On the heels of its annual strategic retreat, the State Board of Higher Education held its annual meeting to discuss the way forward on many topics, including a few studies.
Chair Kathleen Neset said the time was well spent and allowed the Board to move forward on a number of topics. She thanked the Board for their continued dedication to the welfare and success of students throughout the system.
Rep. Rick Becker spoke to the Board to begin the meeting, noting that although his ideas about higher education could be different than what was generally accepted, the response from system staff was always professional and courteous. Becker spoke to his thoughts on the mission of the university system.
“What we’re looking at, in my opinion, is a watershed moment,” he stated. “We’re on the crux of what the future could hold for higher education. It all comes down to understanding the means, the mission and the money. When it comes to the means, I meant how higher education is delivered.”
Becker referenced a previous talk from Gov. Burgum, and the idea of having students in seats. He said there were certain disincentives to hybrid models, which had been referred to as the way of the future. Embracing that model, Becker noted, would be essential. He continued, offering analogies of hybrid models to Netflix/Redbox and more.
He continued, speaking to mission and money. The mission would most appropriately be a quality education for North Dakota students. He added that community colleges and technical educations may be more appropriate than four-year degrees for all. Becker later added that honest discussion needed to be had on repurposing certain campuses, that 11 was too many. Other concerns, he noted, included restricting the number of administrative positions within the system. He also made recommendations on marketing, reciprocity and retention, among other things
Becker concluded that the Board and system were in a unique place, and were in the right place at the right time to create meaningful impact.
As it was the annual meeting, the Board entered executive session early to discuss presidential and chancellor contracts. After reconvening, the Board reappointed all presidents. Additionally, the Board chose to appoint John Miller from the interim president to the president position at Williston State College. Board members noted that the decision was made in lieu of a costly presidential search as Miller had been a finalist in the previous search and had high support from students, staff and faculty at WSC.
The Board also renewed the chancellor’s contract. Board members stated that due to severe budget limitations, no raises would be given to the chancellor, presidents or university system executives at this time.
North Dakota State College of Science President John Richman spoke to the Board on a capital fundraising campaign for a proposed career pathways center in Fargo. The initiative so far involves a collaboration among three community colleges and several school districts. Richman said the next step in the process to create career pathways in K-14 would be to involve private sector organizations. He stated that the initiative would help address the economic downturn in the eastern portion of the state. If the Board authorized the initiative, he would be able to move forward through the summer. Several individuals representing career and tech education, K-12, and business and industry spoke after Richman on behalf of the center.
After extensive discussion between the Board and Richman, the Board moved forward with removing the tabled item from the agenda. Later in the discussion, the Board voted to allow Richman to move forward on fundraising.
Faculty Commendatory Awards
The Board issued the last of the Faculty Commendatory Awards for the biennium, as funded by the ND Legislature. These awards recognize faculty for the innovative use of technology in the classroom and were made to Dr. Marcus Weaver-Hightower (UND); Dr. Florin Salajan (NDSU); Dr. Sarah Sletten (MaSU); and Dr. Gary Albrightson (DCB).
In other business, the Board held the second reading of Policy 410.0 (Responsible Conduct of Research), offered commendatory awards, appointed Board committees, and approved the recommendations made by the Budget, Finance, and Facilities Committee, as well as the recommendations from the Audit Committee. Presidents then gave their individual reports to the Board.
The Board also presented plaques to outgoing Board members, recognizing them for their service.
The next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 28 at Lake Region State College.