Fall semester is fast approaching, and with it comes the excitement and liveliness found on college campuses at this time of year. Incoming freshmen will be creating their first memories of the higher education experience, while sophomores, juniors and seniors will be returning to their diligent studies throughout North Dakota.
Much has happened this summer already in higher education, and the North Dakota University System is doing everything it can to ensure that students don’t just have the most options, but the best options for their academic careers.
Like the students from our colleges and universities, I am learning. Since coming into this position on July 1, I have been fortunate to be able to meet with many outside of academia to learn what other North Dakotans think about our university system.
With few exceptions, the people who’ve spoken with me have highlighted successes of the system and its colleges and universities. And, most have offered insight about challenges they see our institutions facing.
Senators and Representatives, heads of state agencies, system chiefs, business officials, community leaders and others from around the state have shared their desire that we create an even better environment for higher learning – right now for current students, but also adapt for future classes to come.
It’s a lot to take in, but it’s vital to do exactly that in order to consider those perspectives to build the best possible university system for our state.
I’ve heard about many topics, to include from program adaptability, shared services and costs, finding the right program for each student, to evaluating tuition models, and more. I look forward to visiting each campus and getting more feedback and ideas. But having completed two tours of the state with legislative and business leaders, seven priorities that are coming into focus include governance improvements; metrics development for presidents, campuses and system goals; shared services prioritization and implementation; tuition model reconfiguration; cost containment possibilities; and mission effectiveness review.
These listening sessions have been incredibly valuable to me, and I am confident that they will prove valuable to our stakeholders, the system and most importantly, our students.
The perspectives that I’ve been able to listen to within these discussions have allowed us as a system to answer some questions about initiatives we’ve put in place, as well as hear direction about ongoing initiatives that are moving forward.
Andy Peterson, president and CEO of the Greater North Dakota Chamber, commented at Bismarck’s Bobcat Doosan location, that although it was the last meeting in my business tour, “This isn’t the last of the discussion, it’s only the beginning of it.”
I heartily agree. I’m very pleased, both that I was able to meet others interested in the future of North Dakota’s higher education, and that those who spoke up seemed to have clear visions for what higher education should be all about.
After traveling around the state, I’m reminded there is much to do. As I reflect on what I’ve heard these past few weeks in these conversations I am confident that we’ll be able to make our system of colleges and universities even better.
And, like those students gearing up to get back to school for the Fall semester, I’m enthusiastic and excited about what the future will bring.