Monthly Archives: June 2015

New members oriented to Board service

Hacker, Johnson, Ness and Stemen learn the ropes

Chancellor Mark Hagerott and Interim Chancellor Larry Skogen compared notes during the most recent Board meeting as part of the Hagerott's transition into the role.

Chancellor Mark Hagerott and Interim Chancellor Larry Skogen compared notes during the most recent Board meeting as part of the Hagerott’s transition into the role.

New members of the State Board of Higher Education sat down Wednesday afternoon, June 24, with a singular purpose in mind: learn the responsibilities of their new role during Board orientation.

The four new Board members, Nick Hacker, Brett Johnson, Mike Ness and Greg Stemen soaked up as much information in one afternoon as possible. All of the new members have served on other boards and associations previously, although Ness was the only one with some SBHE meetings under his belt as he’d been previously appointed to fill a vacant position.

Chancellor Mark Hagerott joined the new Board members, listening to what the assembled presenters had to say about students, campus visions and how the individual schools aimed to find where student goals intersected with the outlooks of business and industry, and provide educations to meet those needs. Each president or institution’s designated representative provided a brief background on their respective college or university’s focus and mission. Additionally, vice chancellors provided background on their respective duties and departments.

UND and NDSU Presidents Robert Kelley and Dean Bresciani went first, providing background on the state’s two research universities. They were followed by NDSCS President John Richman, LRSC Vice President of Academic Affairs Lloyd Halvorson, BSC President Dave Clark, DCB Dean Ken Grosz, WSC President Ray Nadolny, MiSU President Steve Shirley, DSU Provost Dr. Cynthia Pemberton, MiSU President Gary Hagen and VCSU President Tisa Mason.

Then the orientation was handed over to the vice chancellors. Vice Chancellor for Information Technology and Institutional Research Lisa Feldner spoke first, followed by Richard Rothaus on academic programs research and accreditation on behalf of Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs Sonia Cowen. Vice Chancellor of Administrative Affairs Laura Glatt spoke on financial topics third, followed by Vice Chancellor of Strategic Engagement Linda Donlin.

Open meetings laws were also covered. Chief of Staff Murray Sagsveen and Assistant General Counsel Cynthia Wagner Goulet then spoke on the topics of governance ethics, risk management, administrative, fiduciary responsibilities, accreditation and foundations.

CTS talks digital, physical needs

Deputy CIO Darin King and IT Security Officer Brad Miller provided  the State Board of Higher Education with an in-depth update on systemwide IT needs and goals.

Deputy CIO Darin King and IT Security Officer Brad Miller provided the State Board of Higher Education with an in-depth update on system-wide IT needs and goals.

Members of the State Board of Higher Education got a glimpse into the networked world of physical and digital infrastructure last week during an in-depth presentation from Core Technology Services leadership.

Deputy CIO Darin King and IT Security Officer Brad Miller provided details on CTS’ plans moving forward. King touched on organizational changes, procedures and processes, and what CTS saw on the horizon.

He began by noting how the organization had been restructured to allow for improved security processes – including security reports – to be streamlined. King said additionally, CTS has spent the last 12 months taking a broad view of the security atmosphere in the university system.

“We started shortly after a security incident with an internal CTS security team to really understand where the quick wins were and what we could get in place quickly,” King said. “We did bring in an external consultant who used the same tools we used to cross-check what we had determined and see what someone from the outside would say.”

King said that monthly training kept awareness of current and ongoing topics high among CTS employees.

Miller spoke next on data classification, specifically why and how it came about. He stated that in order to know what to protect, it was important to know exactly what the data was. That prompted reviewing the data classification and information security standard, which provided insight into the level of protection for each class of data. Security officers from each campus provided input through the process.

Miller also spoke about intrusion detection and prevention systems that are currently in place for the university system. He also noted that multi-factor authentication is currently being implemented on a number of different systems that need additional layers of security.

King concluded the presentation by noting that the Board could likely see policies presented at further meetings later this year or next.

Pathlight presented

Personal security app makes an appearance at Board meeting

A smartphone application currently in a beta stage at North Dakota State University reached a new audience last week when it was presented before the State Board of Higher Education.

Michael Borr presents Pathlight, a personal assistance security application currently being tested at North Dakota State University.

Michael Borr presents Pathlight, a personal assistance security application currently being tested at North Dakota State University.

Michael Borr, director of the NDSU University Police and Safety Office, spoke about the new Pathlight app toward the beginning of last week’s regular Board meeting. Borr said the app offered the next step in personal security for NDSU students and faculty who could opt-in when traveling on campus, or off.

The app was introduced in the spring semester, and Borr noted that it would see a wider distribution this fall. Key campus considerations revolving around safety and security for students, staff and faculty prompted the university police department to evaluate ongoing programs, which is how they determined the Pathlight programming could be helpful.

According to Borr, the assist-type service was something they’d been adding to since the 1990s when the university had offered a personal assistance service. With that, someone could call the service and receive help in the form of a police escort from point A to point B.

“With the advent of new technologies that have come into play, we’re able to do a virtual assist and that’s what I’ll be describing today,” Borr said in reference to Pathlight. “A key in all of that in the Pathlight application is that it takes advantage of system architectures that are already in place. We basically started with a vision of increasing safety for our students and this was one key component.”

Borr then went into detail describing the application, which serves to track users from their starting point to a destination, all within an input timeframe. So if a student wanted to walk from the dorm to a night class within 10 minutes, he or she would enter that information. If the 10 minutes concluded without the student checking in at his or her destination, the university police would be dispatched along the programmed route to determine if the student needed any assistance.

Borr said if someone using the application needed immediate help the user could simply swipe his or herfinger across their phone screen to notify the university police department. He noted that NDSU had done extensive testing prior to the test implementation to ensure it had the features the department needed.

While no formal action was taken by the Board to implement the software elsewhere, the Board did thank Borr for his time and presentation.

Larry Looks Back

Interim Chancellor reflects on the perspectives, challenges and accomplishments of his two years as the system’s top leader


larry-skogen-photoWith his tenure as leader of the North Dakota University System coming to a close, Larry Skogen has continued to work tenaciously to ensure that headway made during the past two years wasn’t lost in the upcoming transition.

With one more meeting of the State Board of Higher Education to go before he steps down in late June to make way for his successor, Mark Hagerott, Skogen managed to find a bit of time to reflect on the issues that the system and the Board have taken up during the past few years.

First appointed Acting Chancellor in July 2013, then named Interim Chancellor two months later, Skogen said that it had been an interesting, and at times challenging, role.

“I knew that there was and would be much controversy,” Skogen said. “All I knew beyond that is that we had to get back to talking about education and students. So I knew I had to deal with the controversies, but I knew that all the institutions needed to remain focused on the students.”

That concept proved to be quite the balancing act throughout his nearly two full years at the helm of the system. Aiming to keep students as the forefront focus amid criticisms regarding the system or the individual campuses it encompassed could have easily proven a monumental undertaking. Despite those external critiques, Skogen and the State Board of Higher Education were able to affect lasting positive change.

“We were soundly criticized for not having a strategic plan,” he noted, offering a look back on how the Board had gone about formalizing its vision. “I think that getting it in place, making it transparent through the dashboards, and tying what was happening at the institutions to that plan were all crucial. We’re not 100 percent, but we’re in a far better place than we were. I appreciate that the Board and the institutions’ presidents recognized the need to get it done, and have been supportive of the new plan.”

That plan, titled NDUS’ The Edge, illustrates the challenges that the system’s 11 colleges and universities have faced, how they’ve created environments that further foster student success, and how the campuses and system now look to the future. That’s all placed against a contextual backdrop that contains both the economic atmosphere shaping North Dakota’s needs, and comparisons to other regional campuses and systems.

Once a strategic plan was put in place, other factors working against the system at the time were met thanks to the Board’s work and support from the people of the state.

“The two biggest challenges we faced were the constitutional measure to eliminate the State Board of Higher Education and the complaint against the Board filed with the Higher Learning Commission,” Skogen noted. “The first threatened the very independence of higher education; the second threatened our accreditation. The voters resoundingly eliminated the first threat, and we worked very hard to respond to the HLC complaint to get it behind us. Although we have another HLC visit coming up this fall, we’re in a far better position than we were two years ago.”

With those challenges met, the Board was able to take on another issue: that of offering proper orientation and training to incoming Board members in order to bring them up to speed on matters regarding ongoing Board business and the proper way to conduct it. He felt all those challenges had seen positive results.

With time short until he returns to his post as president of Bismarck State College, Skogen said he bore a new appreciation for the hard work done to keep the Board and system office running smoothly. He doesn’t think his leadership style for BSC will be all that much different than before.

021915 N DP DSUPRESIDENTSEARCH2“I’m still me and BSC is still a great institution with outstanding, dedicated folks who go to work every day to help students succeed,” he said. “That’s how it was two years ago, how it is today, and how it’ll be after July 1.”

He noted that he will miss the people within the system office, whom he referred to as “hard-working, dedicated, smart and sincere in serving North Dakota and the university system and its 11 institutions.” He would also miss the close working relationships he’s had with the Board members.

“They are equally dedicated, hard working, smart and sincere in carrying out their constitutional duties,” Skogen noted. “Being at a campus, one often feels once removed from them. I’ve enjoyed working with them as we’ve worked through some very difficult issues.”

Now, he was looking forward to what he said had attracted him to higher education in the first place: the education of students, the hard work of campus employees and the rhythm of campus life.

“My first exposure to higher education—as a faculty member and not a student—was at the United States Air Force Academy,” he said. “I found then that I thoroughly enjoyed working with cadets, working with fellow faculty members, and marking time forward through semesters, ending with the pomp of graduation and its celebrations. Much of that is missing at the system level. I look forward to getting back into that environment.”

As one last step to do his best to ensure system-level success, Skogen has been speaking regularly with Hagerott about the needs and wants of both higher education and the public it serves. His biggest advice to his successor? Listen.

“Dr. Hagerott and I have had many opportunities to talk and what he and I are agreed upon is the need to listen to stakeholders,” Skogen said. “He’s going to be doing that.”

In conclusion, Skogen offered one last thought for all who helped make the system as accomplished as possible.

“I appreciate the support of the Board members, the presidents of all the institutions, and the university system staff,” he said. “We all had to be working toward the same goals to see progress, and I believe we’ve witnessed much of that.”

Skogen’s final Board meeting as Interim Chancellor will take place in Fargo June 24-25. His final day will be June 30, with Hagerott shouldering the responsibility the very next day.

Board to handle major business at final ’15 meeting

The State Board of Higher Education will have a full agenda when it meets this week. Among the main topics will be committee appointments, approval of president’s contract terms, review of final legislative action, and authorization for the Chancellor to begin the search for a new University of North Dakota president.

In the lead-up to the meeting, a myriad of recommendations have made their way through the varied councils and committees.

The Budget and Finance Committee recommendations (detailed in the budget review article) include an update from the Government Accounting Standards Board, a project authorization for the Mayville State University fieldhouse renovation, Minot State University facilities management, a Veteran’s Education Training program, an exterior renovations project at North Dakota State University, a purchase for NDSU’s Langdon Research Extension Center, exterior renovations for NDSU’s music building, refinancing for University of North Dakota’s housing and auxiliary facilities system, a transfer of more than $5 million from UND’s budget to the School of Medicine and Health Science, and an increase in spending for Williston State College’s workforce training project.

Business coming forward from the Academic and Student Affairs committee will deal with programs new and old.

Among program changes and distance education updates likely to be given by Interim Chancellor Skogen, there will also be Board action required for new programs to start, others to cease and some to experience an organizational change. New programs will include a Bachelors in Exercise Science Minor at DSU, B.S. in Global Business at NDSU, and Ph.Ds across six engineering specialties at UND. Terminating program include M.S. in Clinical Nurse Specialist and M.S. in Nurse Educator, both at NDSU. Organizational changes could affect UND’s Department of Economics to become the Department of Economics and Finance. Under that chance the Department of Finance would cease this fall.

The Board will hold its first reading of policies regarding worker’s compensation and due process requirements; and its second reading of policies regarding purchasing and job applicant/employee criminal background checks.

Policies under review include those regarding the following: Audit Committee, Foundations, Workforce Training Boards, Due Process Requirements, Academic Freedom and Tenure; Academic Appointment, Legal Representation, Employee Responsibility and Activities: Theft, Fraud, Abuse and Waste, Early Retirement, and Internal Audit Charter.

SBHE Budget Committee reviews system budget

Proposed budget totals $158.6 million

The State Board of Higher Education’s Budget and Finance Committee met last week to discuss the North Dakota University System’s FY2016 budget. The office budget goes to the full Board for approval on June 24.

House Bill 1003, the NDUS office budget, includes approximately $134.6 million for funds that are administered through the system office. In addition, House Bill 1151 includes $23.5 million for the Education Challenge Grants, and House Bills 1021 and 1051 include approximately $500,000 for desktop support and electronic email.

About 95 percent of the total $158.6 million appropriation is for line items that pass through to students and campuses, for technology and to support other system-wide activities and programs, as approved by the Legislature.

The remaining 5 percent is appropriated for the Board and system office operating budget of 7.7 million, which is down $1.7 million, a 17.5 percent decrease from last biennium’s appropriation. These funds are used to support the functions of the Board, such as coordinating Board meetings and communication, and to administer programs, such as student financial aid and grants.

“The system office staff, who make sure students get their financial aid and support the business operations of our volunteer Board is a small group of hard-working people, dedicated to the university system and our campuses,” said Larry Skogen, NDUS Interim Chancellor. “It is an efficient operation already, but they immediately set to work to find ways to save money, once we knew what our final appropriation was this biennium.”

For example, NDUS has consolidated staff at the Capitol and the Horizon building to reduce costs for leased space, which will result in $80,000 cost savings over the biennium. The system will also leave a staff position vacant following an interim promotion of a senior staff role, which could save $320,000 over the biennium.

After these and other measures are taken into account, there remains a projected shortfall for the biennium of $250,000 to $300,000, which will be managed by Incoming Chancellor Mark Hagerott.

“We have a new Chancellor beginning July 1, who needs to be part of the long-term budget conversation,” said Skogen. “But in the short-term, we have already found ways to reduce costs.”

15-17 Biennial Appropriations Budget to NDUS

Student financial aid/grants (pass-through to students)   $51.4 million       (32.4%)

Core technology services (CTS)                                                $46.3 million       (29.2%)

 Challenge grants (pass-through to campuses)                     $23.5 million       (14.8%)

 Deferred maintenance & campus security pools                 $11.7 million       (7.4%)

            (pass-through to campuses)

Capital bond payments (campuses)                                        $8.4 million         (5.3%)

Office and SBHE operations                                                     $7.7 million         (4.8%)

EPSCoR (pass-through to UND/NDSU)                                $7.1 million         (4.4%)

Other (campus marketing, student                                         $1.5 million         (.9%)

  mental health, etc.)

 Title II grants (federal funds)                                                  $1.0 million         (.8%)

Total                                                                                               $158.6 million

Reflecting on service, system successes


Terry Hjelmstad, Ed. D, Chairman, State Board of Higher Education


A column by Temporary Board Chair Terry Hjelmstad

The final column of Outgoing Board Chairman Terry Hjelmstad

I find myself in the fortunate place of sharing some last thoughts with all of you as I approach the end of my term on the Board. I use the word fortunate, not because I’m nearing the end, but because I’m now given the opportunity to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going.

There have been plenty of challenges in the past. While I’m not forecasting more challenges to come, I won’t say that they’ll never happen. But when all we do is focus on challenges we forget to take time to look at our successes.  For those of you who know me, as a former coach and educator, I’m an upbeat person and like to focus on what’s right in the world, not what’s wrong.

It probably won’t surprise any of you, then, that this reminds me of a joke:

A linguistics professor was lecturing to his English class one day.
“In English,” he said, “A double negative forms a positive. In some languages, though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However, there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative.”
A voice from the back of the room piped up, “Yeah, right.”

Great English jokes aside, there are some who would ignore any and all successes with a “Yeah, right,” mentality, choosing only to focus on the challenges. While the nature of public service means taking care of challenges on behalf of our greater good, it doesn’t mean forgetting to reflect on what has been done correctly and to successful completion.

Last month, more than 7,400 students finished the course of their studious efforts via graduation from our 11 colleges and universities. That’s a success. While graduation alone doesn’t speak to what comes after, what North Dakota’s students have is a leg up on their competition elsewhere: we rank eighth in the nation in the percentage of young adults with college degrees. That’s a success. Nearly three-quarters of the 76,000 jobs expected to be created in North Dakota by 2020 will require postsecondary education – and our people are getting it. They’ve done the due diligence required by their individual programs of study and have taken what our institutions of higher education have to offer to build their own foundations. That’s a success.

Our student retention rate is higher than elsewhere. Depending on the metric, it’s between 4 percent higher (community college retention rate) and 10 percent higher (four-year university retention rate), meaning our students have an advantage over their national cohorts. That’s a success!

That strategy of retention was built into our strategic plan, and we want to continue doing more to keep it high, if not increase it overall. With cooperation from our system’s stakeholders and support from the Legislature, we will only create a higher success rate for our students.

Our ratio of public colleges and universities to the state’s population is higher than most states, and, according to some reports, so is our ratio of faculty and staff. Some call that a challenge, but I call it a success. Higher numbers of faculty mean lower student-to-educator ratios. So our students have the advantage of a private-school education at a public-school price.  It also means that through research, student counseling and support, administration and facilities, our students are getting what they need. They have the internal support to stay ahead of the curve, and that’s a success.

And finally, while some like to say our costs are too high, the numbers say otherwise. Our four-year institutions, master’s degrees and doctoral degrees are lower across the board than the regional averages, and way lower than national averages. That is a success!

I want to take this time to thank everyone within North Dakota University System, everyone on all our campuses, all the students, and the members of the Board, for helping to create all these successes. I greatly appreciated the opportunity to serve as Chairman for the past six months as I was able to serve with dedicated, talented people who each brought their individual experiences to bear on behalf of the students in our statewide system.

Each person who serves here needs to be a leader. I’ve been privileged to serve on several search committees, and I’m sure that upcoming searches will produce quality candidates — innovative and talented people we need to fill those roles.

I am incredibly confident that our 11 colleges and universities will continue to do a fine job in educating our students, shaping them into the workforce and leaders that our state and nation will need in the future. And I believe that the new Board will continue to serve the will of the people of the state, to help ensure that the new Chairman, Kathleen Neset, and the incoming Chancellor, Mark Hagerott, have the support they need to guide the Board and system into a future of continued excellence and success!

Tenure helps programs grow

Three professors reflect on programs, achievements

The security to teach the very best content without pressure to compromise is one of the highest-sought and hardest-won benefits any educator can earn. Knowing that your professional role is secure can free an individual to focus on skill development, team building, research and myriad other tasks necessary to keep any higher education program functioning perfectly in its primary goal: the education of students.

Eighty members of faculty from throughout the North Dakota University System were awarded that high honor recently when the State Board of Higher Education approved recommendations for tenure from the state’s public colleges and universities. The extensive list embodies a broad spectrum of skillsets and programs from STEM to social sciences to humanities.

Three of those educators had a chance to reflect on their individual educations, their respective programs, and their paths to tenure. Their stories follow.


Grid Work

Greg Hutzenbiler, Associate Professor of Electrical Lineworker

Greg Hutzenbiler, Associate Professor of Electrical Lineworker

Greg Hutzenbiler, Associate Professor of Electrical Lineworker

Bismarck State College


Sometimes the best student in a program finds his or her way back to lead that program. Such was the case for Greg Hutzenbiler, who was recently awarded tenure and a promotion to Associate Professor of Electrical Linework. Hutzenbiler was a student in the Lineworker Program in 1999-2000 and after applying the techniques he learned at Bismarck State College to the transmission grids out in the world, he came back to the college to teach students how to do the same.

And from his time as a student through the last 10 years as an assistant professor, he’s been loving every minute of it.

“My advisor at the time, Keith Landeis, along the other faculty members Don Thompson, Mike Wilson and Chris Westman, really established an example for me of connecting with students and preparing for the employers of the electrical lineworker industry,” Hutzenbiler said. “All the faculty were very supportive and inspiring, but each was a different style of teacher. One of the industry expectations of a journeyman is working with apprentices, mentoring them in preparation to be a journeyman.”

Upon graduation from the program at BSC, Hutzenbiler began his apprenticeship with Missouri Valley Line Constructor’s Apprenticeship and Training, out of Indianola, Iowa. While apprenticed there he was attached to the Local 160 in Minneapolis and worked on lines throughout the Midwest. He completed the apprenticeship in mid-2004. A little over a year later he began teaching at BSC. He said he couldn’t have done it without a little help from his friends.

“Landeis (now Hutzenbiler’s mentor) as well as several amazing faculty members at BSC [including] my advisor David Melgaard, (Valley City State University – Transition to Teaching program) were instrumental in helping me adjust and succeed in the laboratory and classroom settings,” Hutzenbiler said.

Now, he’s an integral part of the Lineworker Program, which includes three full-time faculty, one full-time lab assistant, and between 54 and 64 students, depending on the semester and coursework.

From start-to-finish, it’s an extremely involved program. Prerequisite climbing and equipment operations course provide the footing for the nine-month coursework to come.

“The students’ climbing tools are provided during this three-week summer climbing class session, basically allowing students to ensure that this profession may be for them,” Hutzenbiler said, “[and those] can count as transfer credits if a student chooses to go into a different program.”

According to Hutzenbiler, the program is specifically designed to educate and prepare the students to become skilled apprentice lineworkers.

“Instruction time is divided between classroom study and indoor and outdoor laboratory work,” he said, noting that students also are required to prepare for and take the N.D. Department of Transportation Commercial Driver’s License exam.

And that’s just a start. Once graduated and in the field, apprentice lineworkers need to log 7,000-8,000 hours of on-the-job training to obtain journeyman status.

Hutzenbiler shows students the ropes.

Hutzenbiler shows students the ropes.

Despite the near-monumental effort it takes to become established in the industry, demand for the program has remained consistent. Hutzenbiler said that a rebounding national economy combined with a strong state economy has created an industry shift where more jobs than students now exist. And more opportunities are coming.

“I truly enjoy meeting new people, especially new students; learning where they are from; how they ended up here at the BSC Lineworker program; if family or friends brought the student to the program; why they chose one of the most hazardous professions,” he stated, offering some reflection on what keeps him on the path of education. “I also like the graduate success stories, individuals who have graduated from the program and have become successful in the industry.”

He said he plans to keep at it – the program is as important to him as it is to the state.

“The BSC Lineworker program is the only lineworker program in the state that I am aware of,” he said. “There are several in the region, but history and tradition have grown the BSC Lineworker program from the first class of eight men in 1970, to 42 graduates in Spring of 2015. The industry is changing, the job is still very physically demanding, but also requires a high critical thinking level. Industry expectations require more specialized, energized powerline work, using specialized equipment. Also, a significant percentage of current area lineworkers will be retiring in the next 10 years.”

In order to help prepare the students, the program works directly with an advisory board of industry representatives. The board helps create multiple opportunities for temporary or permanent employment, as well as internships. That allows Hutzenbiler and the other Lineworker faculty to advise students on their best possible options.

Although the job requires serious thought, in May the students took time for some fun and games when they showed off their skills to family and friends during the Lineworker Rodeo.

“The Lineworker rodeo was an opportunity for students to invite family members for a demonstration of skills which have been developed over the prior nine months,” Hutzenbiler said. “Students were drafted into teams which completed five events that were timed with deductions taken for improper or unsafe procedures. Awards were given for first, second and third place.”

While he feels the rodeo was a fun outlet for the students, Hutzenbiler knows there is work to be done. He felt being awarded tenure would help that along greatly.

“Tenure is a wonderful accomplishment for my 10 years at BSC, but I feel that I have much more to accomplish with curriculum and industry changes as well as student learning and transition to the workplace,” Hutzenbiler said. “I consider my time at BSC as a student and now as a faculty member a true privilege and blessing. I look forward to the new students and growing with the industry and education into the future.”


Teaching Power

Kelli Odden, Assistant Professor of Education

Dr. Kelli Odden, Assistant Professor of Education

Dr. Kelli Odden, Assistant Professor of Education

Mayville State University


Dr. Kelli Odden has formally been with Mayville State University for just under a decade, serving as an assistant professor of education for eight years running. But she’s been associated with Mayville for much longer and it shows.

Odden first started at MaSU as a student, first completing the requirements for an Early Childhood Associate of Arts degree, then earning her way through the Elementary Education program for a Bachelor of Science. After graduation she spent some time applying her new elementary education skills before moving into an administrative role with MaSU’s Head Start program. Later, an adjunct instructor opening brought her back into collegiate orbit as a Comet.

Now she teaches sophomores, juniors and seniors in the finer aspects of the education and management of classrooms. The application of those lifelong techniques begins early, Odden said, and opens the students up what becomes both a familiar, and accountable, classroom.

“I set the classroom exactly how I’d expect them to teach their students,” Odden said. “Everyone has a name plate that they come in to. They’re set up with different colors that come into play later. We spend class time getting to know each other and I think that builds accountability. That accountability to your class helps build a real enthusiasm for the coursework and if students miss a class period they feel like they really missed out on something.

“I want them to feel like they’re part of a community,” Odden continued. “They know what to expect and what could happen. The familiarity really helps. I’m a part of that consistency. I can’t come one day and state one thing, then state another thing the next day in the same class.”

Classes ranging from 18 to 26 students taking part in the 250-student program include:

  • Special Ed in Early Childhood
  • Inclusive Classroom Environments.
  • Social and Emotional Guidance in Early Childhood.
  • Home, School and Community relations.

“At Mayville State the numbers aren’t astronomical and the class sizes are manageable,” Odden said, noting professor-to-student ratios allowed more time for the professor to address individual student’s educational needs. “You get to know every student and what they’re about. That gives us the opportunity to learn what the students want out of the program and we can work to make sure they get it. As a professor I’m there for students to talk to and bounce ideas off of. I’m there to see what roles they want to play in education as well.”

Odden desire to understand her students more helped in the recommendation for tenure. As did her constant presence as an advisor, a role familiar to all professors. She typically advises around 32 students, helping provide guidance as they move through the program.

“I really enjoy figuring out where people want to go next,” she stated, offering a bit of advice she passes along to her students and advisees. “It takes perseverance, drive, a love and want to be an educator – not everyone can be a teacher. It takes a special skill set to see other’s perspectives. It also requires being able to see how others learn and to see beyond the self. At MaSU we work hard as a community to build off of one another. That way students can receive an education that’s well-rounded.”

Odden instructs students on the finer points of education.

Odden instructs students on the finer points of education.

Odden said one of the most rewarding aspects continued to be advising students who were the first in their families to attend college.

“You’re the direct guide to their experience,” she said. “Here’s what it’s about and what the expectations are. What’s most rewarding is the student who’s the first-time graduate and seeing them proceed from beginning to end. Their support is the advisor and their professors since their parents might not have the experience.

“I’m made to be in the classroom – that’s where my strong suit is,” Odden continued. “I like figuring out where the students are in the classroom and figuring out how to make the coursework fit their needs – to get them where they need to be. I like educating them and learning from them at the same time.”

Demand for the MaSU education program has continued steady through the years. After all, the world will always need educators. So too does the program find a vital place on the MaSU campus, where it remains a mainstay of the university.

“Mayville State University has a unique opportunity since education is a main major at here,” Odden noted. “We have the opportunity to work with our community and others to be successful. I feel that we do a nice job at it.”

Working with others is something as essential for the university and program as it is in the classroom, and Odden said that collaboration existed with school districts as well to satisfy the students’ requirements to student-teach. That’s taken Mayville students throughout the state and beyond – as far as Yuma, Ariz., and Calgary, Alberta.

And now, she’s got the formal approval from the university behind her in the form of tenure.

“That tells me that the university believes in what I’m doing and are seeing the positive impact I’m having on students,” Odden said. “I feel that I’ve got a positive attitude that’s reinforced by that support. I’m also able to broaden myself and potentially bring new things to the program. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to impact people in a positive way. I wanted to drive home the idea that positive impacts need to start with the teachers in the classroom. I wanted to empower those who were going out in the field to be the best they could be.”

Odden is sure to continue positively impacting Mayville State University teaching students into the far future. She hopes so, and thanked her colleagues for creating such a remarkable program.

“I would say that we’ve got a strong education program as a whole,” she said. “One of the bonuses in working in the department is working as a team with other professors. It’s a pretty special team and a unique situation. Sometimes in higher ed you work alone and that’s not how it’s done here – that’s evident in our school and throughout our campus as a whole. It’s a positive experience!”


Oil Can

Vamegh Rasouli, Professor of Petroleum Engineering

Dr. Vamegh Rasouli, Professor of Petroleum Engineeing

Dr. Vamegh Rasouli, Professor of Petroleum Engineeing

University of North Dakota


Dr. Vamegh Rasouli may be relatively new to the University of North Dakota campus, but the experience he brings is extensive and valuable to the pursuit of the highly-sought-after resources held under North Dakotan soil.

Prior to his formal start at UND this March, Rasouli worked at Curtin University in Western Australia for nine years, as a professor and head of the Department of Petroleum Engineering.

The transition to higher education in the United States came when he began looking for a change. Rasouli stated that he wanted to experience a new environment with “exciting challenges for my family and myself.” That search led him to UND, where he landed as the university’s Continental Resources Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Petroleum Engineering Department. Rasouli’s experience and substantial career were so impressive that the SBHE agreed with the unanimous recommendation from UND that he be offered tenure.

“Amongst all the potential opportunities I had, I chose UND as I felt that my proven track record in leadership, management and technical expertise would make me an excellent match for the requirements of the Petroleum Engineering Department,” Rasouli said. “UND offers the only Petroleum Engineering degree program in the state and I am very excited to be a part of a program that is educating future generations of petroleum engineers to serve the industry needs of this state as well as other states.”

The department’s five full-time faculty and one part-time instructor work hard to ensure the educational needs of the program’s 300 on-campus and distance-learning students are met. From the start, the program’s students need to master general science courses, like physics and chemistry. From there the coursework gets more specific, with Professional Engineering-related curriculum starting to get more intensive – a trend that continues through their senior year. The engineering courses also provide opportunities to practice project management skills and the presentation of research and other projects.

Rasouli says the demand for the program has grown significantly in recent years.

“The number of students since 2010 – when the department admitted the first group of students in PE – has increased exponentially,” Rasouli noted. “It is expected to grow in a similar way in the coming years, especially with the idea of starting a Master of Petroleum Engineering program and admitting PhD students.”

Rasouli explained that one reason for that increase was the state’s large resources of shale oil, and the unconventional territory the industry may find itself in as it develops techniques to extract shale oil resources.

“It is an honor for me to be working in an educational institute within this expanding oil and gas business environment to educate young talents to develop the future of this country,” he said. “With the discovery and development of the unconventional resources, this program is strategically important to UND in terms of educating practical and hands-on engineers who can work in the field, and also develop the latest technologies for discovery, exploration, drilling and production of the oil and gas fields to produce future energy.”

The program has found widespread support from the university, and from industry. Four years after graduating high school, North Dakota-raised students can find work in their home state in a major extraction industry without ever having to travel elsewhere, although options for that are available, too.

“UND has some industry fare programs where students are exposed to industry to learn about the career opportunities in different companies,” Rasouli stated. “Also, a number of industry professionals present lectures in different core courses as part of the Petroleum Engineering program, providing valuable information to students about the industry and their companies. Similar events are also arranged by the Student Chapter of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, where industry people are invited to present short courses and workshops and to talk about future career in this profession.

“In addition to the above, students spend a few months in the industry during their summer internship program which is an excellent opportunity for them to get exposed to real life workplace,” Rasouli continued.

He noted that being hired as a tenured professor was an acknowledgement from the university for his previous work and awarded him the opportunity to make longer plans regarding research, teaching and services the program could deliver to students. He enthusiastically looks forward to the future of the program.

“I foresee a very bright future for the petroleum engineering program at UND based on the strategic location of North Dakota,” he concluded. “With the strong support of the state, the university and the industry, it is expected that high quality hands-on and practical graduates will be produced to join the workforce and play an important role in leading the future of the energy industry in the country.”