Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384