A subcommittee of the North Dakota Board of Higher Education has approved a number of updates to its strategic plan.

At a meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 22, members of the Research and Governance Committee approved measures related to student success and creating a more unified state university system. The group also approved temporarily removing two measures from the strategic plan, including consolidating university payroll and human resources, and a measure related to promoting diversity, as those measures need further study.

“We want to do something in the area of diversity, but we want to come up with some way to measure it that makes sense,” said Jerry Rostad, vice chancellor of strategy and strategic engagement.

Specifically, Rostad said that instead of counting people that belong to different ethnic groups, he would like to focus on how to measure the effort being put into the area of diversity on university campuses. Coming up with a system to do that will take more time, he said.

The measures approved on Wednesday include monitoring student support services -- the wait times students face for behavioral health services, for example -- and several ideas to improve the overall university system. Those measures include increasing the number of certificates universities offer in digital and science related areas, consolidating support for information technology to reduce costs, and providing more low-cost or free textbooks.

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The committee also heard an update from the Wine Association of North Dakota. Members of that group are trying to rekindle interest at the legislative level in the state’s small wine industry, said committee member John Warford.

In 2009, the Legislature provided $250,000 in funding for grape and wine research, promotion, education and marketing. The funds are distributed to North Dakota State University to undertake those efforts. Since then, momentum in the wine industry, at least at the state level, has appeared to stall.

NDSU President Dean Bresciani cautioned the board against getting too close to this situation, as the State Board of Agricultural Research and Education sets the priorities for agricultural research funding. Bresciani said he certainly supports research efforts into the wine industry, but said Rod Ballinger, chairman of the North Dakota Grape and Wine Committee, was looking for support from a different state entity, after interest by SBARE, waned.

“I would just caution us to be careful about getting too involved in this particular topic,” Bresciani said. “There is a group, which by statute is responsible for prioritizing these sorts of things, and they're being bypassed, because Mr. Ballenger hasn't had success with them in the past.”