State Board briefed on policy, Bank of North Dakota education programs, and more.
The November meeting of the State Board of Higher Education covered extensive ground, beginning with a brief from Bank of North Dakota President and CEO Eric Hardmeyer. Speaking about his agency, Hardmeyer detailed numerous programs that positively affected higher education in the state, noting “You have a friend and partner with the Bank of North Dakota.”
The presentation included details on the bank’s mission, which he said included programs ranging from scholarships to student loans and more. Hardmeyer began with details on the College SAVE 529 program, noting that $131 million had been invested in the program that was waiting to be used for higher education. He also spoke on how the bank had provided extensive funding for dual credit programs, and also extended the college application month from four schools three years ago to 131 schools in the most recent year. Hardmeyer listed other efforts the bank had undertaken concerning higher ed, including Career Discovery ND, financial aid information nights, a Facebook Live event averaging 4,000 views weekly, a college handbook, and the BND Real Deal and N.D. Dollars for Scholars scholarships. Additionally, he provided a breakdown of numbers regarding student loans in the state through BND.
After Hardmeyer’s presentation, Board Chair Don Morton brought up two reports on behalf of the Board: one on Gov. Doug Burgum’s recently-announced task force on higher education, and the second on the follow-up climate survey that had been conducted among university system office staff. On the former, Morton noted that the task force was focused toward governance.
“As we go through transformations, as we go through changes – to get the boards, faculty, administration, the presidents, everybody working together – we have a chance to move forward and we maybe have a better chance of addressing tomorrow’s reality instead of preserving yesterday’s parochial interests,” Morton said. “What he’s hoping for is if there are ways to improve our collaboration. If we can give the campuses the ability to innovate. … Are there things we should quit doing, that we should continue doing, or that we should do? I think it will be a healthy exercise and give us a chance to move higher education forward.”
Member Mike Ness asked if the Board had any representation on the task force or if anyone had applied. Morton, Vice Chair Greg Stemen and Member Kevin Melicher all noted that they had applied. Faculty Advisor Birgit Pruess asked if Morton knew how the task force representatives would be selected.
Member Nick Hacker motioned to have the SBHE become a partner with the Governor’s Task Force, and the motion passed unanimously.
Morton then spoke on the climate survey. He began by touching on the background of the survey, which was prompted by a complaint from within the system office. He noted that the early complaint had proved an exaggeration, but the Board, working with the compliance officer, decided to hold an informal survey. Following that survey the Board members held meetings with system office staff and Chancellor Mark Hagerott to work on challenges that were identified. Later, the Board held a more formal survey.
Morton said the Board had chosen to move forward with the topic through due process, not in the court of public opinion. Following the latest formal survey and complaint filed with the Department of Labor, and with that due process in mind, the Board would enter executive session to discuss the topic.
Ness noted some questions about the difference in processes between the two surveys, specifically about number of respondents and types of questions. Compliance Officer Karol Riedman provided answers to the comparisons between the informal survey in 2016 and the formal survey done recently. She noted that the follow-up survey had been planned and based on climate surveys from a variety of sources. Once the questions were selected they were input into a program called Qualtrics, which offered high levels of anonymity to survey respondents to ensure accuracy and privacy protections. Riedman noted that all system office and some Core Technology Services staff were surveyed. Board discussion noted that the formal surveys should continue annually, and include all system office staff to be as comprehensive and scientific as possible.
Hagerott’s reports included updates on the Western Interstate Compact for Higher Education and Midwest Higher Education Commission meetings, Envision 2030, Senate Bill 2003, the Chancellor’s Cabinet Retreat, Bakken U, Blackboard and joint efforts by DPI and NDUS. Hacker provided more details on WICHE, with Hagerott provide more on MHEC. On Envision 2030, Hagerott had recently provided details during a standing-room only meeting at Minot State University as well as proposed summits for students, faculty and staff in the New Year. Work on the task forces under SB 2003’s mandate had moved forward progressively, with reports expected soon detailing direction for each. The Chancellor’s Cabinet Retreat was scheduled to take place the first week of December and would cover Governance and Envision 2030.
Williston State College President John Miller provided the Board with more details on the Bakken U program, which the five western colleges and universities had run with. Each institution had put in place its own program, which had resulted in tens of thousands in scholarships for returning students. He noted that they were looking for ways to expand the reach of the program, as well.
Chief Information Officer Darin King spoke briefly to the details of Blackboard, which had been implemented systemwide. He noted that outages had occurred due to infrastructural and design issues, which had since been addressed. Performance issues had also occurred, but the support tickets had decreased in volume significantly. King said that CTS was working proactively with Blackboard to ensure that semester-end, and next semester’s start – both typically high issue timeframes – were as smooth as possible.
Dr. Jennifer Weber, director of institutional research, provided details next on a joint initiative between DPI and NDUS that provided more public-facing data similar to the NDUS’ Dashboards program. She said that the effort would provide consistency to education-related data reporting in the state. Weber said that in other states the researchers had corresponded with, these joint efforts did not exist.
Stemen briefed the Board on the audit committee report, which included an update on performance audits throughout the system.
Ness next briefed the Board on the academic and student affairs committee, which included an update on TrainND, as well as new programs at Minot State University (graduate certificate in cybersecurity and undergraduate certificate in information), a MiSU program name change (teacher education and human performance to teacher education and kinesiology), and a new program at UND establishing the school of electrical engineers and computer science.
Hacker then briefed the Board on the budget and finance committee report, which included sale of UND’s Dakota Hall, approval of deferred maintenance for NDSU’s Walster Hall, roof replacement and partial air conditioning replacement at NDSU’s Quentin Burdick building, replacement of NDSU’s water/sewer/street project, renovation of NDSU’s Johnson Hall Low Rise, approval of NDSU’s Memorial Union roof replacement, approval of MiSU’s Joint Powers Agreement and fundraising campaign, approval of BSC’s formal fundraising campaign, approval of VCSU’s formal fundraising campaign, and approval of a future campus laundry service at UND.
In other business, the Board approved changes to Policy 409 (degrees offered), Policy 509 (professional student exchange program), and Policy 611.2 (employee responsibility and activities: intellectual property), authorized an energy improvement lease refinance approval for Mayville State University, heard University of North Dakota Pres. Mark Kennedy’s goals, and appointed Dr. Margaret Dahlberg as the interim president for Valley City State University.
Council of College Faculty President Debora Dragseth briefed the Board on a report card effort the CCF would be putting in place at the end for the year, effectively grading the Board on its actions in regard to system.
N.D. State Student Senate Retha Mattern briefed the Board next on staff business, including the staff newsletter that highlighted the many regular accomplishments of staffers from throughout the system.
Board Student Advisor Jacob Dailey then provided a student government report as N.D. Student Association President Kaleb Dschaak was unable to attend the meeting. Dailey noted that the student government was undertaking numerous efforts to be more active at each campus and systemwide.
Following the faculty, staff and student reports, the college and university presidents provided brief updates on recent big news from their campuses.