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Cali Owings, Published September 25 2013

NDSU provost to step down at end of academic year

FARGO – North Dakota State University announced Wednesday that its second-highest administrator is stepping down at the end of the academic year.

Bruce Rafert has held the provost position at NDSU – the second-in-command behind the school’s president – for a little more than two years. He will transition to teaching and research at the end of the 2013-14 school year.

An email obtained by the Forum indicates Rafert, who came to the school from Clemson University in South Carolina in 2011, was at one point unhappy with the higher education climate in North Dakota and lacked personal ties to the area.

He writes in the April 2013 email that a “rift” between the State Board of Higher Education, then-Chancellor Hamid Shirvani, the state college presidents and North Dakota University System office led him to consider other options.

“The actions of our state’s thought leaders which have been less than inspirational … serve in aggregate to diminish the types of impacts that I came here to try to make,” Rafert wrote in April.

In an email Wednesday responding to interview requests from the Forum, Rafert wrote that his opinion has since changed.

“I and many/all of my colleagues have a strong positive opinion of higher education in North Dakota,” he wrote. “I am sure you and many others had concerns as well earlier in the year. But all that is behind us, and the state is in a uniquely strong position to exploit our strengths in higher education now.”

In a statement Wednesday, Bresciani said he was surprised by Rafert’s decision to step down, but respected it.

Bresciani said the provost has a “deeply felt desire to be a part of the growing scholarly portfolio” at NDSU.

Rafert said he met Wednesday with Vice President for Research Philip Boudjouk to discuss research opportunities and laboratory space availability.

In Wednesday’s email, he said it was a great time to return to research – especially now that NDSU is listed among the top 108 U.S. public and private institutions in the “very high research activity” category by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.

His teaching and research background includes work with industry, state and federal agencies in space sciences including physics and astronomy.

“Faculty in the physics department have indicated they are happy to see me (re)join them,” he wrote in his email Wednesday.

Rafert came to NDSU in July 2011 after serving as vice provost and dean of the graduate school at Clemson.

As provost, Rafert serves as NDSU’s chief academic officer, overseeing several areas of the university including research, Extension, information technology and equity and diversity.

He’s one of the state’s highest paid employees. According to data from June 1, 2012 to May 31, 2013, Rafert made $267,095 – the 18th highest in the state.

The school will launch an open national search for his replacement, according to the announcement.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Cali Owings at (701) 241-5599