Debora Dragseth, professor at Dickinson State University, was elected to serve as the faculty advisor on the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education for the upcoming school year.
The board has eight members, five of which are appointed by the governor. The other three are a faculty advisor, a staff advisor and a student member.
“The faculty advisor for the state is elected by the Council of College Faculties … We meet monthly, and that’s made up of individuals from all 11 campuses. It’s kind of like Congress in that UND and NDSU, the bigger schools, have more members than the smaller schools,” Drageth said.
She was president of the council for the last two years. Every year, they elect someone to be the faculty advisor for the state board.
The board makes decisions on tenure and budget and approve a lot of decisions regarding the 11 higher education institutions in the state. Her election will give the western side of the state a voice at the state level.
“The faculty and the staff don’t have a vote, but we have a voice,” Dragseth said. “We’re at the table; we go to all the meetings; we’re in on everything that’s happening, but because we’re employed by the system, it would be a conflict of interest … I think that having someone from the western edge of the state will be good. I will be representing all of the faculty statewide, but I don’t believe there’s ever been a Dickinson State University person on the board of higher ed before. We’re the only school on Mountain Time.”
She has had experience in a wide variety of higher education institutions that she believes will aid her in understanding the needs of all of North Dakota’s colleges and universities.
“My undergraduate degree is from … a small four-year school. My master’s degree is from a larger school. My PhD is from a R-1 school, so I think that I can see everything," Dragseth said. "I can see what research universities are like. I can see what small, rural school’s like. The only one that I guess I haven’t had deep experience with would be community colleges.”
She has also had experiences that will help her understand a variety of student challenges.
“Right out of high school, I lived in a dorm … In grad school, I had children. I had one when I did my masters and I had three when I did my PhD, so I know (those) challenges of being a mom and a student and juggling working all at the same time. I think that I will be able to represent the students and the faculty and the communities hopefully really well,” Dragseth said.
She sees budget as one of the greatest challenges facing institutions in the state. She is also concerned about student loan debt.
"One of the things that I know that I am always concerned about, too, is student loan debt. It’s so crushing ... It does stymie these kids ability to move forward with their careers and purchasing houses and having families, even going on for more education," she said.
She has been a leader in higher education before. She was DSU's faculty senate president three times and was twice the president of the Council of College Faculties, which represents all North Dakota University System faculty.
Dragseth has had a distinguished career at DSU, where she received its highest faculty award, the Distinguished Teacher of the Year. She was named the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce's Teacher of the Year, Innovative Teacher of the Year and the 2018 Best of the Western Edge: Best Professor (The Dickinson Press Readers' Choice Award). She was also named Outstanding Faculty by students.