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Mitzel addresses higher education committee on dual-mission

Higher Education Committee
Dr. Thomas Mitzel, president of Dickinson State University, addressed the higher education committee, Monday, about the university's new dual-mission. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)

Dickinson State University hosted the North Dakota Legislature's higher education committee, Monday, in which DSU President Thomas Mitzel spoke about the university's new dual-mission.

"One of the things that we hear all the time is how quickly is the workforce changing, and how quickly are the students changing, and how institutions of higher education are not flexible enough to meet those needs," Mitzel said. "We have spent a number of years really reaching out to the community, strengthening ties, trying to get our industry to tell us what it is that they need so we can fulfill the needs that they have."

Part of fulfilling the community's workforce training needs was the transition to a dual-mission institution.

"The previous definition for DSU was four-year regional institution. … Lovely description but it didn’t allow for us to really fulfill the mission that was required for Western North Dakota," Mitzel said. "It didn’t allow for us to offer certificates that may be needed for somebody who wants to improve within the workforce but doesn’t require a brand new degree. It didn’t allow for us to offer a two-year degree to a student who has decided that they don’t need a bachelor’s degree to go into the workforce."

To help DSU provide the education needed in the area, it will partner with other colleges and organizations, such as Train ND and Bismarck State College.

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"It really is collaboration. I don’t want to pit one institution against another," Mitzel said.

Mitzel said he would like for Train ND to have a physical presence on campus.

"We’re trying to work on a memorandum of understanding to bring some presence back to the campus," he said. "If they offer certificate programs already, I don’t want to recreate that wheel. What I want is for them to be here so they can walk with me and talk with our local leaders … and have a face on campus."

He added that they have been working on that with Bismarck.

They are also talking with Bismarck to bring a welding program to the DSU campus.

"Bismarck State College does a really high-level program already, so instead of us recreating the wheel, we’ve been working with Bismarck State College for them to bring part of their program to Dickinson State. They will teach it on our campus; they will use our facilities. … They will be enrolled in BSC class, but they will be getting the education on DSU campus, which is what we want," Mitzel said.

He said the university is also working on a memorandum of understanding with Lake Region State College for help running a police academy, for which DSU has already created two-year and four-year criminal justice programming.

"Our police chief two years ago said that they need to have a police academy in Western North Dakota. It would serve, Western North Dakota, parts of Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota. Bringing those people to our academy may keep them in Western North Dakota where we need those folks. Those jobs are not filled," Mitzel said.

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He said where they cannot find an institution to partner with for the programming it needs to meet workforce demands, DSU will create its own programs.

This is not the first time DSU has changed to suit the needs of the community. As Mitzel told the committee, the university was originally founded as a school for teaching to help remedy the shortage of teachers in the area.

"Over the course of those 100 years, what was needed within Western North Dakota began the change, and Dickinson State changed with it. It expanded what it was able to offer, expanded its curriculum to now where it became a four-year regional institution," he said.

Now, he said, the university must change one more time.

Kayla Henson is a former Dickinson Press reporter.
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