Legislative updates, IT plans and campus happenings highlight first Provost Forum
Provost also cites progress in experiential learning and partnerships that put UND student interns downtown
For the first time, UND President Mark Kennedy and NDSU President Dean Bresciani are teaming up to advocate for increased research funding that will benefit North Dakota.
That was the message from Nancy Vogeltanz-Holm, Faculty Fellow for Public Affairs, at the Sept. 13 Provost Forum, which also featured campus and IT updates.
“Research is critically important to the state,” said Vogeltanz-Holm, who is working on legislative issues in addition to her positions as professor of psychiatry and behavioral science and director of the Center for Health Promotion & Prevention Research. “We can help diversify and stabilize the economy by growing the research enterprise.”
The presidents are seeking $25 million per year for the next four years at each campus. Vogeltanz-Holm said this substantial investment in research would provide a stabilizing environment for growing both basic and applied research, which would in turn result in more federal and private industry funding. She said that the two campuses would demonstrate their success in obtaining external funding and commercial partnerships as a condition for accessing additional funds.
She said although the state is enjoying a relatively improved economic environment, Gov. Burgum is advocating a cautious approach to the budget. His initial budget guidelines for higher education called for 10 percent reductions within the per-credit hour funding formula with an additional 3 percent contingency reduction. He will present his final budget to the legislature in December.
The State Board of Higher Education, however, has submitted a needs-based budget which has no budget cuts and calls for 4 percent merit pool for both years of the biennium. The legislative session begins Jan. 3.
Vogeltanz-Holm said that in addition to supporting the NDUS proposed budget which would provide merit increases for faculty and staff and preserving the authority of the State Board to determine tuition levels, President Kennedy will also prioritize funding requests to address the university’s deferred maintenance backlog and gaining greater flexibility in embracing user-friendly, efficiency enhancing technologies.
“When it comes to responding to the needs of our students and growing our research enterprise, one size does not fit all,” Vogeltanz-Holm said. “UND and NDSU often need different tools and strategies to be nimble.” She encouraged faculty and staff to attend two upcoming event in which President Kennedy will provide more details about UND’s legislative priorities—at the Sept. 25 Wake up UND and the University Council meeting Oct. 24.
Madhavi Marasinghe, CIO, provided updates on the One IT Strategic Plan.
“Technology is everywhere,” Marasinghe said. “We want to provide a foundation for the UND Strategic Plan. It’s crucial that we have a stable, secure and innovative environment.”
She is seeking feedback on the plan, which has seven goals, with core values of customer service, collaboration and innovation.
Marasinghe highlighted the importance of strategic planning and customer service.
Recently, Marasinghe was helping her daughter, a UND student, locate some course files. After searching for the files, her daughter asked for help.
“She didn’t know how to find the files,” Marasinghe said. “My husband and I suggested Blackboard. It wasn’t there. Shared drive. It wasn’t there. We said, ‘try Dropbox.’ It wasn’t there.” Finally, they found the files on One Drive.
“Our house has 24/7 tech support,” she said with a laugh. “If we can’t find it, how can other students and families find it? We want to take a deeper look at how we manage file storage and provide a framework for best practices.”
Along with that, Marasinghe said they will soon launch a new ticketing system which will no longer drive users to separate web sites. They are also working to replace the Hobson’s customer relationship management system for a better prospective student experience, and to expand high performance computing and advanced cyber infrastructure. The cloud-first strategy will review all software and services for most cost effective and timely implementation options.
Campus on the move
Provost Thomas DiLorenzo provided an update of progress over the summer, including new leaders, searches in progress, admissions and more.
“The Strategic Plan is alive and well,” DiLorenzo said. “We are developing ways to infuse the Strategic Plan into the fabric of the University.” He added that professional advising (part of Goal No. 2) will soon be in place, leading to higher retention. Implementing three High Impact Practices per student (Goal No. 1) will also boost retention and make students more employable. Scholarships will be awarded using more predictive analytics (Goal No 3).
More faculty will be hired over the next few years, and will be centered around the Grand Challenges and grant support. Goals to enhance teaching (1, 3, 5 and 6) will be fulfilled by the Teaching Transformation and Development Academy (TTaDA).
He cited progress in internships and experiential learning, as well as partnerships which place student interns downtown. Library renovations are set to begin in the entrance and circulation areas late this year.
“We are implementing the Strategic Plan,” DiLorenzo said. “It is not sitting on the shelf.”