Monthly Archives: August 2015

Johnson brings enthusiasm, student voice to Board

Brett Johnson, student advisor to the State Board of Higher Education, taking notes during the strategic planning session held in late June.

Brett Johnson, student advisor to the State Board of Higher Education, taking notes during the strategic planning session held in late June.

One of the newer members of the State Board of Higher Education may also be the youngest, but that doesn’t mean he’s lacking in experience.

Brett Johnson was appointed earlier this year as the SBHE’s student representative. Unlike the faculty and staff advisors on the Board, Johnson is a voting member. A current student on the pre-med track at the University of North Dakota, Johnson has always been fascinated by a model of democratic governance, and hopes to keep the tradition of having a clear student voice alive and well at the system-wide table.

Although a Fargo native, the 21-year-old UND senior said that after graduating from Shanley High School, he knew that UND would be the right fit for him. That was due to family and friends’ previous attendance at the school, as well as the options it held for him.

His academic goals took him down a dual path, going through both Biology and the Honors program. That path, effectively a double major, would be more than enough for any student, not to mention having to keep up with work responsibilities and social life. When not working toward keeping students’ voice in the decision-making process, he works as an orderly, and has volunteered with Walk to Defeat ALS, the North Dakota Special Olympics, and Sanford Children’s Hospital.

For Johnson, it was a drop in the bucket. He also found time to help renew the university’s chapter of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, and served as the vice president of the UND Student Government body. From there it was a natural path to seek involvement with the SBHE.

“I was a speech and debate kid all through high school and often I would focus on extemporaneous speaking,” Johnson said. “We’d look at newspaper articles and policy journals and come up with answers to what we should do about current events like health care. That kind of got me initially interested and I was able to engage in a few community activities in regards to political races. When I got to college I jumped into student government and the student association. That got me involved in higher education in North Dakota, outside of being a student.”

Some of the projects Johnson was involved with in student government included participation in redesign and planning of a new study space on UND’s campus, study of the old med school redesign and participating in the planning process for the library redesign. Involvement also took Johnson through other processes involving student engagement for research, academics and extra-curriculars.

Johnson felt that his experiences would make him a good student representative. He noted that he’d represented all the institutions already as the Academic Affairs Council representative. Positions like that taught him that it was all about students. When the opportunity to get involved at a higher level presented itself, he jumped at it.

For him, he was looking forward to discussions revolving around transitioning graduating high school students into their first successful year of college.

“It’s important to me to make sure incoming students are prepared and don’t lose extra time undergoing semesters of education because of remediation,” he said. “That could help drive down costs. I also think that maintaining college completion rates are also important to make sure we have people graduating in a timely manner, and make sure we don’t lose students.”

Johnson added that he was excited to get started. His first meeting, along with new Board members Nick Hacker, Mike Ness and Greg Stemen, came with an orientation and strategic planning at the end of June. His term officially began July 1.

“I’m looking forward to hearing from different individuals’ perspectives,” he concluded. “I view this as a tremendous learning experience, from the people I’ll work with on the Board, to the presidents of the colleges and universities, to the system officials, it will be really interesting to hear from them, and to learn what I can.”

First phase of Listening Session concludes


IMG_4619Chancellor Mark Hagerott got his chance – or chances – to hear from North Dakota’s senators and representatives recently, and he feels it’s only the beginning of a great conversation.

After concluding the first leg of his listening sessions with state legislators, the North Dakota University System chancellor will move forward soon into the next phase of sessions with other leaders, both from the state and from business and industry, before moving on to hear what individual campus leaders have to say.

The listening sessions took Hagerott to Minot, Williston, Jamestown, Grand Forks, Fargo, Bismarck and Dickinson to hear what lawmakers felt were the highest priorities concerning the system’s 11 colleges and universities.

According to Hagerott, the listening sessions proved to be even more informative and useful than he had hoped.

“After meeting with many of our state’s Senators and Representatives, I feel that I’ve begun to get a better understanding of how strongly they feel toward education in our state,” Hagerott said. “These sessions were filled with incredibly enlightening commentary from our lawmakers, and I’ve already begun to reflect on those conversations so we can move higher education forward together.”

Hagerott will continue his “Listen and Learn” tour by meeting with heads of state agencies before touring businesses throughout the state and meeting with private sector and community leadership.

North Dakota University System undergoes staffing changes

The North Dakota University System has had several changes and adjustments take place to ensure proper staffing while plans continue to develop for the coming year under the leadership of Chancellor Mark Hagerott.

“I’ve been on the job for less than a month, and there is much to learn and many decisions to make. I’ve been meeting with legislators, business leaders and our own staff to learn as much as I can about our system and how we can best meet the needs of our state,” Hagerott said. “We all want a system that serves our students and communities and as we move forward, the changes that are made will reflect the input and collaboration of all of the system’s stakeholders.”

Murray Sagsveen served for more than two years as chief of staff and ethics officer, and until July 1 also oversaw legal services for the NDUS. Sagsveen’s last day is today and Lisa Feldner, Ph.D., current vice chancellor for Information Technology and Institutional Research, will take over as interim chief of staff.

“We will all miss Murray and I am very appreciative of the extensive knowledge he brought to our office. Lisa brings a wealth of experience about K-20 education, state government, technology, critical systems, and oversight of large budgets, projects and staffs to this appointment,” Hagerott said.

Legislation also impacted the NDUS budget for internal audit functions, so those adjustments are also being made. State Board of Higher Education Chair Kathleen Neset and Hagerott have authorized a temporary extension of employment to auditors Tim Rerick, Cynthia Beiswenger and Eric Miller through October 2015. This will allow the Board and the audit committee an opportunity to develop plans for future funding and organizational structure. Rerick, the NDUS director of internal audit, has agreed to assume Sagsveen’s ethics officer duties.

Richard Rothaus, Ph.D., has been appointed interim vice chancellor of academic and student affairs, replacing Sonia Cowen, Ph.D.

“We greatly appreciate all who have accepted these interim appointments. I know it not only impacts them, but it also affects their teams as duties are re-assigned. We have been working on adjustments to the Board’s strategic plan and the system office plan and will have further discussions in the coming months on future staffing of these positions. We are all in this together,” Hagerott said.

NDUS tracking audits closely

​A new tool has been rolled out by the North Dakota University System that will allow it to simplify tracking the progress of recommendations from issued audits.

The tool is available for authorized employees to view audits of the system itself or of individual campuses. Every audit does not appear, although those with open recommendations do. On a quarterly basis, the system office compiles a preliminary report which includes all outstanding recommendations.  The individual institutions and System staff then provide updated implementation progress which is incorporated into the final quarterly report.

Vice Chancellor of Administrative Affairs Laura Glatt said that audits had always been tracked, but the new tool enabled NDUS to track them online. A previous tracking mechanism existed although became outdated in recent years.  Glatt noted that Special Projects Assistant Laura Anne Schratt had been asked to assume this task on a temporary basis and has been able to update it using newer tools and technology.

“The nice thing about the new tool is it will allow users to update on a shared site, and executives and others internal to the NDUS to access the site to regularly monitor status,” Glatt said.

“This information needed to be easily accessible to the 11 institutions and NDUS office & CTS staff who are responsible for following up on these recommendations,” Schratt said, adding that months of work earlier in the year had showed definitive results. “We began working on updating the audit tracking workbook in early March. The SharePoint site was launched at the end of May.”

The tracking site follows issued audits for all 11 colleges and universities, as well as the NDUS System Office and Core Technology Services. Schratt said these could be financial, operational or performance audits.

Within the site, contents may be viewed multiple ways, including a campus-specific format that allows the user to view all documents related uniquely to that campus. Regardless of the view, updated reports will begin being posted on a quarterly basis beginning with the second quarter of 2015.

As new audit recommendations are finalized they will be added to the audit tracking workbook until complete.

A high level management report on audit recommendation status is under development and will be used to provide periodic updates to the SBHE Audit Committee and other NDUS executives.