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Ryan Johnson, Published October 04 2012

Bresciani: NDSU’s recent successes ‘just the beginning’ of what university will do in the future

FARGO – North Dakota State University has already made vital research contributions to the state and earned a spot among the nation’s top universities, President Dean Bresciani said Thursday.

But its achievements since being founded in 1890 are “just the beginning” of what NDSU can do as it works to become an even bigger research and education powerhouse, he said during his third state of the university address.

Bresciani said education and research are the keys to North Dakota’s future, and NDSU has established itself as an “economic engine” that educates students, creates new knowledge and broadens the local economic base.

“That said, we are not a state where good is good enough,” he said.

Bresciani outlined several new initiatives, including a move approved by the Board of Higher Education last week to make NDSU’s music department into the School of Music – one of just 49 such schools in the country accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music.

The university also is discussing a possible establishment of a new school by next July that would combine the architecture and design programs.

Bresciani said the “most provocative” change, also set to be completed next summer, would combine NDSU’s information-based programs such as information technology, library programs, database resources and distance learning.

NDSU also could test a new initiative, modeled after its Agricultural Extension Services, that could result in an Engineering Extension Service to support engineering needs across the state. The first step, he said, is a pilot project offering a transportation logistics program with Dickinson State University.

“We believe this initiative may in time become one of the most important statewide community development efforts in North Dakota history,” he said.

Fulfilling its mission

It’s been 150 years since the Morrill Act passed by Congress paved the way for NDSU and the nation’s other land-grant institutions to make higher education accessible to the masses.

Bresciani said NDSU has followed that mission, providing invaluable research for the state’s agricultural industry while offering a public education to the next generation of community and industry leaders.

He said the university has been recognized for its work, including a spot in the Carnegie Commission’s list of “very high research” institutions – meaning it’s among the top 2 percent of all private and public universities in the country.

But Bresciani said NDSU is committed to moving even higher in national rankings, work he said would lead to even more opportunities to secure research funding.

He said the university also will work to improve its student retainment, graduation and job placement rates. That effort has already begun, he said, and it will pick up speed as Chancellor Hamid Shirvani’s recently passed “Pathways to Student Success” plan overhauls North Dakota’s higher education system.

Bresciani also pledged to increasingly draw new talent to the state, not just for a short stint but on a long-term basis as they shape the region’s future.

He said NDSU will continue to show there’s “no greater single economic engine” in the state than the university, and said a forthcoming study from an independent group will affirm that claim. He said the students have an annual economic impact on the service industry of almost $250 million, and the combined economic results of NDSU graduates in terms of credits and degrees earned tops $500 million each year.

“As a result, I anticipate that questions like ‘What have you accomplished’ will in the future change to ‘Can you do more and how can we support it?’” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587