The weekend before classes start in the fall is always filled with anticipation. Our campuses are welcoming a new group of students who have plans to accomplish and dreams to pursue. What I love most about our work in community and technical colleges is that we are privileged to be part of transformations. By the end of this year, many of our students will be prepared to move to the next stage of their lives, confident in their knowledge and abilities.
To kick this year off to a good start, the faculty enjoyed a wonderful, high-energy presentation by Jermaine Davis, a well-known motivational speaker who is also a faculty member at Century College in the Twin Cities. Because he works within our MnSCU system and is knowledgeable about its uniqueness, his message was really relevant. He urged the audience to see beyond personal perspective and to bring the best of self to every day.
This week, I want to bring you up-to-date on several issues that have taken a lot of attention over the summer:
• Administrative Transitions
• Aerospace Capital Project
• Enrollment – NW Presidents meeting
Three members of the administrative team have recently accepted employment offers outside of Northland.
Steve Crittenden, Thief River Falls Campus Dean and Athletic Director recently accepted an offer to become a dean at Anoka Ramsey Community College in Cambridge. This is a terrific opportunity for him and his family and brings them closer to extended family and the cabin in Ely. Steve’s last day at work will be Friday, August 29.
In the short term, Vice President Carey Castle will supervise the liberal arts faculty at the TRF campus; he will also serve as the campus dean and, consequently, will not schedule himself to be on the East Grand Forks campus as often. Jason Pangiarella will pick up some of Steve’s work with student life. Within the next two weeks, an interim Athletic Director will be appointed for the fall term.
Dan Klug, Chief Development Officer, accepted a position in Fargo and left Northland on August 15. Sheila Bruhn, assistant to the president, has been appointed Interim Chief Development Officer through June 30, 2015. Sheila has extensive experience serving as an executive director with a non-profit organization.
Jason Trainer, director of Enrollment Management, has moved to UND as the Director of Admissions. His last day at Northland was Friday, August 15. Nicki Carlson, long-time member of Northland’s student service team, has been appointed Interim Director of Enrollment Management through June 30, 2015.
Longer-term solutions will be discussed with governance groups within the college early in fall semester.
Aerospace Capital Project
During the past legislative session, Northland was awarded capital funding to demolish outdated metal hangars at the Aerospace site in Thief River Falls and replace them with a structure that will connect the Swenson Hangar and the classroom building and will provide adequate security and the technology necessary for our high-tech programs. The project was planned last year and we were the first among approved MnSCU projects to go out to bid.
Unfortunately, the bids came back substantially above available funding. This was due, in part, to being bid relatively late in the construction season and the steep competition for contractors in our region. We have been meeting with the architects to attempt to rescale the project to reduce costs and to set a bid schedule that will be more favorable. It is our intent to do this in late fall, 2014 so that construction can begin in the spring.
Housing remains a critical issue in Thief River Falls. Pressure from growing industries has led to a near “0” vacancy rate. Students, who normally want a 9-month lease, are out-competed by residents willing to sign 12-month leases. Fortunately, it appears that the efforts of several community committees and the TRF City Council may lead to new housing developments soon.
At Northland, we have been working to get student-oriented housing built on our campus by a private developer who will also manage the property. The MnSCU Board of Trustees approved the use of college land; a developer has been identified through a Request for Proposal (RFP) process. In the spring, the legislature provided special funding for the development of student-oriented housing in TRF; now, we await the release of the RFP from MnSCU so that the developer can apply for this funding.
As fall approaches, it appears that this building season may have been missed. Hopefully, student housing will be available for the beginning of spring semester, 2016 or fall semester, 2016.
Enrollment – NW Presidents Meeting
Enrollment is a concern for many of Minnesota’s public institutions this fall. The state is recovering from the 2008 recession and people are back at work. It has long been noted that higher unemployment is favorable to college enrollment; low unemployment causes declines in enrollment. Other factors affecting enrollment in our area include lower numbers of regional high school graduates, increases in the North Dakota state grant for ND student who attend ND institutions, and credit limitations on associate degree programs.
On Tuesday, I will meet with the presidents of the University of Minnesota-Crookston and Bemidji State University and representative of the Northwest Minnesota Foundation to discuss strategies to attract more students to our corner of Minnesota.
Have a wonderful first week of Fall semester!
Upcoming College Events
Friday, August 29, 2014
• 6:30 pm – , TRF Gym
Saturday, August 30, 2014
• 1:00 pm – Volleyball vs. Mesabi Range CC, TRF Gym
My Schedule This Week
Monday, August 25 – EGF
Tuesday, August 26 – Maple Lake, mtg with NM Foundation and BSU, UM-C presidents
Wednesday, August 27 – TRF – TRF Community Advisory Committee, various meetings
Thursday, August 28 – St. Paul – Transition meetings w/ Vice Chancellors
Friday, August 29 – Vacation