North Dakota's higher education board discussed areas of concern pointed out by an accreditation agency last week.

The State Board of Higher Education met on Nov. 10 with the Higher Learning Commission, an accreditation agency for post-secondary educational institutions in the north-central U.S.

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HLC wanted to gather evidence showing whether the board had addressed four problem areas; lacking a systematic approach to setting goals and evaluating school presidents and the chancellor against them, improve educating new board members and self-evaluation, judging institutions and engaging in data-based strategic planning, and showing that current endeavors have had long-term success.

This comes after an HLC visit more than a year ago, after which HLC President Barbara Gellman-Danley sent a letter outlining the four concerns.

When asked how the board sets long-term goals for institutions and presidents and then subsequently evaluates against them, SBHE member Kari Reichert brought up the board's policy on evaluations.

"I think one of our challenges has been transitioning from a permanent to an interim to a permanent chancellor again and making sure those evaluations continue to happen," she said.

Board members said conducting thorough "360" evaluations for university presidents is difficult due to the state's open records laws, and the current plan is to present individual presidential goals to the full board for adoption in December, which the presidents will be measured against the coming summer.

"We're kind of stuck in limbo," SBHE member Nick Hacker said in regard to the "360" reviews, which he thought were a move in the right direction.

Board members said many of the other problems pointed out by the HLC letter were addressed by the adoption of a strategic plan adopted in October 2014, including a data-based institution evaluation. Part of the introduction of the system's strategic plan included the release of interactive online dashboards available to the public with data for each of the North Dakota University System's 11 institutions.

In regard to self-assessment, SBHE member Mike Ness said the board will evaluate themselves against the goals outlined in the strategic plan this coming summer.

Board members said orientation has been useful and successful for new members, which meets another one of the four concerns outlined in the HLC letter. New board members are also paired with more senior board members as mentors.

When it comes to showing long-term results, board members again pointed to the strategic plan.

"I think we're further down the path because by implementing the strategic plan we've implemented key goals and objectives for the presidents and we're going to hold them accountable to those in their evaluations this year," SBHE Faculty Adviser Eric Murphy said.

Other news

• UND will hold a public Map-A-Thon to celebrate National Geographic's Geography Awareness Week. Volunteers from the public will assist in digitizing buildings, roads and other landscapes that they see on satellite pictures from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow in O'Kelly Hall, Room 116. No mapping experience is necessary and volunteers are invited to come at any time and stay as long they would like. Refreshments will be provided.

• UND's Chester Fritz Library raised money through "Penny Wars" to buy books for a local Head Start classroom. Library staff raised more than $335 during October.

• The North Dakota Quarterly and The Digital Press at UND have published a reprint of nine historically significant articles on UND and the state during WWI in recognition of Veterans Day. The publication is available as a free digital download at goo.gl/1hC5S4.

• The agricultural education major will return to the University of Minnesota-Crookston. The degree program was approved in February by the UMC Board of Regents and the teacher licensure areas were approved by the Minnesota Board of Teaching at its October meeting.

More info: To see more regional higher education news, visit the websites of UNDUniversity of Minnesota-CrookstonNorthland Community and Technical CollegeMayville State University and Lake Region State College.