- Associated Press - Thursday, February 27, 2014

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - The North Dakota Board of Higher Education decided to stay in-house Thursday when it named Valley City State University President and Fargo native Steven Shirley president at Minot State University.

The board voted unanimously to approve Shirley for the job after interviews with the three finalists Thursday morning on the Minot State campus. Shirley will replace David Fuller, who is retiring in June after 10 years at the college.

Shirley, 41, stressed his familiarity with an area that is blossoming because of the oil boom. His grandparents and parents grew up in Minot, located in northwestern North Dakota.

“I’m just happy to have the chance to continue to serve not just the university system but the state of North Dakota as well,” Shirley said. “I’m a fourth-generation North Dakotan. I’m very proud of my home roots.”

Shirley earned his undergraduate, masters and doctorate degrees from the University of North Dakota. He is a member of the Fargo South High School Hall of Fame

The other finalists were Martin Slann, the University of Texas at Tyler arts and sciences dean, and Lorrie Clemo, State University of New York at Oswego provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Shirley, in his sixth year at Valley City State, has spent 17 years in higher education. He previously served as vice president and dean of student affairs at Dakota State University and an assistant professor and director of study abroad at the University of Minnesota, Crookston.

Shirley said the booming economy in western North Dakota provides the school with opportunities for student internships, corporate partnering and scholarship programs. It has also increased interest in other fields like law enforcement, nursing and other health care.

“This is a community and a campus that is changing on a daily basis,” he said.

Shirley is moving from a school with about 1,300 students and 190 faculty members to one with an enrollment of about 3,500. Minot State also is affiliated with Dakota College at Bottineau, which also will be under Shirley’s command.

Shirley said Valley City State has partnered with Bottineau on several programs, “so there’s a real familiarity there,” he said.

Kirsten Diederich, chair of the higher education board, calls Shirley a passionate leader.

“His strong understanding of what’s important to students, especially in North Dakota, clearly demonstrates that he is someone who can continue to drive the growth of this university,” she said.

Shirley will be Minot State’s ninth president. The board next month will begin the process of finding his replacement at Valley City State.

“I have nothing but positive things to say about the Valley City community and Valley City State University,” Shirley said. “It has gone by very quickly, but it has been a wonderful six years.”