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HIGHER ED: NDSU's Chapman has changed ND attitudes, supporters say

FARGO -- Ten years of Joseph Chapman's leadership can be measured in many ways, from enrollment growth to new research dollars. But it's what you can't count that is most significant, his supporters say. "The most important thing he has done is t...

FARGO -- Ten years of Joseph Chapman's leadership can be measured in many ways, from enrollment growth to new research dollars.

But it's what you can't count that is most significant, his supporters say.

"The most important thing he has done is to change the attitudes of people in North Dakota, and especially at NDSU," said Provost Craig Schnell.

Before Chapman, many at NDSU only talked about advancing the university, Schnell said.

Chapman empowered people to act, Schnell said.


"We've shown that we can be more, and that North Dakota will have a university that can hold its own with any in the nation," Schnell said.

Chapman, who delivers his 10th State of the University address today, said he's proud that he established an environment at NDSU that lets people be successful.

"I really have been able to create a sense on this campus that we can reach, we can be on another level," Chapman said.

That change in attitude transformed NDSU from a regional doctoral university to a major national research institution.

Phil Boudjouk, who's been at NDSU for 35 years, said the change in the past 10 years is "unmatched to anything that went on before that."

Two major changes Chapman brought were advancing NDSU's research mission and creating the Research and Technology Park.

For the past six years, NDSU has averaged $100 million per year in research dollars, up from $45 million when Chapman arrived.

Seventy-eight percent of every research grant is spent locally, said Boudjouk, vice president for research, creative activities and technology transfer.


"That's a really powerful economic impact to the region," Boudjouk said.

Larry Isaak, former chancellor of the North Dakota University System, gives Chapman credit for embracing legislation that resulted from the Higher Education Roundtable to expand research and private sector partnerships.

NDSU's enrollment has grown about 35 percent under Chapman's leadership, spurring the need for major building projects.

The university added or is in the process of constructing more than 20 new buildings since 1999, including developing a campus in downtown Fargo.

John Q. Paulsen, chairman of Fargo's planning commission, said Chapman was bold to expand downtown when some on campus were skeptical of the move.

"Soon thousands of students, faculty and staff will be in downtown Fargo every day, adding life and vitality to an already burgeoning new downtown," said Paulsen, also a former Board of Higher Education president.

Through the changes at NDSU, Chapman has kept students first, said Joe Heilman, student body president.

"He cares about our success and our experience," Heilman said. "Anytime we meet with him you can tell that's right at the top of his list."


Students showed their support for Chapman in 2006 when he was a finalist for president at the University of Wyoming.

Several hundred students packed part of the Memorial Union chanting "Joe, don't go" and convinced him to stay.

Now Chapman says that rally is the highlight of his career.

"It speaks to the relationship I have with the students," he said.

Chapman's decade at NDSU hasn't been without some controversy.

He had a dispute with former chancellor Robert Potts, who said Chapman refused to accept his authority.

Their conflict was rooted in a debate over an equity funding bill from the 2005 legislative session when Chapman and two other presidents went to legislators with their own agenda. Potts resigned as a result of the dispute.

Chapman also clashed with former University of North Dakota President Charles Kupchella.


Chapman, 66, said he has no plans or interest in retiring as long as people support his presidency.

"I don't know what I'd rather be doing," he said.

Chapman said he occasionally gets an inquiry related to president searches at other universities, but he is not interested.

"I don't know another institution that's experiencing this kind of journey," Chapman said. "I can't imagine why anyone would want to leave here."

Chapman's tenure by the numbers

- Enrollment has grown from 9,700 to 13,229.

- Doctoral programs have increased from 15 to 45.

- Move from Division II to Division I athletics.


- Total NDSU budget grew from $170 million in 1999 to $380 million for the current fiscal year.

- Private funds raised since 1999 are $117.5 million.

- Academic scholarships for top students grew from $129,000 in 1999 to

$1.57 million in 2008.

Source: NDSU


The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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