Winds of Change Blowing in Right Direction

October 29, 2014

State Board of Higher Ed President Diederich

A column by Board Chair Kirsten Diederich

Last week I attended a meeting entitled “Winds of Change: Staying the Course to the American Dream,” a leadership congress sponsored by the Association of Community College Trustees of which I am a Board member. The 2,000+ attendees took a look at the historic forces that shaped the community college movement—and the economic and generational changes that are now transforming its future. “Staying the course to the American dream reflects our commitment to the communities we serve and our country,” said ACCT Chair LeRoy W. Mitchell.

Dr. John Richman, president of North Dakota State College of Science, and his team members delivered an impressive presentation about student success that had everyone talking. Jaws dropped as Dr. Richman shared the retention, graduation and job placement rates at NDSCS – which are already well above national averages — and their practical approach to even better results.

During the session, they shared how they examined retention rates, used data and implemented best practices – with minimal staff and budget changes – to create campus-wide support for student success initiatives. Specifically, they discussed how they re-invented the student acclimation process and increased campus-wide communication focused on retention strategies.

Afterwards, I was approached by fellow ACCT Board members and numerous attendees about the impact of NDSCS’s presentation. Many said they left the seminar fired up about going back to their own institutions to replicate what was created on the NDSCS campus. I was so proud of our team and what they’re doing for our students and our state.

We are ahead of the pack, not only at NDSCS but at all of our community colleges in graduation, retention and job placement. We are also leaders in articulation agreements across our system, allowing our students to seamlessly transfer from a community college to a four-year institution if they choose. Other states are working toward that, but aren’t there yet, and look to the North Dakota University System as a leader in articulation and transfer.

North Dakota is in a perfect position to take advantage of transformational change that is happening all around us. We can pull ahead of other states and other countries by drawing people to live, learn and work here through the magnet of higher education. The State Board’s new strategic plan, the NDUS Edge, has created a blueprint for doing just that. I’m convinced the “Winds of Change” are blowing in the right direction for our students and all of our stakeholders. Hold on to your hats!