photo - Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson took over the reigns of the Air Force Academy during a Change of Command Ceremony on Monday, August 12, 2013. The outgoing Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michael Gould is retiring after 37 years in the Air Force. Johnson is the first female to be Superintendent at the Air Force Academy. Lt. Gen. Johnson is addressing the media after the ceremony. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)
Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson took over the reigns of the Air Force Academy during a Change of Command Ceremony on Monday, August 12, 2013. The outgoing Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michael Gould is retiring after 37 years in the Air Force. Johnson is the first female to be Superintendent at the Air Force Academy. Lt. Gen. Johnson is addressing the media after the ceremony. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett) 

Nearly 80 applicants for the job of chancellor of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs have been whittled down to three, CU system President Bruce Benson announced Thursday.

Among those who made the cut: Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson, superintendent of the Air Force Academy.

Also a finalist is Venkat Reddy, formerly dean of the College of Business and associate vice chancellor who has been serving as interim chancellor since Feb. 15, when Pam Shockley-Zalabak retired.

The third candidate vying for the position is Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, founding provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

A 15-member committee interviewed select applicants last week and forwarded the names of the top candidates to Benson, who chose the finalists. They will visit the campus beginning next week and meet with faculty, staff, students and community members.

"We have three strong leaders who are looking to advance UCCS by building on an already solid foundation," Benson said in a news release. "We look forward to great discussions in the coming days about the future of the campus."

The search process has been "robust," said CU Regent Kyle H. Hybl of Colorado Springs, who is on the search committee.

"Chancellor Emerita Shockley-Zalabak, her leadership team, faculty and staff have put UCCS on a trajectory that has clearly garnered national attention," Hybl said in an email. "The quality and strength of the candidates and finalists point to a bright future for UCCS and our community."

Johnson, in her fourth year at the academy, is set to leave the school in August, several sources have told The Gazette. By law, the academy superintendent is required to retire from the Air Force at the end of their tour.

Johnson made headlines when she took the job in 2013 as the first woman to lead the academy. During her time as a cadet, Johnson starred on women's basketball team before graduating with the second class to include females at the school in 1981.

During her time as superintendent, Johnson has led efforts to clean up misconduct in the athletic department, curb sexual assault among the school's 4,000 cadets and incorporate more liberal arts classes in the school's curriculum.

Benson said after the candidates visit UCCS and he receives feedback from the university community, he expects to select the chancellor in the coming weeks.

Shockley-Zalabak served as chancellor for 15 years and taught at the university for 42 years.

National executive search firm DHR International is assisting with the process.

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Gazette reporter Tom Roeder

contributed to this report.

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