Looking forward

September 4, 2015

Neset mugshotThe 2015/2016 academic year has begun, and we at the State Board of Higher Education are excited about the opportunity it will bring for students throughout our system.

Earlier this year, our new Chancellor, Mark Hagerott, was selected to take the helm of the North Dakota University System. Dr. Hagerott comes to us with an extensive background of leadership and academic background, as well as an open mind for the work that will need to be done moving forward.

Mark demonstrated that openness early on by meeting with North Dakota’s senators and representatives to listen and learn about their respective concerns on topics affecting higher education in our great state. He continued that directive by meeting with business and community leaders, and with higher education stakeholders throughout our state. Sitting down with other members of leadership before making any decisions shows that he’s willing to include all perspectives in his decision-making process.

His first day came on the heels of four new members coming on to the Board. Nick Hacker, Brett Johnson, Mike Ness and Greg Stemen bring a wealth of experience and have shown a deep understanding about higher education. I have every confidence that they will bring their respective outlooks from the public and private sector to bear to make decisions that benefit the system and all its stakeholders.

This also comes at a time when I’ve taken on the role of Chair. I’m grateful for the opportunity and will say that relevant discussions and thoughtful decision-making will mark the way forward for all leadership within higher education, whether members of leadership are new to their roles or come with an experienced background in higher education. Either way, we all want to be part of the Board and play a role in charting the future of higher education in North Dakota.

There are challenges facing the system. While there are a few times each year where we can take the time to celebrate our successes – commencement ceremonies, scholarship and fellowship announcements, new program offerings or high achievement from students and staff – it’s important to take note of where we could improve, and how. That’s important to me in the private sector, and it has to be important to us in public service, as well. After all, if you’re not offering something that stands out in a world full of options, those you serve will go elsewhere.

Some of those challenges in the past have revolved around audit tracking, the sharing of services and keeping communications as open as possible. We feel that our efforts have resulted in great strides forward so far, even as we’ve noted how much further we could go.

Those of us who’ve been on the Board for a bit and those who are new to it, as well as Chancellor Hagerott, are all aware that it is our duty to keep proceedings as open as possible, especially when decisions are being made. That will certainly ring true in the near future with searches ongoing for Dickinson State University and University of North Dakota presidents. But, clarity and accessibility of communication isn’t just reserved for major decisions, but for all topics that affect our system, our stakeholders, and most importantly, our students.

I’m looking forward to what the future will bring, not just in the expected celebrations that we hold each academic year, but in meeting the challenges we face as a system and its governing Board. And I know I speak for the other Board members when I say they look forward to meeting these challenges, too.