Interim vice chancellor, chief of staff reflect on appointments

August 25, 2015


Lisa Feldner, Ph.D. Interim Chief of Staff and Vice Chancellor for Information Technology and Institutional Research

Lisa Feldner, Ph.D., was named Interim Chief of Staff in late July. In taking on her new responsibility she also kept her duties as Vice Chancellor for Information Technology and Institutional Research, overseeing the NDUS Core Technology Services (CTS) and institutional research, one of the most critical components of university system operations.

Feldner previously was CIO for the Information Technology Department for the State of North Dakota, where she oversaw technology activities in state and local government, managed a staff of 300 employees and a budget of $82 million. Feldner also held leadership roles in coordinating major IT initiatives, including the Statewide Technology Access for Government and Education Network, the Criminal Justice Information System, ConnectND, and the Geographical Information Hub.

Prior to Dr. Feldner’s appointment as ITD’s CIO, she served as the Technology Director for Bismarck Public Schools, where she managed the budget and staff, including the development, design, and integration of software and hardware systems for more than 13,000 users at 26 campuses.

Feldner has a Ph. D. in educational leadership from the University of North Dakota, a master of science in mathematics education from Minot State University, and bachelor’s of science degrees in computer science and business education, also from MiSU.

When did you learn you would be appointed to the position and what were your initial thoughts?

Chancellor Hagerott and I had visited before he formally took office about the possibility of me taking on the Interim Chief of Staff role when Murray Sagsveen retired at the end of July. I was very intrigued by the opportunity, and I love challenges. Together with Deputy CIO, Darin King, and the leadership team at Core Technology Services, we have accomplished a lot over the last two years. Darin and the team agreed to take on more of my duties while I try out this new role.


How long have you been with NDUS and what brought you here?

I’ve been with the system for two years. For seven years prior, I served as the CIO for the State of North Dakota. I was appointed by both Governors John Hoeven and Jack Dalrymple. In 2013, the NDUS CIO position opened and there were some things I felt needed tending in the areas of longitudinal data, security, and collaboration with K-12 and state government so I applied and got the job.


How do you plan on approaching your responsibilities within the position?

Chancellor Hagerott has a lot of work ahead of him. My goal is to keep the system office operating as smoothly as possible so he can concentrate on the big things. In addition, the 64th Legislative Assembly transferred the attorneys from NDUS to the Attorney General’s office and the auditors to the State Auditor’s office. I have a good relationship with both agencies, and we’re hoping to provide a seamless transition for NDUS and the two state agencies.


How long are you expected to serve as Chief of Staff?

I serve at the will of the Chancellor. As he is still getting settled in, no decisions about how long I will be Interim have been made. We’ll try this out for size and if it doesn’t fit, I’ll go back to full-time information technology and institutional research.


Describe your leadership style.

I believe I’m a collaborative leader. I like to get input from the stakeholders before decisions are made and I strive for consensus. However, I don’t have much patience for churn. While it is important to get input, it is truly wasteful and discouraging to discuss things over and over without choosing a course of action. Once a decision is made to move forward, then I don’t want to hear all the reasons why it can’t be done – just get to work. I’m not afraid to jump in and help.


Are there any changes you aim to seek to implement?

I would like to help the State Board of Higher Education implement a policy governance model to streamline meetings and help the system achieve the goals in the strategic plan. It will help the system be more responsive to students and constituents.


Richard Rothaus, Ph.D.

Richard Rothaus, Ph.D., Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs

Richard Rothaus, Ph.D, was named Interim Vice Chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs at the beginning of July to take on the responsibility after former VC moved on from the position. Rothaus’ academic credentials started with a B.A. from The Florida State University, continued with an M.A. from Vanderbilt University and completed with a Ph.D from The Ohio State University.

Prior to his work at NDUS, he worked with Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, which included time spent as a tenured professor of History and Assistant Vice President for Research at St. Cloud State University.


When did you learn you would be appointed to the position and what were your initial thoughts?

As the search for the new Chancellor neared completion, it became apparent that an Interim Vice Chancellor would be needed. Interim Chancellor Skogen asked me if I would be interested in serving as the Interim Vice Chancellor. I said I would, and then incoming Chancellor Hagerott met with me and decided that he would like me to serve. I was very pleased with the appointment, as the Academic and Student Affairs Councils have numerous initiatives underway and my appointment means we can keep going without any interruption. Of course, the appointment comes with a bit of nervousness, as the duties are heavy and we are in a very important transition period for NDUS.


How long have you been with NDUS and what brought you here from MNSCU?

I will have been within NDUS for a year come 1 August. Prior to coming here, I was running a small archaeological and consulting business from my home in Minnesota. While business was good and I was enjoying myself, I felt it was time to return to academia. I worked at St Cloud State as a tenured full professor and as an Assistant Vice President for over a decade. I think my experience as faculty, administrator, entrepreneur, consultant and business owner have given me a broad knowledge base and strong skill set that I’m happy to put to use for public higher education. And North Dakota? Well, North Dakota is in a golden age, from the Red River to the Bakken. Who wouldn’t want in on this?


How do you plan on approaching your responsibilities within the position?

In the simplest form, my position is responsible for academic programs, the students who are in them, and the faculty who teach them. This is, of course, the reason why NDUS exists. There is, however, a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes that keeps things running. So a great deal of my responsibility is working with the other Vice Chancellors to make sure we are collaborating and working efficiently to serve the students and citizens. I think when we do our job right, the machinery runs smoothly and students don’t know it’s there. And that’s a good thing, because we want them focused on their studies and training. I am guided by the Academic and Student Affairs Councils, which are composed of the Chief Academic and Student Affairs Officers at our 11 institutions. We meet frequently, discuss pressing issues, and decide how to meet the diverse needs of the students in the state. Our bosses are, however, the State Board of Higher Education, who drive the major policy decisions for the system. So additionally it is my job to see that the institutions communicate academic and student affairs issues clearly to the Board, that the Board’s messages get delivered to the institutions, and that the system works cooperatively as a system in serving students.


How long are you expected to serve as Interim VC?

I serve at the will of the Chancellor. As he is still getting settled in, no decisions about how long I will be Interim have been made. My style is to not worry very much about that, and stay focused on the initiatives underway.


Describe your leadership style.

I am a collaborative and pretty easy-going leader. I think I spend more time listening and learning than people realize, as I try to stay as fully-informed as possible. I am also a delegator; I try to assign the right projects to the right people and let their expertise and passion carry the system forward. On the other hand, I’m decisive. Having come from a university where decisions tend to move slowly, through small business where decisions have to be made almost instantly, I’ve found a comfortable spot in between those two positions.

A huge benefit of coming from within the system is that I knew we had excellent administrators and staff across the state who want to work together to provide academic, career and technical programs. So for the moment, I can accomplish a great deal just by making sure the system runs smoothly and quickly to let them do what needs to be done. That’s where the willingness to make a decision based on the best-available evidence comes in. After all, I get the fancy title and big desk to make decisions, and then be held accountable for those decisions.


Are there any changes you aim to seek within Academic and Student affairs?

Well, our ship is on course, but we could get there faster. Because I have an excellent and experienced staff, and because we have the massive skills and knowledge of the Academic and Student Affairs Councils to draw on, our day-to-day functions are in good shape. This frees me up to work with the other Vice Chancellors to make some timely changes, including streamlining those day-to-day functions.

There are three things changes I think we can achieve quickly: 1) We should streamline our academic, career and technical program approval process so that our institutions can respond quickly to community needs; 2) We need to make it easier for our students to take courses at any NDUS institution once they are enrolled; and 3) We really need to highlight some of the amazing programs that NDUS has that are serving the educational and workforce needs of the State.