Envisioning the future of higher ed in North Dakota

May 25, 2016

Mark Hagerott - North Dakota University System Chancellor

Mark Hagerott – North Dakota University System Chancellor

What parent or grandparent hasn’t at least once looked down at a toddler or preschooler and tried to envision their future many years hence—when they are adults, perhaps heading off to college or to a technical training program?

The North Dakota State Board of Higher Education, the North Dakota University System and the faculty, staff and presidents of our state’s many colleges and universities want to hear your thoughts as we work to envision that future.

A major statewide higher education initiative kicked off in Bismarck this week. Envision 2030 took place in the Capitol, and we heard the insights of a wide array of North Dakotans and what they see as the future needs of higher education.

The state board and the North Dakota University System hosted and joined in the event, but the most important participants were the business leaders, community members, faculty and students of our great state.

We live streamed the morning’s talks and panel discussions to provide a live feed so that everyone could see many of the day’s proceedings.

These morning presentations were wide ranging, to include Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s keynote speech, U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s reflections, State Rep. and former Grand Forks Superintendent Mark Sanford’s legislative insights, Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley’s panel on demographics, national educational trends by the Lumina Foundation and multiple stakeholder breakout sessions.

Bringing together representatives from all stakeholder groups—students, staff, faculty, K-12 leaders, business leaders, legislators and more—was crucial to sketching out the broad outlines of higher education in 2030.

This summit was the initial kickoff event to a longer-term strategic effort. Several sessions focused on meeting the needs of the student, including physical and mental health, the classroom of 2030, assessment, affordability, diversity of gender and race, and what the university system can do to help educate the next generation of thoughtful and dedicated citizens of our state.

In addition, several sessions focused on the changing and anticipated needs of businesses and the workforce now and a half generation hence, to include panels on agriculture, health care, technology, manufacturing and energy.

Our goal in holding these discussions with so many stakeholders was to be collaborative while rethinking what higher education in North Dakota can and perhaps should look like in the year 2030. We discussed what challenges we must meet to serve student needs and expectations, and how they will continue to evolve in the next 14 years.

With the multitude of perspectives that we expected to hear during Monday’s event, we’re confident that this summit will help create a broad—and in some cases, detailed—vision for excellence well into the future. And to be sure, if some actions are identified as “urgent” to do now, in the near term, to make a later goal more achievable, North Dakotans’ state board, chancellor and college presidents are taking notes for upcoming budget and strategy discussions in June.

A last note: There has been a lot of news lately about tight budgets and the impact on higher education. To be sure, there are some tough times in the near future, and we recognize the impact on staff, faculty and students is real.

But as a long-serving sailor and naval educator and the son of a Cold War veteran, I have lived and been stationed in many parts of our country. I can say from the heart that North Dakota has the most promising of futures. Our university system of 11 colleges and universities is here to serve residents and our state in realizing that promise.

We are committed to partnering with our state’s many stakeholders to work together to educate the next generation and diversify our economy through research, all of which will help make a better life for your readers’ children and their children’s children today, in 2030 and beyond.