A Nexus of Change

March 16, 2016

Mark Hagerott - North Dakota University System Chancellor

Mark Hagerott – North Dakota University System Chancellor

Much has happened already these first few months of 2016, and it all points to another milestone year for higher education in North Dakota.

Albert Einstein famously said, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” The quote’s longevity is a reflection of its substance, and I believe it aptly fits the changing landscape of higher education. For the North Dakota University System there have already been numerous moments of change already this year.

One of those milestone moments was the naming of the Hon. Mark Kennedy as the 12th President of the University of North Dakota. Aside from having a great first name, the former Congressman has established for himself a distinguished record of public service. He’s no stranger to the academic world either, and currently serves as the professor of political management and director of the Graduate School of Political Management at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Upon his selection, Kennedy stated that he was humbled and honored to serve as the next UND president, and that he understands the importance of quality education for students and research that impacts the community, state and nation. I’m looking forward to having him as part of the university system team, and am confident that we will see UND flourish under his leadership.

Kennedy’s selection as president was but one of many changes that will likely affect the North Dakota University System. Another is a drive forward to help the state and university system help embrace tech-related economic growth as we position ourselves as cyber-leaders of tomorrow.

That change can be known as Nexus ND, which encompasses three efforts based around Cybersecurity, High Performance Computing, and Unmanned Aerial Systems. In addition to Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s creation of the first-ever Cybersecurity Task Force, this past week’s N.D. Cybersecurity Conference at North Dakota State University indicates an increased focus on the creation and securing of digital applications and information networks.

I was fortunate enough to attend the conference at NDSU and speak with many participants on myriad topics. The enthusiasm is high for the potential our research universities, regional universities and community colleges hold for fostering in this tech-driven change to our landscape, both in a digital sense and in an economic one.

Our research universities have developed strong respective track records already concerning High Performance Computing and Unmanned Aerial Systems. Both HPC and UAS are poised to be at the center of many of tomorrow’s industries, from agriculture to energy, businesses large and small. Developed programs such as Computer Information, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at our two- and four-year schools also provide a great opportunity to gain the skills necessary to be one of the 6,500-and-growing employees of the nearly 350 tech-related businesses that are here already.

Nexus ND will integrate all 11 university campuses to produce more computer scientists, IT experts, and a new Cyber Security degree, among the first in the nation. The graduates of our universities will help staff our businesses and government, and it promises to be an interesting time for the state, and the system. There will be much more news in the future as the Nexus ND initiative progresses through university-business-employer events to hear all your ideas.