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Amy Dalrymple, Published November 08 2009

Burgum ‘not ruling out’ run at NDSU presidency

Doug Burgum said he’s been approached by a variety of people about applying for the North Dakota State University presidency.

The former Microsoft Corp. senior vice president and NDSU alumnus said he’s flattered by the suggestion but hasn’t made a decision.

“I’m not ruling it out, but my interest isn’t in the position,” said Burgum, who donated a downtown building to the university and whose family has long supported the campus. “My interest is that NDSU continue on a strong path of progress.”

Burgum doesn’t know if he’d be eligible because he doesn’t have a doctorate degree and the qualifications for the job haven’t been determined. His highest education level is a master’s degree from Stanford (Calif.) University School of Business.

Burgum said he hopes the search committee would open up the position to people from a variety of backgrounds – not so he can apply, but to give the committee more options.

“I would hope the school would establish, at least initially, a very broad and open criteria to generate the largest pool of talent that they possibly can,” Burgum said.

President Joseph Chapman is resigning effective Jan. 2, though his last day will be Nov. 30. Interim President Richard Hanson begins Dec. 1 and will continue in that role until a permanent president is named.

Chancellor Bill Goetz said nationally there are university presidents who come from outside academia.

“It’s not uncommon in this day and age where considerations are given to individuals of caliber who have demonstrated strong management and leadership abilities,” Goetz said.

It’s also critical to find someone who has strong support for academics, Goetz said.

The search committee, which will be appointed Nov. 19, will determine the qualifications for NDSU president candidates.

In the recent search for a University of North Dakota president, the search profile said a doctorate or highest degree in a chosen field was preferred but not required.

The profile also said the academic credentials and experience must earn respect within the university and national academic community.

All North Dakota college presidents have doctorate degrees, with the exception of the Rev. James Shea at the University of Mary in Bismarck.

The American Council on Education surveyed college and university presidents nationwide in 2006 about their highest degree attained. The results:

  • 0.1 percent listed associate’s degree.

  • 1.9 percent listed bachelor’s degree.

  • 9.5 percent listed master’s degree.

  • 54.3 percent listed Ph.D.

  • 20.7 percent listed doctorate of education.

  • 2.6 percent reported doctor of medicine or other health degree.

  • 5.7 percent reported law degree.

  • 5.2 percent listed other degree.

    Amy Rupiper Taggart, president-elect of the NDSU Senate, said faculty would likely be uncomfortable with a college president who doesn’t have a doctorate.

    Faculty want to be represented by someone who understands where they come from, said Rupiper Taggart, associate professor of English.

    Tom Stone Carlson, NDSU associate professor of child development and family science, also thinks faculty would prefer to have an academic as president.

    “A university is not just a business,” he said.

    Burgum said opening up the application process to a broad array of people could bring candidates with other leadership experience. He named former Gov. Ed Schafer as

    an example.

    “The largest talent pool possible: that’s what North Dakota State needs; that’s what North Dakota needs,” Burgum said.

    One reason Burgum said he advocates opening up the search to more candidates is he’s concerned that North Dakota’s open records law limits who applies for president jobs. All applicant names are public record in North Dakota.

    In UND’s case, 39 people applied for the presidency now held by Robert Kelley. None of the applicants were current presidents. Some critics have said more sitting presidents would have applied if North Dakota’s process were less open.

    Goetz said there are several factors that should make the NDSU presidency attractive to potential candidates.

    Presidential salaries are now competitive after the state Board of Higher Education recently adopted new salary ranges, Goetz said. The range adopted in 2007 was between $275,000 and $325,000 for presidents at NDSU and UND.

    In addition, many universities around the country have struggled during the recession, but North Dakota has increased spending on higher education.

    “The university is viewed across the country as being a quality university, a lot of good things happening there,” Goetz said. “I anticipate we’re going to end up with a pretty good pool.”

    Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590