Time spent with legislators and others was productive and gratifying

January 19, 2013

 

This week has been one of great activity and excitement. The 63rd Legislative Assembly has convened, and higher education representatives presented plans and budgets for the first time Monday, January 14. I was able to visit with each member of our legislative delegation, and their dedication and concern for District 20 is clearly evident. We are in very good hands this session with Senator Phil Murphy, Representative Rick Holman, and Representative Gail Mooney.    

Monday morning’s Higher Education activity was kicked off with testimony from North Dakota University System (NDUS) Chancellor Dr. Hamid Shirvani. Chancellor Shirvani addressed the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is led by Senator Ray Holmberg of Grand Forks. Senator Holmberg is a long-term legislator and is well known in our area as an experienced, dedicated public servant.

Dr. Shirvani’s presentation included information on the new Pathways to Student Success initiative, budget requests, and building projects related to higher education. Through a series of PowerPoint slides, he took the appropriations committee through the various particulars of higher education’s request for the next two years.

Mayville State University was second on the agenda, and the very first NDUS campus to present. I led the committee through a specially designed booklet that covered all aspects of Mayville State University’s successes and requests. This document was prepared by our president’s cabinet, and the message was compelling. Cabinet members Dr. Keith Stenehjem, Mr. Steve Bensen, and Dr. Ray Gerszewski also attended the appropriations meeting and were available for questions and support.

The faculty and staff of Mayville State University have worked hard to meet or surpass every goal we have developed during the past six years. The strong progress we have made as a campus is a tribute to their efforts and these accomplishments made my presentation enjoyable and much easier than in past biennia. I intend to put a copy of our presentation on reserve in the MSU library and would encourage anyone interested to review it.   

Special highlights of my presentation included topics such as all-time record enrollments, very large numbers of in-state student residents, nearly filled-to-capacity campus housing, record numbers of distance learning students, and greatly reduced campus deferred maintenance needs. Strong progress in our STEM initiative, child care and early childhood education, health degrees, academic collaborations all across the state, and a variety of new academic programs were other topics I covered.

Mayville State’s two proposed building projects include replacing the Old Gym with a larger, state-of-the-art facility for our fitness and wellness majors and a new drainage system to eliminate the annual water problems on our sideways, parking lots, and Stan Dokken Drive. I shared the details of these projects with the committee.

After the meeting, a number of the committee members commented very positively on the progress our campus has made. They seemed genuinely impressed with our many accomplishments and I left the meeting feeling very good about our time together. 

Last Monday evening was spent at Governor Jack Dalrymple’s residence. He and his wife Betsy hosted the NDUS presidents, members of the State Board of Higher Education, and the System Chancellor. This opportunity provided a relaxed setting in which I was able to visit about Mayville State University with both Governor Dalrymple and Lieutenant Governor Drew Wrigley. Mr. Wrigley is also the president of the North Dakota Senate, and is related to the people who own Wrigley Mechanical. Wrigley Mechanical built and designed the boilers and mechanical components of our new power plant, so he is familiar with our campus and the progress we have made in terms of becoming much more energy efficient. 

Tuesday morning began with a presentation to the Senate Education Committee, led by Senator Tim Flakoll of Fargo. This was a relatively small group of Senators who wanted to learn more about each campus. Each NDUS president was asked to present a pragmatic vision for their campus and discuss enrollment trends, economic impact data, our role in state economic development, capital construction projects, and future goals. Much like the Senate Appropriations Committee members, this committee’s members were attentive and interested in what our campus has been doing. I was very impressed with the dedication and commitment each of our state’s legislators demonstrated. It is no wonder our state has been consistently solvent and stable over the years.

I had time Tuesday to visit with various legislators. Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner invited me to his office for a visit. This was a special meeting for me because I have always had great respect and admiration for Senator Wardner. He is an outstanding legislative leader who has a strong concern for, and background in, education. He has been an advocate for education and has been very supportive of our campus. 

The long drive home allowed me time to reflect on what had happened on Monday and Tuesday, and to plan for Thursday’s State Board of Higher Education meeting in Bismarck. My thoughts were filled with the dedication and hard work of the campus personnel, combined with the strong support given by the community, alumni, and friends. These reflections reminded me of what a privilege it is to be the president of such a vibrant organization. Our campus story is compelling and we can be confident our efforts positively impact many students. The power of education is evident in the way these students pay society back in so many ways. Our region is a better place because of all of this, and it was truly enjoyable to share our message with the 63rd North Dakota Legislative Assembly.