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A fresh face: New NCTC president wants to build partnerships

Northland Community and Technical College President Dennis Bona gave his first state of the college address where he talked about becoming a better asset for the community and meeting workforce needs through partnerships with businesses. (Photo by Anna Burleson/Grand Forks Herald)

Dennis Bona has only been the president of Northland Community and Technical College for about three months and already change is in the air.

At the state of the college address Thursday, Bona said the school is building partnerships with American Crystal Sugar and Altru Health System as well as bringing back evening classes starting next fall.

"We have to progress, we have to plan for and we have to take action on making us a different college by 2020, becoming a stronger college by 2020, a stronger college that will continue serving this community well," Bona said.

After seeing a reduction in state funding and a mandated tuition cap, the college issued late layoff notices last fall to compensate for a budget shortfall between $1.1 and $1.6 million. The massage therapy and digital media programs were also suspended this fall.

Bona said next year, tuition will be decreased by one percent as well because of legislative action.

"I applaud that effort and I'm not going to be critical of that at all but the other thing that happens is at the same time you've reduced your revenue and increased your expenses," he said.

At last year's state of the college address, former President Anne Temte said the school had seen a 48 percent reduction in state funding over the past decade.

In an interview before the address at the East Grand Forks campus, Bona echoed what he said in March when he was appointed president by the Minnesota State College and Universities Board of Trustees by stating part of the solution will be partnerships with businesses.

One such partnership is with American Crystal, which Bona said is developing a program to recruit students and pay them to work there while they attend a course at NCTC.

"Your traditional-age students aren't there and so to grow your enrollment you've got to take a bigger piece of the pie," he said.

Bona said his first few months at NCTC has been a whirlwind of trying to understand all of the communities tied to the college and working with MnSCU.

"I've tried to meet with some of the bigger players in the employment community," he said.

He has also had to get used to working in a system after coming from a college that was ran as an autonomous body.

"That's got plusses and minuses to it and I'm learning a little bit of each," he said.

MnSCU Associate Vice Chancellor and Managing Director Phil Davis was assigned to work with Bona as he transitioned into his role as president. He said

"When I met Dr. Bona for the first time it was clear he needed very little help from me," Davis said. "As a seasoned educator and leader he has already demonstrated the kind of leadership that is needed for NCTC, this community and our state."

Anna Burleson

Anna Burleson is the higher education reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of South Dakota's Mass Communication program and is originally from Watertown, S.D. Contact her with story ideas or tips by phone, email or Twitter, all of which are listed below. Examples of her work can be accessed here.

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