Governor: UND, higher ed play vital role in state’s future

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum presents State of the State Address at University’s Chester Fritz Auditorium

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum presented the 2020 State of the State Address at UND’s Chester Fritz Auditorium on Jan. 29. Photo by Shawn Schill/UND Today.

Gov. Doug Burgum believes the state’s university system will not only play a key role in solving North Dakota’s workforce shortage, but also help young people see the opportunities available in the state and stay here.

But Burgum said it will take more than having an outstanding higher education system to fill the 30,000 job openings currently in the state.

“We’ve got the resources to do it, but we’ve got to have a mindset, a growth mindset about innovating and reinventing and going into each discussion in that way on what we can do differently and what we can do better and how we can meet the competitive needs of today’s fast-moving marketplace,” he said.

Outside the Capitol

On Jan. 29, Burgum delivered the 2020 State of the State address at UND’s Chester Fritz Auditorium. The address was Burgum’s fourth since taking office on Dec. 15, 2016, and his second outside of the Capitol. UND Interim President Joshua Wynne presented welcoming remarks, saying that hosting the event was a “landmark day” for the University and the Grand Forks area.

Burgum called on higher education leaders in North Dakota to try new approaches, accept feedback and take risks. Changing demographics, online education and more options (such as certificates and stackable credentials) have changed the face of higher education in the United States and caused nationwide drops in enrollment.

The 2020 State of the State Address at UND was the second Burgum delivered outside the state Capitol building. It was his fourth address since taking office in December 2016. Photo by Shawn Schill/UND Today.

“The model of where we think about a four-year model, on-campus thing is being challenged by all of these forces,” Burgum said. “The economics are shifting. As costs increase, students seek more affordable options. And we have to learn to adapt.”

Strategic initiatives

The governor focused on the five strategic initiatives of his administration, which are: tribal partnerships; transforming education; behavioral health and addiction; reinventing government; and Main Street North Dakota.

“We know that we have made progress across all of these. And as we look ahead, we know that there’s more work that we need to do in all of these areas, but we can set a generational change and chart a course for future generations by continuing to partner on these five strategic initiatives,” Burgum said.

One of the key themes of the address was innovation driven by research. Burgum highlighted UND’s lead role in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), opening his presentation by having his slide clicker delivered to the stage by drone.

“We are grateful for the tremendous innovation of unmanned aircraft systems industry, the epicenter really in the country being right here in North Dakota at UND, at Grand Sky, Northern Plains UAS Test Site,” Burgum noted. “Dozens of private UAS related businesses have either moved to or started in Grand Forks.”

Burgum discussed the research conducted at the UND Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) as being integral to developing both fossil fuels and alternative fuels needed to power the U.S. economy.

He referenced technology developed under the EERC’s Intelligent Pipeline Integrity Program (iPIPE) to minimize pipeline leaks and Project Tundra, which aims to retrofit coal-fired power plants with carbon dioxide (CO2) capture technology.

If we can safely take the carbon dioxide out of the power plants’ emissions, then coal can remain “a stable source of energy  at a lower cost than trying to build an entire world today around renewables,” Burgum explained.

During his address, Burgum called on educators and legislators to be open to feedback and new ideas on adapting to changes in higher education trends and demographics. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

Burgum also cited UND’s important role in the state’s health care system, and spoke at length about efforts to fight drug addiction and provide recovery programs. He noted that the University had received a $7.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to improve mental health services and fight drug abuse throughout the state.

UND recognized

During his address, Burgum recognized three UND alums and faculty. He noted that Dr. Donald Warne, director of the Indians into Medicine program and an associate dean at the School of Medicine & Health Sciences, recently made history by developing the nation’s first doctoral program in indigenous health.

An avid basketball player, Burgum paid tribute to Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Laker basketball star killed in a Jan. 26 helicopter crash. He noted that Bryant had won five NBA championships under the leadership of Lakers head coach Phil Jackson, a former UND basketball All American and graduate.

Burgum also praised UND alum Blake Riewer, a state game warden, for saving the life of an accident victim by rendering first aid before first responders arrived at the scene.

The governor called on educators and those who provide funding to education to be in the learning business – along with students – because the competition is real and is already here.

“If we want to be the best in the country, we have to approach things in new ways,” he said.