Douglas Jensen has been selected as the next president of Bismarck State College.

The North Dakota State Board of Higher Education selected Jensen after interviewing multiple finalists for the position on Thursday, March 26. Jensen will take over on July 1 after current Bismarck State President Larry Skogen retires.

“I am humbled and I am honored,” Jensen told the Herald Thursday evening.

Jensen has been president of Rock Valley College in Rockford, Ill., since 2016.

Bismarck has a “tremendous history” of supporting community colleges for many years, Jensen said. He said Bismarck State College is a unique place to be now as the college has been selected to expand its mission into a polytechnic view and to expand the services it offers.

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“I think the role of Bismarck State is to provide students with a tremendous amount of opportunities that can be anything from traditional transfer and articulation agreements to four-year institutions, to developing career paths to practicing high priority occupations,” Jensen said.

Colleges like Bismarck State can be a place where a student can start an educational career, like Jensen did.

“A community college is somewhere where you can go where people will believe in you, maybe before you're capable of believing in yourself,” he said.

A total of 41 applicants applied for the position. The search committee was co-chaired by Leingang and Tim Mihalick, SBHE member.

“Dr. Jensen’s selection today ushers in an opportunity for BSC to continue serving students, the community and workforce while they navigate the future of BSC as a polytechnic institution,” said Nick Hacker, the board's chairman.

The board held its meeting electronically Thursday, as it sought to maintain social distancing guidelines from federal and state authorities amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Board members called in using interactive video networking. It also used interactive video to interview the Bismarck State College president candidates.

The board also spent time discussing the COVID-19 pandemic during its meeting. All campuses in the North Dakota University System are conducting their classes online for the rest of the semester, NDUS Chancellor Mark Hagerott said. Campuses have been busy studying ways they can help North Dakota and potentially turn dorm rooms into potential reserve space.

Hagerott also commended the students for their response to the pandemic.

Hagerott said discussions are already being had about whether students could be refunded on certain areas, including campus dining and housing. The board did not make any decisions about that topic on Thursday.

“This is an unprecedented crisis that our campuses have never seen, that our system has never seen,” Hacker said, thanking the chancellor and campuses for their work. “At the beginning of this, higher education was the place of threat because of the population density of our students. And today, we’re now in a position to support the state of North Dakota, support the governor and we’re going to continue down that path in finding ways that we can help.”

Other board news

The board also named Stephen Easton as permanent president of Dickinson State University, after the board voted 6-1 to waive the requirements in certain sections of board policy.

The waiving of that policy and procedure allows the board to avoid advertising the position and establishing a search committee, which would forward three or more names to the board for consideration.

Hacker said Easton has already been through two searches before, one for a permanent position and then one as an interim position.

“It is a huge honor to be given the chance to continue to work with Dickinson State’s students, faculty, staff and other supporters,” Easton said.

The board also approved tuition increases for select programs in the North Dakota University System. Last May, the board approved most institutions for a 3% to 4% tuition increase, as allowed by the North Dakota Legislature. The board approved increases for UND’s medical laboratory science and North Dakota State’s nursing and pharmacy programs. It also approved Mayville State to create a tuition rate for its new masters in nursing program, which is expected to receive accreditation this spring and start in fall 2020.

The board also voted to waive requirements related to the ACT/SAT test score requirement through fall 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.