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Duaine Espegard, Published August 15 2012

Shirvani has full support of state higher ed board

A strong public education system is fundamental to the continued well-being of North Dakota.

Education, and particularly higher education, is the foundation of democracy and economic prosperity. Our state always and proudly has promoted freedom and discourse, and we are very blessed with a prosperous economy even while the national and international economies suffer.

At the state Board of Higher Education, it is our mission to see that the North Dakota University System supports the continued prosperity and civic engagement of our great state.

We are very fortunate to have a system of higher education in North Dakota with outstanding institutions that serve the diverse educational needs of our residents. But the system is young, and it’s ready to go through its next stage of transformation.

As board members entrusted with governance of the system, we take our responsibilities very seriously. To this end, we engaged the most well-known and respected search consultant, Association of Governing Boards, and went through a rigorous national search to identify and appoint a strong chancellor as the chief executive officer.

We are very pleased to have secured Hamid Shirvani. His background and experiences in higher education are impressive and extensive. He is a rare combination of scholar, leader and entrepreneur, and we have full faith that he will be an excellent chancellor to lead the system through this transformation.

Now that Shirvani is on board, we as board members are stepping back to let him lead the system. We again will be a true policy board supporting our CEO. To support this change in roles, we took the extra step of hiring a consultant, Kenneth Shaw, the former head of the University of Wisconsin system and former president of Syracuse University. Shaw led us through a workshop to explore our role and responsibilities as a policy board, not one that gets caught up in campus issues and daily minutiae.

We want to be clear that Shirvani is in charge and has our full support, and we will rely on him to lead the system. Campus presidents will follow the proper reporting structure and report directly, and only, to Shirvani. He will advise and recommend courses of action to the board, and we the board will provide guidance and counsel to him.

We perfectly understand and support this model, which is standard operating structure in most effective and well-run university systems in the country.

Forum readers should expect changes in the North Dakota University System. This is what North Dakotans have asked for and what the system needs in order to move forward with its development.

There is re-engineering to be done. The structure will change, policies and practices will be revised and new models will be put in place. Again, this is something that North Dakotans have demanded and that we support because of the need for increased accountability, transparency and efficiency.

We are relying on Shirvani to lead us through these desperately needed changes, and we are fully committed to supporting him. We expect the same from the campuses, and we respectfully ask for it from the Legislature and the public.

Allow Shirvani to lead and to implement change. Support him, the architect of our future transformation, as he creates and then implements a blueprint for moving our system forward.

Give him the support and respect necessary for him to build the North Dakota University System into a system the leads the nation in educational attainment through access, innovation and excellence.

Espegard, Grand Forks, is a former state senator and current president of the North Dakota Board of Higher Education.