DSU president gives support for governor's education task force
Dickinson State President Thomas Mitzel showed early support for Gov. Doug Burgum's new task force that will assess how North Dakota campuses are meeting the state's needs.
Burgum recently signed an executive order to study the existing governance structure for higher education in North Dakota and determine if changes are needed to ensure the system meets the state's educational and workforce needs in the 21st century.
The Task Force for Higher Education Governance will have 15 members appointed by the governor, and representing the interests of students, faculty, the business community and all branches of state government.
The North Dakota University System is now governed by the State Board of Higher Education, which also sets policy for North Dakota's 11 campuses.
"Building a 21st century workforce and economy requires us to examine our current approach to higher education, including how our 11 public colleges and universities are being governed and whether the system is operating to its fullest potential," Burgum said. "This task force will determine whether our current higher education governance structure — now nearly 80 years old — is best able to meet North Dakota's growing educational and workforce needs."
Burgum hopes to call the first meeting by mid-December. The task force will eventually produce recommendations for the Legislature to consider during the next regular session in 2019.
Mitzel said he supports the governor's task force.
"We fully support the governor's ideas to make sure that we continue to give North Dakota residents the best possible education at a very affordable cost while utilizing the best methodologies possible," Mitzel said. "From everything I took from what he was saying (Tuesday), he said that what he wants to do is look at best practices, which we may be doing now, which may need to be changed and what other states are doing. So, we're fully supportive."
While the governor has yet to reach out to Dickinson State leaders directly for their input on the initiative, Mitzel said he expects that will happen soon.
"I think it's too early to really tell what type an effect there may be on any individual institution," he said. "I think we need to listen to the committee and follow what it is they're doing and make sure we have our input. As the governor was saying, they want to make sure they have a diverse set of input coming in and my assumption is that they'll be talking to the presidents and talking to the campuses as the situation goes forward and I look forward to interacting with them."
Mitzel said he does not believe there was "a great deal of surprise" behind Burgum's announcement and that is important for universities to be doing what they can to provide a good education to students.
"Institutions themselves, individually try to make sure they're always utilizing best practices," he said. "What the governor's been able to do at this point is to raise that introspective look to the state level. Combining the forces of the people he's putting together with all 11 institutions to look at all best practices across the nation is something that should be done periodically regardless."
Mitzel said universities across North Dakota have done well at giving students a good education through lectures, lectures with technology and through hands-on research at the undergraduate and graduate levels. In particular, the university's agriculture department and their STEM classes allow students to do research that is publishable and lets them have an experience they wouldn't normally get in just a classroom setting, he said.
"I think what North Dakota does very well in our mission is to give education when it's needed and where it's needed and I think we've done that quite well up to the present" he said. "... I think there are a lot of rural students who might not be able to get to a campus and we need to be able to reach those students at a higher level and a better level and some that is where the governor has been speaking."