“We have a dilemma here,” North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott told me during an interview on my radio show on Friday.
That dilemma is North Dakota’s eleven institutions of higher education keeping up with the “speed of change,” he continued.
He identifies part of the problem as a somewhat stagnant pool educators who might not be up to date on the latest trends.
“Professors are living longer,” Hagerott said. “We have some faculty who got their Phd.’s 25 years ago.”
I asked Hagerott about comments made by Governor Doug Burgum recently challenging the status quo in higher education. “Knowledge transfer can occur anytime, any place, any location,” he told the editorial boards of the Grand Forks Herald and Fargo Forum last month. “We have to understand that that is going to cannibalize some of what universities have done in the past.”
He also said North Dakotans tend to “cling” too tightly to “the idea of location,” perhaps a shot at our state constitution mandating the existence and location of most of the state’s institutions of higher education.
He took that theme of challenging the status quo into commence remarks he made at North Dakota State University last month as well, urging the students to have courage.
“Courage to challenge the status quo, courage to challenge existing power structures because sometimes these power structures exist only to defend themselves and their past, rather than participating in reinventing themselves to define and create our collective future,” he said.
Does Hagerott agree with all of this? When I asked him he praised Burgum as “one of the most successful technologists in the country,” but pushed back a bit.
“I’m also acknowledging that we are in demand,” he added, pointing to the number of students who come from out of state to attend North Dakota’s institutions.
“North Dakota should be proud of the system they’ve built,” he said.
Still, Hagerott acknowledged that change is needed. He pointed to tenure reform passed earlier this year which left many university system faculty and staff “very upset.” He also said that the universities are adapting to the “biggest drop” in general fund spending on higher education “in decades”, changes in how students live and learn on campus, and the emergence of new technology which changes how people access knowledge.
Here’s our full interview: