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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published July 31 2012

New NDUS chancellor examines leadership

WILLISTON, N.D. – The new chancellor of the North Dakota University System has replaced the system’s chief academic officer and said other top-level personnel changes may be coming.

Chancellor Hamid Shirvani told the Legislature’s Higher Education Committee on Tuesday that Michel Hillman, vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, has been appointed to work for Bismarck State College.

Shirvani appointed John Haller to be the interim chief academic and student affairs officer until a search can be conducted. Haller retired in 2008 as vice president for academic affairs for the Southern Illinois University System.

Shirvani discussed the staff changes in response to questions from Rep. Bob Martinson, R-Bismarck, during a meeting at Williston State College.

“There certainly are going to be some changes in the near future as I learn and find out what are the needs of the system,” said Shirvani, who succeeded Bill Goetz to become chancellor one month ago.

Martinson specifically asked if the university system’s attorney is going to be staying.

“I’m sorry I don’t know at this stage,” Shirvani said. “I can’t answer the question.”

During a break in the meeting, Shirvani said he is examining all senior leadership positions.

“When you come in you look at everyone, but some of them you want to have more observation,” Shirvani said. “And that doesn’t mean that other people are going to go, it’s nothing dramatic, but I’m certainly looking at all of the senior leadership and some of the other staff.”

Shirvani said Hillman’s reappointment was not related to his performance.

“It’s just a matter of I thought there is a need for a change,” Shirvani said.

Hillman, who is under contract with the university system, has been appointed to assist BSC President Larry Skogen with special projects for one year. His salary of $180,734 will be paid by the system. Hillman’s reappointment was effective July 6.

Hillman was on vacation Tuesday and not available for comment.

A national search will be launched soon for a successor, Shirvani said.

Haller, who once worked with Shirvani in Colorado, is working on a part-time, temporary basis expected to last until December. The budget for his position is not to exceed $99,000, and will likely be less than that, Shirvani said.

Shirvani is seeking funding for 30 additional positions in the system office. The office currently has 26 staff members, which is significantly lower than other systems in similar states, Shirvani said, citing the Montana office that has 69 staff members.

“It’s not about empire building or expanding bureaucracy,” Shirvani said. “It’s about expertise in the system.”

Committee Chairman Bob Skarphol, R-Tioga, has asked for a performance audit to examine the roles of the North Dakota University System office. It is due in January.

Also Tuesday, Dickinson State University President D.C. Coston was asked to update legislators on personnel changes that resulted from the recent state audit of the university.

Coston said there have been several resignations, retirements and terminations in recent months, though not all were a direct result of the audit. In all, seven senior administrative positions changed, including President Richard McCallum, who was fired in 2011, and 13 other key personnel changes were made.

Coston said many roles are filled with interim appointments and he’s working to assemble his leadership team.

“This process is ongoing and there may be additional changes,” Coston said.


Dalrymple is a Forum Communications reporter stationed in the Oil Patch.

She can be reached at adalrymple@forumcomm.com or (701) 580-6890.


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