One of the newest members appointed to the State Board of Higher Education is a graduate of the system and is hoping that he can help the more positive aspects of the state’s colleges and universities show through.
Greg Stemen grew up on a farm about 17 miles northwest of LaMoure. While his entry into college life came with two quarters at Moorhead State, it was Valley City State University where he found his path through education. That path took him through completion of his Math Education degree with a coaching minor and got him started on a track of collegiate instruction.
“Initially, I wanted to become a college basketball coach. Once I was fortunate enough to achieve that goal, the college atmosphere and environment grew on me. I realized that ‘time’ was truly the formative years of college students’ lives and considered myself fortunate to have some impact on those students,” Stemen said, adding that his time there prompted his work toward an advanced degree.
“I realized that in order to continue to progress in the ranks of college coaching a Master’s Degree was necessary,” he noted. “Initially, I pursued it out of necessity, but the appreciation of the value of the ‘college experience’ was what inspired me to complete the degree.”
Stemen currently works as the President of the LaMoure location of the First State Bank of North Dakota, where he’s worked since starting in 2011 as branch manager. During that time he’s never lost sight of the value of higher education, or its meaning to him.
“I took additional interest in the workings and decision-making of the university,” Stemen said. “I chaired search committees and took part in faculty organizational meetings. I didn’t always agree with the mainstream campus thinking, but gained valuable perspective, experience, and insight.”
He noted that although higher education has been viewed at times with a sharply critical eye, there are positives that will probably always be overshadowed by any difficulties affecting it.
“Realizing there was going to be two openings and with my experience and background, I decided to seek the input of a few close friends and fellow professionals,” he said about his path toward being appointed to the Board. “They all expressed support and most importantly, my employer, First State Bank of North Dakota, was very supportive. Once I had input and put my own thought into it, I had no hesitation to pursue the opportunity to serve a state and system that I think are the best in the country.”
He felt his background in both education and finance would be complementary to the other Board members’ expertise.
“Balancing a budget and spending within our means are important priorities to me,” he said. “The most important things we can do to accomplish those things, are to use wise financial analysis and improve efficiencies wherever possible from a systemwide standpoint. These things can and should be done without compromising the educational product we provide to our students… they are and always will be our focus.”
Stemen added that the biggest challenges facing higher education are increasing federal regulation, constantly increasing costs, and the growing number of competitive options facing the normal on-campus post-secondary degree. He noted that clear decision-making is the mark of a strong governing body.
“Recognizing, facing and addressing the challenges that come our way is an incredibly interesting portion of being part of the Board,” Stemen said. “Anyone in a leadership position who is caught off guard by adversity shouldn’t be in a leadership position. It’s our job to adapt to, predict, and overcome obstacles to the success of our system.”