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Hopefully, one day a N.D. native will lead UND, NDSU again

By Staff | Apr 2, 2010

A search committee tasked with finding the next President of North Dakota State University recently narrowed its search, and not surprising none of the finalists are North Dakotans.

That continues a trend of selecting non-North Dakotans to preside over the state’s two largest universities.

Two years ago, Dr. Robert Kelley was chosen as UND’s president, and while Kelley has proven to be a strong and engaging leader, the question remains: are there simply no home-grown leaders currently in higher education capable of filling these positions?

Or perhaps there is more to it than that. Is it more effective to bring an outside candidate to the campus? Someone with no past history to the college and the staff and who can bring a different or fresh perspective?

Perhaps there is something to that mindset, but there is nothing wrong with selecting a candidate familiar with an institution, a person who may be even on the staff. They can become effective leaders, too.

NDSU’s interim-president Richard Hanson, who took over later after then-president Joseph Chapman resigned, was one of two candidates from the school to apply, but didn’t get by the search committee’s second round.

Hanson apparently did not have enough experience nor the qualifications to lead the institution in the future. Yet he was good enough to navigate the college during a bumpy period which included identifying significant budget shortfalls and cost overruns which forced a restructuring of finances and implementing a temporary hiring freeze. But his efforts did not win him enough favor or trust with the committee.

True, his qualifications and experience may not rival that of some other applicants, but he should have at least been included in the round of interviews. The committee owed him that much as a credit to his professionalism in being up front about a shaky financial picture. They may have been surprised at his goals, vision and leadership potential.

The committee will eventually end its searching, selecting three names to the State Board of Higher Education to consider.

NDSU and UND are important for a number of reasons. These schools are one and two, respectively, in terms of undergraduate enrollment. They offer the most fields of study and are leaders in research and development, and employ a large number of people.

It’s vital to find the right person to lead these institutions, and hopefully one day a native North Dakotan will again get that chance.

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