Joseph A. Chapman: President, North Dakota State University
Joseph A. Chapman took over his duties as North Dakota State University's 13th president in June 1999. He loves the job. There's a bounce in his step and a gleam in his eye and he simply does not accept the notion of obstacles. On cold days, he wears an extra muffler, a metaphor for his approach, perhaps: just layer on an extra bit of plaid wool and roar off to the next thing. He does not like to hear about the weather, though. He does like to hear about progress and energy. He loves to see an NDSU athletic team win, but he is equally proud if the team goes down swinging, because both ways the students show class.
Chapman has held positions at Montana State University, Utah State University and the University of Maryland, College Park. He studied for his bachelor's, master's and doctorate from Oregon State University, Corvallis. As a biologist, his area of specialization is lagomorphs, which are, precisely, plant-eating mammals that have fully furred feet and two pairs of upper incisors. Or, more generally, pikas, hares, and rabbits.
All I try to do is create an environment where people can be successful.
What we've seen here is a lot of people who have been living with a pent up energy. We're seeing a lot of talented people moving to the next level. And it's infectious.
It's helped that I have held every administrative position in a university, so I understand what the issues are. That gives you a tremendous tool to work with. My responsibility is to make sure others have the tools they need.
When people are succeeding and meeting their own goals, I get energy from them. They give me a lot of enthusiasm.
My main goal is to keep the energy level high, and then we'll continue to move.
Naysayers? There are lots of those. People fear we're moving too fast. I try to listen and talk to them, and sometimes I can convince them. I hope they always feel they're treated with respect.
Don't ever lie, no matter how painful. Tell me what the rumor is and I'll tell you the truth.
North Dakotans care deeply about higher education.
What's different between North Dakota and Nebraska, except attitude?
The university is becoming a critical economic engine to attract business.
North Dakotans like to be understated.
I never doubted that we would be a good choice for Alien. I think the advantage we had is that we had a lot of people who really understand that this was a crosscutting technology that would redefine microelectronics and computer science and a lot of other applications like inventory.
The two big questions I get most of the time are about Alien and what a great thing it is for the state, and the second thing is all about athletics. Those are the things that people talk about a lot.
Am I really a football fan? When I was at another institution part of my job was to pace around with the president telling him it was going to be all right knowing that it wasn't going to be all right. Here I have others to do that for me.
I do believe athletics is an integral part of campus life, and because of that it's imperative that we be Division I across the whole campus. We asked every area of campus to define and talk about moving to the next level. If they think they're at the level, no penalty for that. But for athletics, I think it was obvious and clear in their minds as they went through that process.
For me it's about seeing other people be successful. I do recognize that I'm privileged to be here at a time of incredible transformation. You have to be careful when you talk about that because a lot of people who went before you were also involved in the transformation, but having said that, there are clearly identifiable milestones in the history of institutions and we're in one of those now.
When I came here this institution was in very good shape. We're now developing a base of a true national research university, and that's a transforming thing for an institution. Quite frankly there are a lot of people out there across the country who are almost astounded at what's happening here.
North Dakota has a tremendous amount to offer.
I have visited every county in North Dakota. The perception is that North Dakota is this big monoculture, and it's not. North Dakota is an incredibly diverse place. If we have a weakness, it's how we market ourselves, but that's improving.