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Published March 14 2012

Forum editorial: Higher ed board hires new chancellor

It’s far too early to conclude that the new chancellor of the North Dakota University System will have a successful run. But it is safe to assume that Hamid “Ham” Shirvani is both qualified to do the job and has the confidence of the state Board of Higher Education. Board members hired him this week. He will go to work in July. Chancellor Bill Goetz retires in August.

Shirvani’s latest stop in an impressive career in higher education is California State University – Stanislaus, where he is president. Some North Dakota eyebrows might be raised because the new chancellor is coming from California. But Stanislaus is not the California of Hollywood or Berkeley. It’s in rural California in the heart of one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world, the Central Valley. The university’s home, Turlock, has a population of about 68,000, including the 12,000-plus at the school.

The board conducted an extensive nationwide search for a new chancellor, eventually winnowing the pool to four. All brought strengths to their candidacies, but a majority of the board found Shirvani uniquely qualified to take on the considerable challenges of the system in North Dakota. Board members said that in addition to his administrative skills and educational pedigree, Shirvani’s personality looks to be a good fit for North Dakota.

Several challenges will face the new chancellor, not the least of which will be reviewing and likely changing policies and practices that might have led to granting unearned degrees at Dickinson State University, and a somewhat overblown controversy over funding construction of a new president’s house at North Dakota State University. Shirvani was aware of those issues during the board’s interview process, and seemed to embrace change when change is warranted.

Also, Shirvani’s experience in the California system certainly prepares him for whatever funding challenges confront the North Dakota system. Unlike North Dakota, California has been in a financial crisis for several years, and state universities have taken severe hits to their budgets. Shirvani will have to deal with a Legislature that sometimes doesn’t understand the long-term value of higher education investments, but he will not be facing overall state budget shortfalls.

Again, it’s too soon to know if Shirvani will be all the higher ed board expects him to be. But he seems to have the abilities, experience and persona to continue the system’s march toward excellence.


Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.