Despite turmoil, Wardner happy with SBHE

DICKINSON--North Dakota's Senate majority leader said after years of turmoil, he's happy with the direction the State Board of Higher Education is taking.

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Sen. Rich Wardner
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DICKINSON-North Dakota's Senate majority leader said after years of turmoil, he's happy with the direction the State Board of Higher Education is taking.

"I think it's time to bury the hatchet and move forward for the state of North Dakota," Sen. Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, said Wednesday during an SBHE meeting in Dickinson.

Wardner said while the board has had to deal with issues in the past, including open meeting violations, the possible dissolution of the Dickinson State University Foundation and the improper purchase of a building in 2013, many good things have happened on the state's 11 public campuses that the group should continue to build upon.

"We've got to sustain these things," he said.

Chancellor Mark Hagerott said he has assigned all 11 university presidents to study goals in higher education, including governance, mission, tuition, shared services and cost containment.


Committee membership and topics aren't solidified yet, but according to data provided by SBHE spokeswoman Billie Jo Lorius, UND Vice President for Finance and Operations Alice Brekke is signed up for the cost containment, shared services and tuition and fees committees, while Vice President for Student Affairs Lori Reesor could be on the retention committee.

Lorius said this is because of UND President Robert Kelley's impending January retirement.

Hagerott said everything discovered in the studies will eventually be presented to the board.

Other business

The board also unanimously appointed Thomas Mitzel as president of Dickinson State University. Originally from Aberdeen, S.D., Mitzel comes to Dickinson from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., where he has served as the dean of faculty and vice president of academic affairs since 2013.

Mitzel told board members his experience in various administrative roles and with fundraising would make him a good choice for the job.

"I'm very excited," he said after taking the position. "I'm almost at a loss for words."

Hagerott will negotiate the terms of Mitzel's contract.


The SBHE also discussed the possibility of changing the meeting schedule or allowing some to attend via teleconference, as travel once a month to a different school in the state is time-consuming.

Chief of Staff and Vice Chancellor for IT and Institutional Research Lisa Feldner said face-to-face meetings cost an average of $5,000, including travel, lodging and staff. In total, the meetings cost the North Dakota University System $60,000 annually.

She said effective video equipment to hold meetings remotely would cost about $4,000 per site to install up front but would save money in travel expenses over time.

No motion was made, but board members came to the consensus that 12 meetings annually are necessary, and they would like to make it an option to attend every other one remotely through calling in or video at a remote hub.

The board also heard a presentation on current admission standards. Chairwoman Kathleen Neset said in the future she would like more information on how closely those standards align with the Pathways to Student Success plan, implemented by former Chancellor Hamid Shirvani to increase graduation and retention rates through upping admission standards.

The board approved allocating $130,000 each to UND and North Dakota State University to support doctoral programs. UND will also receive $448,320 in one-time funding to update security card access and lighting.

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