NDSU presidential candidate Debra Larson outlined her vision for a “one doing university” during an open forum presentation at the Memorial Union on Jan. 27. Larson, provost and vice president of academic affairs at California State University, Chico, is the second of five candidates who will visit campus for interviews and meetings.
“What attracts me to North Dakota State is that you have all the parts,” Larson said. “You have all the pieces – the idea of student success, the land-grant mission, research, athletics and a close-knit community of committed people. You have really important strengths.”
Larson suggested the university needs to bind the various parts together in a “one university concept.”
She said today’s students consider return on investment, and they base enrollment decisions on such topics as cost, flexibility and career opportunities.
Larson offered a four-pronged approach:
1) Find ways to lower debt for students
2) Add programming for non-traditional students
3) Ensure quality hands-on experiences for all students
4) Strengthen the conversation on equity, diversity and inclusivity
“I enjoy and am passionate about the idea of rebuilding and invigorating complex organizations, building upon and using the core strengths that an organization has to generate momentum,” she said. “Maybe because I’m an engineer, I bring very strong problem-solving, design and team skills.”
As provost and vice president of academic affairs at Cal State-Chico, she provides leadership to more than 700 FTE faculty and a student population of 15,500. During her five years at the university, Larson has reorganized the institution’s research and sponsored program units, increased online curricula and enrollment and strengthened focus on student success and diversity, equity and Inclusion. She recently was a member of a bargaining team for the Cal State System that reached a tentative contract agreement for the 29,000-member faculty union.
Larson previously was dean of the College of Engineering at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo from 2011-2017. During her tenure, she raised $65.7 million in philanthropic gifts and significantly grew corporate partnerships. She began her career in higher education as an associate professor at Northern Arizona State University.
She earned her bachelor's and master’s degrees in civil engineering at Michigan Tech. Larson earned her doctorate at Arizona State University. She has maintained her professional engineering license for nearly 30 years.
Her academic focus included engineering design and excellence in teaching, the economics of forest restoration and wildfire mitigation, structural dynamics and earthquake engineering, and entrepreneurial outreach. She served for 10 years as a board member with the community-based Greater Flagstaff Forest Partnership that conducted research and completed forest health and fire reduction projects.
David Cook, vice chancellor for public affairs and academic development at Kansas University in Lawrence, was the first of the five candidates to visit campus. He gave an open forum presentation Jan 26.
Other candidates also are slated to hold open forums, which are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. in Memorial Union’s Oceti Sakowin Ballroom.
Michael Tidwell, immediate past president of University of Texas at Tyler, is set for Friday, Jan. 28. Hesham El-Rewin, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at Marymount University in the Washington, D.C., area, is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 2. Mary Holz-Clause, chancellor for the University of Minnesota Crookston and acting executive chancellor for Crookston and University of Minnesota Morris campuses, is set for Thursday, Feb. 3.
The NDSU Presidential Search Committee will recommend an unranked slate of finalists to the State Board of Higher Education. The board will conduct final interviews on the NDSU campus on Wednesday, Feb. 23, with the selection of the next NDSU president announced thereafter. It is anticipated that the new NDSU president will assume office in June.
For more information or to watch video of any of the candidate presentations, visit the Presidential Search web page.
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