Participants share perspectives in conversation to shape higher education’s future
The event designed to shape the vision of higher education to come brought nearly 200 people from diverse backgrounds to Bismarck this past week.
Participants from around the state took part in discussions that were held at Envision 2030 to shape student and the state’s needs as they intersect with higher education. From Agriculture to the Whole Student, attendees took the daylong educational summit in an optimistic direction.
State Board of Higher Education Chair Kathleen Neset said she received positive comments throughout the day from participants, and that the Board and university system would use the feedback to build on its long-range goals.
“We will now gather all the discussion and information we’ve received here and continue the discussion at our strategic planning retreat next month,” Neset said, referring to the annual meeting where the Board sets the direction for the North Dakota University System. “We’ll combine these perspectives with our five-year strategic plan and the studies currently underway to build the NDUS into a more comprehensive system for successful student outcomes.”
To focus on the future of students, Ayden Frohlich, a 10-year-old looking to go into aerospace engineering after high school, kicked off the day telling the gathered crowd, “It is important to learn from the past, but now is the time to focus on the future.” He was in attendance all day as he learned from the speakers as well as gave insight from his own perspective in the afternoon breakout sessions.
The morning’s speakers, led by Gov. Jack Dalrymple, helped set a foundational tone for the day, each sharing a vision of what higher education can aspire to be in North Dakota. Those talks fed into discussions on demographics and attainment, and ultimately, to nine breakout sessions where participants were able to share their expertise and opinions about the future.
Subject matter experts in rooms throughout the State Capitol, kicked off breakout sessions led by Board members and system presidents on the topics of Agriculture, Diversity, Energy, Health Care, Liberal Arts & Humanities, Manufacturing, Technology, Tomorrow’s Student, and the Whole Student. Legislators, business leaders, campus staff, faculty and students all got their chance to shape the vision of things to come by putting forward goals of what could be accomplished in three years, in five years, and by 2030.
Those in the Agriculture breakout session suggested that the priorities should be raising awareness on the need for increased food production, developing technologies and partnerships to meet demands, and extend models of teaching in the U.S., and from the U.S. to the world.
Energy breakout session participants said needs should include recruiting students to the state and conducting research across the entire energy sector, increasing collaboration incentives, and creating vibrant communities to attract people to live here.
Subject matter experts in the Health Care session urged goals to be shaped including a three-year goal of endorsement of full implementation of the Healthcare Workforce Initiative, as well as goals to help expand rural medicine and create a cross-functional, cross-institutional health care task force, put in place nursing faculty loan repayment, expand telehealth, and increase inter-professional training centers and teams throughout the state, particularly in rural areas.
Manufacturing session participants shaped their goals by noting that increased recruitment and enrollment to manufacturing careers would be vital, as well as the definition of clear pathways and curriculum, providing clearer perceptions of the manufacturing sector, expanding Career and Technical Education offerings into high schools, and offering programs where students want them.
Technology breakout participants noted that the drivers of technology would include diversity, technological advances, the interdependence of disciplines and changes in delivery methods. Disciplines that could see expansion within the state included cybersecurity, unmanned aerial systems and those revolving around “Big Data.”
In The Whole Student breakout, investments need to be made in mental health and substance abuse training, and connections and engagements furthered among faculty/staff and their students. Additional goals included increasing private fundraising and donations of professional time, and to remain adaptable to changing needs of students so as to provide all these services to distance and online learners.
Those participating in the Tomorrow’s Student session agreed that more diversity would be needed among first generation/low income students, affordability would be a continual need to be addressed, and communication/teaching methods would likely have to adjust for future students who would undoubtedly learn using different means.
The Liberal Arts & Humanities breakout session set priorities in critical thinking and discovery – which have long been considered a major benefit of well-rounded educations. The session also set the goals on the creation of lifelong learners who were civically engaged, educated citizens.
Participants in the Diversity session felt that redefining the term “traditional student” would need to take place as delivery methods and metrics changed. The participants also felt that higher education would need to recognize diversity fluidity as social policies change, that it would be vital to provide programming-intentional programming and delivery methods, and that all students would need to be prepared to work in a global environment and diverse society.
Earlier in the day, panelists helped provide a breakdown of demographics in the state through the lenses of overall population, K-12 population, campus populations and workforce needs.
Susan Heegaard and Scott Jenkins from the Lumina Foundation Strategy Labs and Lumina Foundation, respectively, noted during a lunchtime presentation that it would be vital for the system to “set an ambitious statewide attainment goal: quantifiable, challenging, long-term; something articulated in statute that addresses attainment gaps.”
Dalrymple said the event was vital for education.
“The state’s success would not be possible if you had not delivered the education needed,” he said. “North Dakota’s colleges and universities do an outstanding job of preparing students for a lifetime of success.”
U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp built on the message of keeping things student-centric, noting “Let’s have our students ready for the future. Be student-centered and our future has to be global, and entrepreneurial. … The challenge is how to be cost conscious in delivering high quality product at lower cost.”
Rep. Mark Sanford, the Interim Legislative Higher Education Committee Chair, said education was the pathway to the future. He said that utilizing tools like Predictive Analytics Reporting and Open Educational Resources would help foster more student success in the years to come.
With the educational summit concluded, university system staff will now take the data they gathered from the event to the next Board meeting, which will coincide with the annual strategic retreat, June 16 and 17 at the Lewis and Clark Center in Washburn.