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NDSU community provides input on next president; search committee meets Tuesday

Students, faculty and staff raised concerns about issues ranging from employee relations to transparency in the process for addressing allegations of racist conduct on campus.

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From left, North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott and AGB Search consultants James McCormick and Janice Fitzgerald listen to a student explain what they want to see in the next North Dakota State University president during listening sessions of their presidential search ib Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, at the NDSU Memorial Union. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum
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FARGO — Consultants for the North Dakota State University presidential search have started to gather information on what people would like to see in the school’s next leader.

Faculty, staff and students gathered Monday, Sept. 13, at the NDSU Memorial Union to tell a consulting firm and higher education leaders what a search committee should consider when hiring a replacement for University President Dean Bresciani. The State Board of Higher Education asked Bresciani to step down from the post by December 2022.

Bresciani likely will have to give up his leadership position before the end of next year. A timeline released last week by the North Dakota University System has the next president tentatively taking office on or about July 1.

Before that can happen, AGB Search, which is an affiliate of the Washington, D.C.,-based Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, has to gather information from NDSU stakeholders so it can draft an ad for the position.

“We really need to hear what you think,” AGB consultant James McCormick said.

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Several common themes surfaced during the three hours that students, faculty and staff were allowed to speak during Monday’s listening sessions. Multiple attendees said they wanted the next president to advocate for employees, particularly when faced with budget cuts. They also wanted a leader who could make hard decisions in conjunction with the campus through shared governance.

Others called for someone who has a vision for the university's future. Another common ask was for a leader who has experience in research since that fits into NDSU’s mission.

“We really need someone very supportive and understanding of the entire research enterprise and willing to commit resources to support that as we grow NDSU’s research,” said Val Kettner, NDSU associate vice president for sponsored programs administration.

When it came to academic degrees in general, some said they wanted the next president to have a Ph.D., while others didn’t want to limit the scope of candidates if they had a lot of experience in fundraising and business.

“Our advice is … don’t box yourselves in too tight,” McCormick said. “Keep a little bit of flexibility for your committee to consider the potential candidates. Once you box it in on the ad, you can hardly move away from that.”

Students in particular voiced the need for the next president to be an advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion after several incidents involving racism on campus. They want the university to become more transparent in its handling of hate-related incidents.

AGB will hold a final listening session at 8 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14, in the Old Main 102 Conference Room, where it will gather input from business leaders in the Fargo-Moorhead area before reporting its findings back to the search committee, which is also meeting Tuesday afternoon. That meeting will be the committee's first, and they also are expected to review policy on presidential searches, open record and meeting laws, their responsibilities in the search and the timeline.

The committee is responsible for vetting the candidates. The State Board of Higher Education will choose the next president.

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The first ad for the presidential search could go out by the end of the month. Only the finalists' names will be made public, per state open records laws.

People can nominate candidates, though that is not necessary to apply, McCormick said.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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