Daring to stand together: Maximizing the strengths of a unified system

November 18, 2014

State Board of Higher Ed President Diederich

A column by Board Chair Kirsten Diederich

This Thursday will be the first regular meeting of the State Board of Higher Education since the November election. We are grateful that the citizens of North Dakota soundly defeated Measure 3, showing their support for our current higher education governance system and our students.

While some things had to wait until after the election, such as hiring our next Chancellor, the Board has firmly set a path for the future of the North Dakota University System with its new strategic plan, the NDUS Edge. Our next few meetings will help clear the way for the plan’s four important goals. I think North Dakotans will be pleased with the results they will see during the next five years.

During the planning process, we talked with many constituents, and one of the messages that came through loud and clear was the importance of our colleges and universities working collaboratively together to ensure efficiency. One business leader stated it this way, “Eleven campuses working cooperatively within one system to provide access to quality education for residents and non-residents – that’s opportunity.” The Board identified Goal #4 in our strategic plan as “Maximize the strengths of a unified system.” As Board Chair, I am committed to doing everything I can to make that happen.

There are many ways to do this in a university system, and our strategies reflect the full spectrum. Some approaches involve academic collaboration, such as our innovative Dakota Nursing Program; others involve sharing services, such as information technology through Core Technology Services; and another strategy addresses collaborating in research opportunities, similar to the partnership already launched in testing unmanned aerial systems.

Building on these current initiatives and empowered by the Board’s philosophy discussed during the strategic planning process, President Dean Bresciani of North Dakota State University volunteered to chair a task force that is investigating the possibilities of shared services for payroll across the system. The system office and other campuses have also stepped up to assist Williston State College as it suffers from high employee turnover related to the oil boom demand for workers in that part of the state. Each of these examples involves maximizing strengths wherever feasible and in innovative ways.

Now that this efficiency philosophy has been firmly implanted in the new strategic plan, it will be much easier for the Board to give clear direction to the chancellor and to campuses, when needed, on this issue. And, I believe our constituents will see that we are indeed seizing this opportunity to work together as a unified system to provide access to quality education for our students.