Fostering a unified system

November 17, 2016

Neset Bio 2016“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”

Those words were said by Andrew Carnegie, one of the most successful industrialists of American history, a man of great vision and philanthropy who valued teamwork and education. Those words are as meaningful today as when he said them.

In all aspects of life – through elementary and secondary school, through college, careers and beyond – we benefit from strong teams, even as our teams look different and reflect the environment in which they exist. A family. A group of students. Co-workers brought together to reach a common goal. They all have their own form and function, but the one I’d like to speak of today is the 11 public colleges and universities that make up our team – the North Dakota University System.

On every team, in every social or work setting that involves a group, each individual is tasked with specific responsibilities that best fit their local need. The group, though, is defined through the cumulative work of those individuals which moves them toward one singular goal. For the NDUS, we have different campuses with different programs and local needs, who are still working together to serve the greater goal of successful higher education in our state.

I think we’ve done pretty well in that undertaking. Our faculty and our staff has put time and effort into creating a better system for everyone. It’s something that’s been working efficiently since before I became a member of the State Board of Higher Education. It is my genuine hope that it’s something that continues long after my term is ended. And it’s something that takes continuous work. On the Board, we each bring unique perspectives and values, but we’re all here because we have shown an interest in furthering higher education. We may not agree on all the details for every decision, but that can bring up insightful discussion from which to shape this environment moving forward. None of us on the Board is more important than the Board itself, just as no singular academic or athletic program could be more important than the college or university that fosters it. The individual aspects of each group, each system, each family – they matter a great deal, but they must work together to help each team grow and prosper.

These are some of the reasons that we’ve aimed to foster a more unified system. Vice Chair Don Morton said at one of the Board’s strategic retreats, “The strength of the bison is the herd and the strength of the herd is the bison.” When he said that, the championship coach and my fellow Board member may have been referencing North Dakota State University’s Herd Song, but he was speaking of our system.

In the past decade alone, the system has seen incredible strides forward: for itself, the state, the campuses and the students. We aim for more progress daily, and at the strategic level have asked for more services to be shared and for more collaborative program options. These things together can be challenging to implement, but our campuses have risen to those challenges in the name of a unified goal: creating more opportunities for student success. Whether you’re a Bison, Mystic, Wildcat, Viking, Royal, Comet, Lumberjack, Teton, Beaver, Blue Hawk or Fighting Hawk, we are all stronger together. And when we work strongly together, great things will follow.

After all, the strength of each campus is the system, and the strength of the system is each campus. Those strengths, when put together, will allow us all to attain uncommon results.