- Associated Press - Sunday, September 20, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Sitting in his old office overlooking the Missouri River, Larry Skogen describes his nearly two-year stint as head of the North Dakota University System in Air Force lingo.

“Deployments are just part of our life in the military. The board asked me to do something, and I did it,” he said, referring to the State Board of Higher Education. “It was always an assumption of mine that as soon as this deployment was over, I’d be right back here doing what I enjoy.”

Skogen, who served 26 years in the Air Force, is three months into his second assignment as president of Bismarck State College.

He served at the helm of the school from 2006-13 before filling the spot of university system interim chancellor while the state looked for someone permanent. Mark Hagerott stepped into that position July 1, which is when Skogen returned to the college.

Skogen said he’s spent a lot of time walking around BSC reintegrating himself into “the rhythm of campus,” which looks significantly different than when he left two years ago.

“Under (interim president) David Clark’s leadership, the campus really moved forward,” Skogen told The Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/1OtBvF8 ).

A new Communications and Creative Arts Center stands in the heart of campus. It’s home to the library and classrooms. Across the street is the newly renovated Student Union Building.

Further away are two new residence halls - Ritchie Hall, which opened this fall with 54 beds, and Gate City Hall, where construction is wrapping up on the 72-bed building.

“We’re full up,” Skogen said.

He anticipates building more student housing down the road as the school’s enrollment decline reverses and housing in Bismarck remains expensive.

BSC’s student population is up 3 percent this fall. Skogen said the school draws largely from Bismarck-Mandan graduates, whose graduating classes are expected to grow over the coming years as energy development and other employment opportunities attract families to the region.

Over the next five years, he expects the two cities to graduate 17.5 percent more students than they do now. That should increase BSC’s enrollment, he said.

The focus will be on retention and ensuring that those who start at BSC graduate, he said.

To do that, the school plans to beef up its support for students, whether through additional staff or new initiatives.

Skogen points to efforts like the one underway to implement an early warning system for faculty when students fail to log in to an online component of a course for an extended period of time. Instructors will receive a notification and can intervene to get the student back on track, he said.

In years past, the higher education community considered college a sink-or-swim environment, Skogen said. The onus was on the student to do well.

That thinking has changed, he said.

“Higher education requires an entire backbone of support services for students today if they are going to be successful,” he said.

To be successful in a career decades down the road, BSC needs to teach students skills to adapt to an ever-changing technological environment, Skogen said.

That’s happening now with the school’s computer program.

Starting next year, students in the computer support specialist program will instead take classes under the new “Cybersecurity & Computer Networks” title. The name change was approved this month and reflects a new focus on issues facing today’s society, said Drake Carter, provost and vice president for academic and student affairs.

He said that focus applies to all fields of study.

“Cybersecurity is critical, and I think we need to work that into just about every curriculum,” he said. “Whether you’re a doctor or a welder, there are parts of your job that are computer controlled, and computers can be hacked.”

BSC also is adapting its course offerings to changes taking place in the state. Carter said he wants to add programs that train plumbers and electricians, along with other in-demand fields, such as dental assisting and pharmacy tech.

The school plans to do away with programs, such as phlebotomy, where it recognizes that health care providers increasingly offer their own training, he said.

Meanwhile, Clark has returned to his former job as executive vice president after filling in during Skogen’s absence.

Carter said the transition has gone well.

Skogen in the years before he served as interim chancellor strove to make staff feel empowered to do what’s best for the college and students, and he wanted to rid the school of red tape, Carter said.

“It’s not as though there was a change in philosophy on how the college would operate,” he said. “We continued in that vein while Larry was gone.”


Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide