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Leading The Way: Nadolny seeing Williston State College through tumultuous times

This is Ray Nadolny, president of Williston State College, manager of a mobile home park and head of a program training thousands of oil workers each year.

WILLISTON -- Most know Ray Nadolny as president of Williston State College.

But you could also call him manager of a mobile home park.

And head of a program that trains thousands of oil workers every year.

Leading a college in the heart of North Dakota's oil boom requires Nadolny to be flexible and adapt to what the community needs.

"It's a strange place to be president in some ways," Nadolny said. "We deal with a lot of issues that normal presidents don't deal with."

When Nadolny became Williston State College president in 2009, he vowed to get rid of the seven mobile homes on campus.

Instead he has about doubled the size of college's mobile home park to house faculty, staff and construction workers due to the severe housing shortage in the region.

The housing issue, coupled with so many other job opportunities in the area, contributed to a 40 percent staff turnover rate at the college last year.

Nadolny hesitates to take staff with him to Chamber of Commerce luncheons because he's afraid they'll be recruited for new jobs.

Many of his upper-level college administrators are in their 20s and 30s.

Nadolny, who spent 10 years in the Seattle area before coming to Williston, considers his campus culture similar to that of a dot com company.

"Being able to get a talented young team, inexperienced but full of energy and vigor and good knowledge basis, has provided a good difference," he said.

One of the decisions Nadolny struggled with as president was a student government proposal to make the campus tobacco-free.

Most other campuses in North Dakota have adopted similar policies, but Williston State College attracts 10,000 workers each year for the TrainND workforce training program. He compromised and restricted smoking to the back of campus.

"We've got people living with tensions that adding the nonsmoking tension at this point is something that makes sense ideologically, but is hard practically," Nadolny said. "Unless you live here, it's really hard to understand."

Terry Olson, executive director of the Williston State College foundation, said Nadolny is forward-thinking and the right president to lead campus during these tumultuous times.

"He's a guy that acts. There are a lot of people in education that are idea people but they don't implement," said Olson, also vice president for advancement. "Ray is both. He has the ability to take input and he acts."

Dalrymple is a reporter stationed in the Oil Patch for Forum Communications Co.