President Joseph A. Chapman
As a candidate for the presidency of North Dakota State University, Joseph A. Chapman was asked how he would lead NDSU to new levels of service to North Dakota. The key, he said, was to create conditions where every campus department could be the best it could be. If this philosophy can be summed up in one word, it would be engagement.
Chapman: You only go forward
A lot has happened at NDSU this last year, including the addition of doctoral and undergraduate programs and groundbreakings for the student Wellness Center, the Animal Research Center, and the Research and Technology Park. What do these activities say about where NDSU is headed?
NDSU is an institution fully engaged with the citizens of this state; it is responsive, proactive, and it is an institution that is moving to the next level. I am a firm believer that you only go forward. If you look at all the great states that are on the move, all of them have great university systems. North Dakota has a fine university system, but we're heavily portfolioed at the undergraduate and two-year level. We don't turn out anywhere near the percentage of advanced degrees that these other states do. We're positioning NDSU to be the next level of research university that provides the engines for all those new ideas that can be generated to build the economy of the state.
How does NDSU help build the economy of North Dakota?
First, we create an environment in which students not only want to stay in North Dakota, but one in which out-of-state students want to come to North Dakota. We can do that in a lot of ways. We need to provide the best possible faculty we can. We need to create an environment in which business people feel they are full partners with the university. Our Research and Technology Park is the perfect example of that. We need a place where businesses are not only the beneficiaries of the products that we turn out such as our excellent students but they are also actually helping to shape the direction we are headed as an institution. We need to always be sensitive to the traditions of the state, be it agriculture, business, and the like, but we also need to be realistic and realize the nature of all of the disciplines we represent is being impacted dramatically by new technologies.
Last year, a task force of legislators, business people and higher education professionals studied North Dakota's higher educational system and made a number of recommendations, including that individual campuses take greater responsibility for their own financial resources. What's your view of that?
I think the state has every right to expect us to be good business people. This campus is an investment by the people of North Dakota in individual and collective economic well being and quality of life. We can leverage this investment through strategic partnerships with North Dakota, national and global businesses, as the authors of the Roundtable report suggest.
How concerned are you about attracting and keeping good faculty and staff?
Keeping and attracting good faculty and staff is one of our highest priorities because students are
our highest priority. Student learning occurs through faculty and staff guidance. Increased investments
in people are critical to attracting and retaining quality faculty and staff, thereby increasing
NDSU's educational standards.
We have set a goal of moving faculty and staff salaries to the mid-range of professional peers. We have a strong, positive environment at NDSU. We have pretty good facilities. We care about people. What we don't do well is remunerate our people well. Where this really catches up with us is that while we can recruit the very best people, retaining these new people is a challenge. We bring in a new assistant professor or staff person, get them up and running, and other people looking around from the outside just buy them from us. Now this year, using every tool at our disposal, we were able to keep some incredibly talented people that some very big universities wanted to hire away from us. We lost some but we retained others. We need to be aware there is a demand for the people we have here and we need to compensate them for their hard work.
Demographers say that if present trends continue, North Dakota will have a smaller and older population. Is it realistic for NDSU to set a goal of enrollment growth to 12,000 students?
By doing nothing, we guarantee that the demographers are right. Conversely, we cannot accept this; and we need to invest vigorously in our future and our young people. Not only do we need to keep our young people here, but we need to reach out and create reasons for young people elsewhere to come here and be a part of North Dakota. That's where the universities have a critical role to play. We should be viewed and increasingly we are as a national resource. We need to broaden the number of disciplines we offer so we reach a broader segment of society and build a more diverse university, and thereby building a more diverse state economy.
How do you keep the focus on students while accomplishing these other goals?
North Dakota State University exists to serve multiple stakeholders with service to students as paramount. You keep a focus on students by remembering that everything you do has an educational value. For example, in making an investment in the infrastructure of the Research and Technology Park, you ensure that there are components for students through internships, educational opportunity, or a chance to spend time in the business environment. Everything has to tie back to the students.