A message from our new dean

Hello alumni and friends. I am Ron Werner-Wilson, the new dean of the College of Human Science and Education here at NDSU. This is my first contribution to the monthly newsletter you’re used to receiving. I plan to use this newsletter, along with many other platforms (e.g., our website, email, social media, blogs, vlogs) to communicate with as many people as possible. In fact, I’ve already produced one video blog (vlog) that describes my first ten days as dean.  You can watch it here. Subscribe to my YouTube channel for future vlogs. 

In the first hours as your dean, I’ve made it a priority to meet friends and alums, faculty, staff and students to hear your stories and learn about your experiences at NDSU. Your stories represent our proud legacy at this great university.  Learning about your experiences – from our various programs – will help me be a better dean.  Listening to your thoughts about the college will help us create a shared vision for excellence.

You see, I believe that each of our stakeholders has a unique perspective.  How can we continue to be the college that holds a special place in the hearts of our friends and alums?  What advice do you have for us to remain relevant?  How can you be connected to our college in meaningful ways?  What is the experience of current students, both undergraduate and graduate?  What are their thoughts about strengthening the college?  Where do they see room for improvement?  What are the challenges facing our faculty?  How can we respond to those challenges creatively?  Where do they see opportunities to grow?  We have an amazing group of staff that support the college.  How are they doing?  From their perspective, how can we improve?  How are faculty, staff, and students feeling after two years of dealing with a pandemic?

I seem to get a form of these two questions when I meet new people:

  • What is your vision for the college?
  • Why are you interested in North Dakota State University?

What is MY vision for the College?

When I interviewed, the search committee asked me to share my vision “for leading a distinguished College of Human Sciences and Education at NDSU for the next five to ten years.”  As I said during that presentation, I believe that a distinguished college contributes to the distinctiveness of the university which at NDSU has three focus areas:

  • We are student focused.
  • We are a land grant university.
  • We are a research university.

I continue to believe that if we are going to be a distinguished college, we will contribute in meaningful ways to each of those areas.  Every one of them.  In my vision, we embrace the challenge to be excellent in each area.  Our focus on students should ensure that their academic experience is characterized by rigor, relevance, and relationship (a focus I learned during a professional development training when I was president of the school board in Ames, Iowa).  We should use these three areas to evaluate all of our courses, curricula, funding models, and teaching practices. 

I have spent most (27 of 29 years) of my academic career working at land grant universities.  I remain fundamentally committed to the land grant mission which includes three interrelated components: teaching, research, and service to our communities.  My research and service inform my teaching which, in turn, strengthens my research and service.  Each mission should be valued and rewarded.

As a research university, a distinguished College of Human Sciences and Education should generate new knowledge, incorporate innovative research methods, and rely on forms of discovery that include bench science, applied science, and translational research.

In addition to contributing to the university’s distinctiveness, I believe that it is important for me to promote the formal mission and vision statements that are already in place. The statements emphasize innovative and transformative learning, high quality academic environment, the importance of meeting diverse educational needs and contributions to economic development.  “Inclusiveness, innovation and excellence are the foundation for establishing long range and annual college goals.”

Why am I interested in North Dakota State University?

I have been intrigued by NDSU for a very long time.  One of my former students, who I will not embarrass by naming, has worked at NDSU for many years.  Every time I would come in contact with this former student, I would ask how things were going at NDSU and would hear glowing responses.  Great faculty colleagues.  Great administration.  Excellent support for teaching and research.  I also had positive experiences over the years consulting with colleagues for promotion with tenure reviews and other professional tasks.  So, you see, I was positively predisposed to NDSU as an institution, and this college in particular, before there even was a vacancy.

I was also interested in this position because it was at a land grant university, which as I said earlier, is an important part of my academic identity.  The college is also active in the Great Plains IDEA, which is a program that I have some experience with from when I was on the faculty at Iowa State University.  I had spent some time contributing to a Youth Development Program, but I left ISU before it was implemented.  Membership in Great Plains IDEA was exciting.

Returning to a college that included disciplines that have roots in home economics combined with the School of Education was also appealing.  While at ISU, we merged the College of Family and Consumer Sciences with the College of Education because that is an academic arrangement that provides many exciting opportunities for collaboration.

With a quick search on the internet, I was able to learn about the award-winning faculty and national leaders here in our college at NDSU.

Those are the practical reasons why I was interested in this deanship.  But there are personal ones as well.  I was born in Bismarck and grew up in Minot, living at the Air Force Base where my father was stationed.  We lived across from the runway where I was thrilled to watch the jets take off and land.  My mother grew up on a farm in Almont (near New Salem) and I loved visiting that farm as a boy.  So, you see, this deanship also included a sense that I was returning home. 

If I haven’t met you, I hope to soon.  If I have already met you, I look forward to continuing our conversation.

Go Bison!

Dr. Ron Werner-Wilson, Dean

College of Human Sciences and Education

Phone:  701-231-8211

Email: ronald.werner.wilson@ndsu.edu

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