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Forum Editorial: Chaffee did a great job for VCSU

Ellen-Earle Chaffee's presidency at North Dakota's Valley City State University was distinguished by great progress, innovation and unyielding commitment to higher education. She stepped down Monday after 15 years of service to the school, leavin...

Ellen-Earle Chaffee's presidency at North Dakota's Valley City State University was distinguished by great progress, innovation and unyielding commitment to higher education. She stepped down Monday after 15 years of service to the school, leaving a campus community that is among the most vibrant of any in the North Dakota University System.

It's not been easy.

The system's small campuses have struggled in the past decade. Holding enrollments up has been difficult; growing enrollment has been a real challenge. Chaffee was up to the job. She went about the task of focusing the school's mission and enhancing the educational experience on a welcoming, small campus.

It worked. Valley City State has been ranked by U.S. News and World Report magazine for the past six years as one of the nation's top colleges in its classification. That's no small matter because there are hundreds of similar campuses in the nation, and the U.S. News ranking is competitive.

During Chaffee's tenure, VCSU demonstrated how to successfully integrate new information technologies into a college curriculum. The school (and Mayville (N.D.) State University, where Chaffee served as president from 1993 to 2002 concurrently with her presidency at VCSU) was among the first in the nation to recognize the value of technology in teaching and learning. Today's routine use of laptop computers by students, for example, was pioneered at VCSU early in Chaffee's presidency.

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The list of honors for her higher education innovations is impressive. It includes the presidency of state and national higher ed associations, honors and recognition from magazines and business organizations. She's been a leader in the Valley City community in developing and sustaining positive "town and gown" relations.

While her time at Valley City has been outstanding, her career in higher education spans 30 years. Prior to her presidency, she did research and held positions in academic affairs and equal opportunity with the state system. A Ph.D., she's the author of five books and several articles on leadership, management, quality and innovation.

All of that is notable but should be praised in the context of Chaffee's commitment to student education at VCSU. Her work there confirmed the unique values of a learning environment on a small campus. Her success is her school's success. Her record of achievement on the campus would not have been possible without her spirited determination as an advocate for VCSU and her willingness to speak out when she believed the small campuses were being shortchanged.

North Dakota higher education on all levels is indebted to Chaffee. Her service has been admirable and intelligent. Her achievements for the higher ed system and her campus will be lasting. We wish her well in future endeavors.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board.

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