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New student rep says N.D. higher ed board needs to 'make peace'

DEVILS LAKE, N.D. - New student representative Devin Hoffarth said the State Board of Higher Education will need to "make peace" over the next year to move past months of controversy and the contract buyout of former Chancellor Hamid Shirvani.

"In order to do that, we need to show them that we are a system and we do know how to run the system," he said. "I think that the first step is just making sure that we have everyone's trust back."

Hoffarth, 19, was appointed July 1 to the one-year term on the board by Gov. Jack Dalrymple, replacing North Dakota State University student Sydney Hull. He'll serve in the position through June 30.

But he said the board will have plenty of other work to do over the next year, especially preparing the 11 public colleges and universities in the state for stricter admission standards that will start to go into effect in the fall semester of 2014.

Hoffarth said he's in a unique position to understand how these changes will affect the individual campuses because he's been a student at two-year and four-year institutions in North Dakota.

The Langdon, N.D., native graduated in May with an associate's degree in business administration from Lake Region State College. He'll stay in Devils Lake for the next year, taking classes through the college's distance learning program with four-year school Mayville State University, where he plans to work toward two bachelor's degrees in business administration and history education.

Hoffarth said the experience has given him perspective on how the "Pathways to Student Success" plan will affect two-year campuses like Lake Region, especially as four-year schools need to stop offering remedial courses - possibly leading to enrollment boosts that the two-year colleges will have to deal with while also offering associate's degrees and technical training.

He said his background at Lake Region also has prepared him to help guide the board through a year of transition. He served as president of the Student Senate there last year and was the head delegate to the North Dakota Student Association while the college was under interim leadership, and said he also was a part of the presidential search committee that hired Doug Darling this spring.

Hoffarth said there are some parallels between that situation and what's now happening in the North Dakota University System, where Bismarck State College President Larry Skogen is serving as acting chancellor until the board acts later this year to hire an interim chancellor to serve for an undetermined amount of time.

"I could just tell that this year to come, the board may have some issues," he said. "I think I'm up for that challenge."

Hoffarth, the second cousin of the board's staff adviser, Janice Hoffarth, said he hopes the board will have hired a permanent chancellor by the time his term ends next summer or be very close to doing so.

"I don't know if that's possible to happen, but it would definitely be nice," he said.

He said the board also needs to work hard to ensure that the coming admission changes will work for each campus, and make revisions as necessary to get everyone prepared.