NORTH DAKOTA STATE UNIVERSITY
STATE OF THE UNIVERSITY ADDRESS
PRESIDENT DEAN L. BRESCIANI
THURSDAY, October 10, 2013 • 11 a.m.
Festival Concert hall
Good morning and thank you for joining us today.
As many of you know, I often talk about the continuously growing enthusiasm I have for North Dakota State University.
That’s been the case since the opportunity to join you was first brought to my attention by a former NDSU student, who during a graduate class I was teaching, asked the simple question “would you ever consider being the President of North Dakota State University?”
Since that day, and every day after, my enthusiasm has grown, but for more reasons now than I’d have ever imagined.
One of the greatest rewards of being part of NDSU is the commitment and dedication of our faculty and staff, our students, and our alumni and our friends. Your enthusiasm for where NDSU has been, and where it is going, inspires me on a daily basis.
But it is your shared focus on achieving that vision in the right way, the honorable way, the NDSU way…that confirms for me that this is a special place where we transform lives through education, service and discovery, and a place where even when we disagree, we work collaboratively to find and do the right thing.
I appreciate your time and effort each day as we strive together to keep moving NDSU forward, toward achievements and contributions greater than ever before at any other college or university in North Dakota, or for that matter many of the states around us.
This is my fourth state of the university address, and I’m pleased to tell you it has been the most enjoyable of them all to prepare. I’ve probably thought that to myself every year, but this year is special because I believe we are at one of the greatest turning points in our institution’s history. Let me explain why I say that.
Four years ago at this address I talked about mending fences and visualizing the potentials of NDSU. It was exciting to get NDSU back on the trajectory of success it had exhibited prior to some challenges the years before I arrived.
Three years ago, I talked about strategic planning. That was critically important groundwork for what was to come and as a mechanism for taking advantage of potential future resources I was working to secure for you.
We’d just moved up to the prestigious top tier of all colleges and universities in the nation as ranked by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education, a first-ever achievement for any college or university in our state. That achievement established us as one of the top 2 percent of all colleges and universities in the country. But resting on that accomplishment was not good enough for NDSU and its students, our state, or our nation.
Last year, because I anticipated success at changing our level of state support, we were maturing, refining, and narrowing that strategic planning toward points of implementation. I look forward to our university community continuing to participate in the dynamic process of setting our future direction.
This year, however, I’m more pleased to offer the State of the University address than I can find the words to describe. And I’m able to share a breadth of achievements far ahead of the most optimistic timeline I could have ever reasonably predicted.
We now have the opportunity to not just prepare, but to deliver, on the contributions only a top tier research university can make. I’m talking about achievements of huge proportions. In fact, I predict the already substantial contributions we make to our students, our citizens and the economy of North Dakota will start to snowball.
We have a long tradition of doing more with less, but soon we will be able to do more with more….but I’m getting ahead of myself.
I know all of you followed the recent state legislative session on a number of areas important to higher education; particularly the long-overdue replacement of the state’s dysfunctional higher education funding formula that had so impeded our success.
Our governor and a number of our legislative leaders are to be credited with promotion of a new funding formula so objective, transparent, equitable and rational that the leadership of all 11 campuses in our state wholeheartedly endorsed it. That wide-spread support led to unanimous approval in the senate and overwhelming endorsement in the House.
NDSU became the inarguable example of a need for change three years ago, when I had no choice but to request an 8.8 percent tuition increase.
I had no choice but to take that bold risk—and ultimately successful risk—but it illustrated our campus funding inequity in undeniable terms.
The resulting new funding formula provides resources based on campus productivity and performance measures. And as you know, NDSU—in spite of past funding inequities—leads the state in most measures of higher education productivity and performance.
I want to commend our governor and legislators who also included immediate “true up” funds to equalize the institutions within the three tiers of our state’s higher education system, so that all would start from a level playing field. For NDSU, that resulted in an unprecedented $6.4 million adjustment over the current biennium.
That may naturally lead you to ask where those true up resources will first be applied at NDSU. Let me be definitive that my priority is improving the academic environment and scholarly achievement of NDSU.
My end goal is to substantially increase our scholarly, social, and economic contributions to those we serve.
More specifically, those true up resources will immediately address the desperate and long-overdue need for additional faculty positions, academic support personnel, and scholarly services to relieve over extended faculty. Doing so is critical to improving the quality of our students’ educational experience.
This is no “small deal”—it will be the first substantial increase in faculty positions in decades at NDSU and may represent the single largest increase of faculty in NDSU history.
I know you are aware that when I first arrived, NDSU was in a troubled financial situation which forced us to make a wide variety of eviscerating budget cuts. Academic areas sacrificed a 10 percent cut to operating budgets, that were already stretched to a breaking point. Administrative and student affairs units were cut 19 percent.
We also had no choice but to implement as many business process redesign measures as possible, some of which I’ll admit were experimental, in desperate hope of reducing costs and increasing efficiency. Many if not most of those business initiatives were at the time and perhaps even now remain uncomfortable.
Even given those unprecedented measures, I fully expected our financial recovery to take at least five years or as long as ten years. Well, let me admit that when I’m wrong I’m wrong…and I’ve never been so pleased to be so wrong! Get ready for the first of several “huge” announcements.
We have, on an incredibly short timeline, reduced or eliminated much of the crushing financial burden I inherited. I perhaps shouldn’t argue with the success of the risks that were taken, but many of those risks had financial consequences that brought us to the brink of collapse.
Now that we are out of the woods, I can tell you more specifically how serious the situation was.
In accounting, there’s a financial health rating called the composite financial ratio, which is as its name suggests a combination of a variety of other accounting ratios or measures of financial stability. At a ratio of 1.0 or below, accrediting commissions commonly believe that a university doesn’t have the capacity to maintain its operations, which can result in a loss of accreditation.
Again, that point of accreditation being at risk is 1.0, so please understand that just three years ago, when I arrived, we were at a 1.2 composite financial ratio.
This was a situation I inherited and learned of after settling in to my job. Funny how they forgot to tell me about that during the interviews!
Granted, we had to make decisions that were unpopular and at times limited the flexibility of our campus leaders, but I’d argue that was justified and worthwhile in exchange for so quickly and effectively bringing us back from the brink of the unspeakable.
While we balanced precariously at a point near loss of accreditation, doing so also created an opportunity and in fact imperative to operate NDSU in an even more efficient and productive manner than ever before.
Although NDSU has a long tradition of unusually lean administration, that crisis taught us how to further maximize what we do have, a lesson in efficient and effective resource utilization that will pay dividends when we have adequate resources with which to accomplish our work.
Let me again recognize the sacrifices you’ve made while nonetheless maintaining, and even increasing, our productivity.
Let me also recognize the thoughtful and solution-oriented approach our staff in the finance and administration division have demonstrated under the often unpopular responsibility of implementing the changes that were necessary.
And let me repeat: what I expected to take five to ten years, we’ve accomplished in just three.
I doubt that would have been possible at most of the other universities in the country where I’ve worked. At the risk of sounding a bit corny, that was possible and happened here because of the can do attitude and genuine spirit of collaboration that our NDSU campus community exhibits.
Our students, staff, faculty and administration, alumni and friends, at the end of the day, acted and worked collectively to be the best student focused, land-grant, research university in the nation…regardless of the challenges put in front of us.
As I’ve already hinted at, today, I’m happy to report that our efforts worked.
I’m not talking about some of our efforts having worked. Or even many of our efforts having worked. I’m talking about virtually all of our efforts having worked.
Because of those budget cuts, because of those sweeping business initiatives, and because of the sacrifices of resources and “normal” resource flexibility enjoyed by colleagues at our peer institutions, the result is that a nearly catastrophic situation has been successfully and fully reversed.
As a result, I am about to share with you an announcement that is the first important step in our future. Are you ready for one of those huge announcements I promised? OK, let me cut to the chase.
In addition to the true up money I previously discussed, as we leave this hall today, the eviscerating 10 percent operating budget cuts experienced four years ago will be returned to academic Deans, including the library, for redistribution within their colleges.
In addition, 3 percent will be added for inflation since that time, for a total 13 percent adjustment. This. Is. Huge.
At the same time don’t hear me wrong. We are not able to reinstate resources to non-academic areas. That said, to be able to restore those lost resources today represents an immediate and exceptional boost to our academic priorities.
From a financial stability and productivity perspective, our redesigned business processes are also allowing us to reestablish reserve funds at a level approaching what is recommended and typical for our peer institutions around the nation.
Doing so will allow us to improve our bond rating, and that lowers our interest rates on outstanding debt.
Lowering our interest rates means we can buy down, or even eliminate much of the smothering debt we have labored under. We have also been able to buy down some very expensive off campus leases in which we were substantially over-engaged.
We will even be able to do a little more to support our doctoral students. In an important first step, we are going to be providing 40 percent of health insurance premiums for Ph.D. students.
While all of this news is certainly cause for optimism, we need to remain frugal, efficient and collaborative. But I’ll be the first to admit it feels really good to be able to deliver on the funding I had planned and aspired to bring you.
Not unrelated, it is well understood in other states what major research universities bring to the people and economies they serve. The two research universities in Texas, for example, receive special support and are protected from economic fluctuations. That is because Texans and their legislators understand they are two of the strongest economic engines of the state.
In fact, those two institutions are, in addition to typical state support like we receive at NDSU and UND, served by a special oil extraction endowment, the Permanent University Fund. The fund is designed solely for enhancement and maintenance of their physical facilities regardless of economic conditions.
My hope is that North Dakota will consider a similar measure.
However, know that there may be some who, with no ill intent, don’t understand the new complexity and impact of NDSU, and who may criticize our success even as they enjoy the benefits of it.
But remember there has never before been a university of our scope, complexity or impact in North Dakota. So, the onus on us is to not just succeed, but to explain why that is so important to North Dakotans, and to elicit their trust and enthusiasm for us doing so.
At times that won’t be an easy task and it will require constant attention from us, but by becoming our state’s higher education leader, we have shouldered a responsibility with which North Dakota can’t afford for us to fail.
Our work is also about our ability to draw students to our state and retain graduates who will become our future citizens, leaders, and the human capital of our economy. That’s not just my opinion, that’s the opinion of our state’s major business leaders.
In mid-August, a first of its kind meeting was called in Bismarck by the State Chamber of Commerce. Leaders of the 11 campuses in North Dakota were asked to meet with major business leaders. What became the clear and resounding three messages from business leaders were:
- they desperately need more graduates produced by all three tiers of higher education in the state;
- their businesses’ growth and success, and subsequently the growth and success of our state’s economy, are being starved by the lack of college graduates available to them, and;
- they appreciate that the declining college age population in North Dakota makes it necessary for us to recruit students from out of state; and they recognize higher education’s unique ability to do so, like no other aspect of our state can.
Those same points were echoed, almost word for word, a few weeks later at a technology conference sponsored by Sen. John Hoeven and the Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo Chamber of Commerce.
In a third instance, the legislature’s interim Higher Education committee recently discussed the same points. And in a fourth example, a recent meeting of the Valley Prosperity Partnership in Grand Forks, again echoed the very same things.
The good news is that at NDSU we are already educating the state’s largest enrollment of full time students, and our success has resulted in yet another record year of freshman enrollment.
By my very purposeful design, we have become the institution of choice for students seeking a traditional, residential, full-time degree in a rigorous research university environment, and who intend to and do graduate in four years.
Those NDSU graduates, in increasing numbers, are the economic backbone of our state’s future success as they enter their careers or the increasingly strong graduate programs we offer. As a matter of fact, this fall we are reporting a record number of graduate students as well.
Complimentary good news is that our undergraduate students enjoy a 14.4 percent average rate of return on their NDSU educational investment. And our undergraduates recover all costs, including tuition, fees and forgone wages in an average of 10.6 years—a figure with few if any peer comparisons across the country.
During the course of her or his career, our students’ average inflation-adjusted lifetime income increases by more than $5 for every $1 they invest in an NDSU education. Our graduates also earn higher salaries and pay taxes at more than twice the average rate.
It should come as no surprise that most of our North Dakota students remain in the state after graduation, but we are pleased to report that more than half of our out of state students also choose to stay in North Dakota to start their careers and families; if you include the graduates who work in North Dakota but live in Minnesota, that figure climbs substantially.
And in spite of an issue we’re all concerned about – the cost of higher education – those results are an inarguable success story and point for celebration. Few other institutions nationally can deliver the quality of education with the access and affordability, and exceptional rate of return, that NDSU provides its students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
We also have the opportunity, for the first time in decades, to build a classroom building fully funded by the state, which has for years been desperately needed on our campus.
This game changing enhancement will substantially raise the quality of our students’ learning environment and accommodate the future enrollment growth that our business leaders are demanding of NDSU.
This will not be an ordinary classroom building, but rather one specifically designed to support instruction in STEM related disciplines, while accommodating use by the entire academic community. It will also allow for decompression of existing STEM facilities which are out of date, overused and due to their condition, seriously limiting our scholarly productivity.
With the STEM classroom building underway, we are also now able to initiate planning to address the conditions of existing STEM facilities. They will soon be renovated to better support the scholarly productivity of our faculty and graduate students in those disciplines. This is huge.
Another new facility, which will open exciting opportunities for us in the application of our research, is an addition to the R-I building in the Research and Technology Park. That addition essentially doubles the size of the R-I facility.
Because of its funding and location, the R-I addition can be used for the development and commercialization of NDSU inventions. That capacity will yield critical advantages for us in the future. That’s huge.
Agricultural facilities have been improved at branch stations across the state, and the Greenhouse project phase 3 is nearly complete. And there’s more. A variety of research labs in the College of Agriculture, Food Systems and Natural Resources are or will be upgraded to contemporary standards.
That is just the beginning, however, of a variety of critical facilities upgrades that are grossly overdue, limiting our capacities, and in some circumstances reaching the point of creating serious accreditation issues.
That’s an unacceptable situation for any institution much less one of our caliber.
But now we can aggressively pursue and address those concerns through a combination of: 1) state support made possible by the new funding model; 2) innovative matching grants recently made possible by visionary state legislators; 3) private giving; and 4) internally produced resources resulting from our new business efficiency measures.
Along those lines, I’m pleased to announce that we are also in the initial stages of a comprehensive master planning process for our central campus engineering facilities, which will include an initial phase of renovations catalyzed by private support, the new state matching grant, and internal resources.
For the College of Engineering, that’s huge.
A combination of sources is also being used to renovate our food production laboratory complex in the College of Human Development and Education.
For HD and E, that’s huge.
I am also pleased that we will be developing much stronger support for the College of Pharmacy, Nursing and Allied Sciences, which has become one of our most exciting areas of growth and success in meeting state needs for graduates in those fields.
For the pharmacy, nursing and allied sciences college, that’s huge.
Perhaps undergirding all of those upgrades, a central aspect of our nation’s premier research universities are their core labs. Unfortunately, while outstanding facilities, our core labs have historically been funded by soft money or temporary local funds.
As a new commitment to those critical facilities, current costs of operation will as of today be shifted in full to permanent university funding. Beyond huge!
And a study group of Greg Cook, Kalpana Katti, Keith Murphy, Dale Redmer, Mukund Sibi, and chaired by Larry Reynolds, has proposed further organizational enhancements to increase the business efficiency of our core labs. I look forward to moving as many of those recommendations forward as possible.
Finally, it goes without saying that we are all happy to celebrate the completion of Minard Hall, which provides contemporary, high quality learning environments and has allowed decompression of unbearable conditions across campus.
If you haven’t been through Minard Hall yet, please do so, and consider joining the rededication this Saturday morning. Preserving this historic, 112 year old icon of campus history, while providing learning environments and faculty work space of the highest quality for many of our liberal arts disciplines, is an ideal blend of outcomes. Yes, another huge!
Let me take an extra moment to thank the faculty and staff who coped heroically for the years it has taken to recover from the complications experienced with Minard’s renovation.
We’ll complement those initiatives by also taking steps to better recognize and honor the rich history of our campus and state.
To get that started, we will be naming the Industrial Agriculture Communication Center – known to most as the IACC—for former Sen. Quentin Burdick, whose extensive service to the state of North Dakota is well known, and who was instrumental in securing funding for that facility.
I’m also happy to announce that the lobby of Loftsgard Hall will be named to honor former Dean of Agriculture Roald Lund.
We are pleased to be able to honor the proud history and tradition of North Dakota and the leaders who paved the way for us.
Along with the high visibility improvements I’ve highlighted, I’ve given attention to the less provocative but important aspects of our physical plant and deferred maintenance backlog.
Interior renovation work continued this past summer, ranging from elevator upgrades to exterior lighting.
Technology in no less than 30 classrooms across campus has been upgraded, as has been --with financial support from our students-- campus wireless networks.
I want the beauty on the outside of our campus to suggest and reflect to prospective students and campus guests the quality of what takes place within, so we have this summer done extensive irrigation and tree planting.
In fact, last year NDSU became the first college or university in the state to achieve national “Tree Campus USA” status for the breadth and diversity of our purposeful tree planting program.
To be able to enhance facilities for this many areas of campus…Is Huge.
Success can be measured in many ways, and another important sign of achievement for us is the Student Success Tuition Model I introduced a year ago, now in its final phases of implementation.
This exciting model, drawing positive attention both in North Dakota and other states, is already resulting in its three designed impacts:
- student course loads leading to better retention and four-year graduation are trending up;
- simplification of what at NDSU, and nationally, has been the confusing collection of tuition and fees which students and their families had to in the past try to interpret; the tuition model is leading to a much more “consumer friendly” and understandable cost of attendance at NDSU, and;
- as a subsequent initiative to limit tuition increases across the board for students, NDSU has successfully introduced “differential tuition” in a select number of higher cost programs which typically lead to higher paying jobs after graduation. That allows us to minimize increases in other disciplines.
In another major initiative to improve our student experience, a council of academic affairs and student affairs representatives has developed plans for a centralized academic advising system for lower division undergraduate students.
The depth and thoroughness of the council’s work was exemplary, with thanks to co-chairs Donna Terbizan and Karla Thoennes.
And know that our quality and rigor in the classroom is becoming widely understood and sought after.
As most of you already know, this fall we enrolled the second largest freshman class in NDSU history, the largest overall enrollment, and more first year North Dakota high school students than any college or university in our state—as well as enrolling the largest percentage of full-time undergraduate students. Our students are now also bringing with them some of the highest ACT scores and grade point averages in NDSU history.
In keeping with our land-grant commitment to access and inclusion, I’m pleased to note that among other enrollment gains we have a 20 percent increase in Native American students this year.
NDSU now also leads a five-state region in the National Science Foundation’s survey of R&D expenditures. Our R&D expenditures were more than $134 million in the most recent report.
As defined by the NSF and audited by them for compliance, that total includes all research expenditures funded from competitive grants at the state and federal level, “ear marked” funding by state or federal agencies, and even endowments, when expended on scholarly research.
The only institution in our five state area even close to us is Montana State, and the rest are barely over if not less than half our performance.
Annual licensing and royalty revenues from NDSU research discoveries reached a record breaking $2 million last year. When compared with research institutions in our five-state region, NDSU again rose to the top.
And there’s one more: When comparing doctoral-granting institutions within our five-state region, NDSU yet again tops the list in major science and engineering fields of study.
As you know, our faculty excel in more areas than I can comprehensively review, but allow me to highlight just a few:
We are extremely pleased to have computer science and operations research professor Ken Nygard with us today. Dr. Nygard was selected for the prestigious Jefferson Science Fellowship, and is spending the year advising the U.S. State Department.
This is an exceptional recognition of national and international prestige, reflective of Dr. Nygard’s highly respected expertise, and a strong acknowledgment of the quality of our NDSU faculty.
Dr. Nygard joins those ranks with NDSU’s Dr. Kalidas Shetty, who is a past Jefferson Fellow.
I also want to commend our faculty for their commitment to the tenets of academic freedom.
I’ve been pleased to see the campus community come together, in passionately shared interest, regarding the overall future of academic freedom in North Dakota.
Intellectual and academic freedom is cherished at NDSU; we are and remain fully committed to protecting that tenet for our scholars, and students who benefit from an environment of open inquiry, and a marketplace for the free exchange of ideas.
Reflecting that priority, during the past year a task force was assembled to make recommendations regarding how to increase public understanding and appreciation of academic freedom. Their recommendations are being forwarded to the faculty senate for further action.
Aside from those, an exciting idea to come from the group is a Research Summit-- similar to the enthusiastically received Land Grant summit of last summer—which will soon be in the planning stages for next spring.
The strength of our faculty in the arts and humanities deserves credit for a highly successful inauguration of the School of Music, including an impressive spring premiere event at the Ordway Theater in St. Paul. Also this year, as you may have noticed in the lobby, Theater is celebrating 100 years of activity.
Fine and performing arts are an important feature of elevating our recognition nationally as a comprehensive research university, and extending that reputation to fields that provide richness and context to the human condition. I’d say that too is huge.
The strength of our faculty in Nursing allows us to meet the increasing, if not almost desperate demand throughout North Dakota for our nursing graduates. I am pleased to publicly announce today that, this fall, we have started the process of doubling our enrollments in nursing in response to that critical state need. Again, huge.
And finally, the Advance FORWARD group just rounded out a successful five year initial phase, to high praise from the NSF external advisory board. Their work will now be permanently integrated into practices and policies of NDSU.
The dedication and strength of NDSU’s staff also serve North Dakota well.
For example, the roles of Extension staff and researchers throughout the state have never been more critical given the demands in central and western North Dakota for community development.
Extension’s programs and services; ranging from agriculture to 4-H; and from home and farm improvement to civic leadership development programs, are more important now than ever before.
Later this month I will be following up on previous tours of western North Dakota, specifically to learn how we can serve that area even better.
A variety of long-standing university leaders will be transitioning in to new roles and activities. Some new faces will be joining our campus community and will provide fresh energies and perspectives.
In another area of reorganization, our Architecture and Landscape Architecture program has successfully moved, thanks to years of strong foundation provided by the College of Engineering and the enthusiastic reception they have received from the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences where they’ll now be housed.
In fact, the department was recently ranked as one of the top graduate programs in the nation, tying with the likes of Columbia, Harvard, MIT and the University of Michigan. The program’s advisory board has been a strong advocate for such realignment, and we thank the Board for their years of support and patience during that transition process.
I would like to also mention a potential reorganization I proposed last year—consolidation of the libraries, campus information technology systems and Distance and Continuing Education.
That notion has been studied by a campus wide group, who concluded that this isn’t the right time to move the initiative forward. I would like to commend the involved faculty and staff for their work on this topic.
One other change of note is that we are going to be managing our own email system. What happened to my account last spring was an extreme and inappropriate invasion of my professional and personal privacy, and it is not something I will allow to happen to faculty and staff of NDSU.
But back to upbeat news, dedication describes a group of influential volunteers known as the Bison Caucus, an effective advocacy group. A great deal of credit for the future success of NDSU and in fact all public higher education in our state lies in the hands of this group ably co-chaired by alumni Connie Nicholas of Cando and Clare Carlson of Bismarck.
NDSU is the first and only college or university in our state with this type of advocacy group.
We are in the midst of an exciting new Homecoming celebration, combining the efforts of previously disparate groups to explode the event in to a much bigger celebration.
As you all know, we’ve moved the homecoming parade downtown on Friday night. This broadens the numbers we expect to participate, recognizes our connection to the overall community and specifically our rejuvenated historic downtown area, and will allow more of our 80,000 alumni and friends a new feature: time and structured programs for campus visits to academic areas on Saturday morning.
I want to extend a thank you to Mike Hahn and the downtown community partnership for the warm welcome extended to NDSU for this event.
We also thank the city of Fargo and all of our community partners for contributing to a heck of a dry run for homecoming, thanks to the enormous opportunity to have ESPN broadcast its GameDay show in downtown Fargo.
Seriously, though, the GameDay opportunity was another boost to our national presence, and will continue to pay dividends for years. If you doubt that, here’s one measure: NDSU and GameDay were mentioned in approximately 3,800 news articles across the country.
The second annual Innovation Week was highly successful and continues to grow by great strides.
This program to encourage student entrepreneurship has drawn more participants and better projects each year, with leadership by many of our faculty, and exceptional support from the staff of the NDSU Research and Technology Park.
Innovation Week also has been a big part of our securing a five year federal Economic Development Administration grant of $500,000 to encourage more of the same at student as well as faculty levels.
A concern for innovation has become a national point of attention for the leaders of our nation’s research universities.
In early August, the presidents of 165 of the nation’s top universities joined in signing a letter to President Obama warning that our nation’s withdrawal of federal support for research and development was moving us toward an increasingly non-competitive position in the world economy.
That effort was coordinated by the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities and NDSU was our state’s signatory on the letter.
Similarly, NDSU joined national research universities in advocacy for immigration reform, again being our state’s signatory on a letter to members of the House of Representatives, making the national case for why immigration reform is critical to higher education.
A final point of importance to us all, is the changing legislative climate toward higher education in our state.
Legislators, in their overwhelming support of the new higher education funding formula, removed a contentious and dividing aspect that had been a hurdle to our higher education system since its inception.
Our state’s campuses will no longer be pit against each other in terms of seeking funds; allocations will be made on a completely objective basis.
As a result, our legislators have been relieved of an impossible “referee” role in determining which campus needs are the most compelling.
Instead they can focus on measures to encourage what one external consultant after another has indicated to already be one of the most productive and efficient higher education systems in the nation.
An important step toward building a new, collaborative and productive relationship between legislators and our public higher education institutions came this past summer with state Senate Appropriations Chair Ray Holmberg’s naming of Representative Mark Sanford as the new chair of the Legislative Interim Committee on Higher Education, and the substantially new makeup of that committee.
Senator Holmberg deserves our respect and appreciation for this exciting change.
As some of you may know, Dr. Sanford is an accomplished and widely respected education professional. In his first meetings as chair, there has been a refreshingly professional, productive and well organized approach felt by all in attendance.
In closing, in my years here I’ve heard a lot of you call for my vision. I hope it’s clear now that there’s always been a strong vision.
However, it would have been unproductive to publicize the extent of the financial crisis. I hope you can now understand dealing with that, and securing the desperately needed resources, that had for so long evaded my predecessors, had to be my top priority.
As we turn that corner and move on, our state, business leaders and citizens need us to grow.
Just as clearly we need to maintain and even raise our quality. It’s in many ways a more complex equation than in the past.
But in others, our commitment to the heart and soul of North Dakota State University is as unwavering as ever.
As a result of our success, our planning, and a new and equitable higher education funding formula, we can do more than just achieve my vision to be our state’s and one of the nation’s leading universities.
We are starting to reinvest in the size and scope of our faculty as never before possible.
We are starting to reinvest in the quality and scope of our facilities as never before possible.
We are starting to reinvest in our ability to teach the best students in the best learning environment in the state as never before possible.
As a result of those reinvestments we are moving beyond an admirable vision, to the delivery of what only the best universities in the nation can offer the people they serve.
At the same time we are remaining the student focused, land-grant research university that is our tradition, our foundation, and what we are increasingly and uniquely known for on a nation-wide basis.
Thank you for making our dreams become our reality, with the ultimate objective of better encouraging the success of those we serve.