FARGO - President Dean Bresciani delivered a pep talk to a North Dakota State University campus that is weathering steep budget cuts but has managed to accomplish "achievement despite adversity."

In his eighth State of the University address, delivered on Friday, Sept. 29, as NDSU celebrates its homecoming, Bresciani focused on achievements by faculty and students, including top-tier research.

"We know what our strengths are," Bresciani said. "We know what our potential is. We're good at what we do. We know where we fit in the higher education ecosystem. We have a strong niche as a challenging research university with PhD, tenure-track faculty who work with full-time students who seek this environment."

As an indicator of the caliber of research being done at NDSU, Bresciani highlighted seven projects supported by one of the National Institute of Health's most competitive grant programs, a portfolio that has brought in more than $9.5 million to the university's research enterprise.

"Seven is an impressive number, especially for an institution that does not have a medical school," Bresciani said.

Those medical research projects include new treatments for Alzheimer's disease, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer and diabetic vascular disease as well as identifying behavioral factors to determine the success of weight-loss surgery.

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Other examples of research endeavors touted by Bresciani include two of NDSU's Grand Challenge interdisciplinary research projects. One involves efforts to make drug-delivery systems to treat cancer, while the other is a doctor of public health degree drawing upon fields from six colleges.

"We have a history of achievement despite adversity," he said, noting that signs of the university's resilience include almost $78 million in building projects underway or in the pipeline. These projects include the new sophomore residence hall and an upgrade to University Village.

A $28 million expansion of Sudro Hall, which will enable NDSU's nursing program to expand, is expected to begin in March, funded entirely by private donations. Churchill Hall, a historic residence hall, has just undergone $11 million in renovations.

In a hopeful sign, NDSU is preparing to begin hiring new faculty. Although Bresciani didn't give specifics, Provost Beth Ingram has said NDSU will begin hiring a handful of new faculty in high-demand areas experiencing enrollment growth, starting next fall.

Academic performance also has been improving, Bresciani said. NDSU just welcomed its second-largest freshman class, whose members had a 3.47 grade point average. NDSU's graduation and retention rates have improved, with a 7 percent increase in the four-year graduation rate in recent years.