Ingram: Communication Key, Beakers to Stay

JACK DURA | THE SPECTRUM Provost Beth Ingram discusses changes at NDSU and her first year on the job last Friday in her Old Main office.
JACK DURA | THE SPECTRUM
Provost Beth Ingram discusses changes at NDSU and her first year on the job last Friday in her Old Main office.

Beth Ingram controls the room.

The North Dakota State Provost, the overseer of all academics on campus, uses her remote thermometer to set the temperature in her office on a warm Friday afternoon.

The Old Main office has been Ingram’s home for nearly a year, 10 months that have seen NDSU continue to prosper, Ingram said.

“What I heard a lot when I was interviewing was that NDSU is ready to move on to something bigger,” she said. “But it was not really clear what that was going to be, what the vision was going to be.”

Ingram acknowledged that proposals to make the vision a reality differs person-to-person, but she said she believes NDSU is on the right track.

“NDSU is actually in a really good position,” she said. “We have support from the state; we have great students; we have robust enrollment.”

Meeting campus

Ingram’s dominion covers academics, including hiring faculty, curriculum and scholarships. But as provost of a university with more than 14,000 students, breadth, not depth, is focused on.

“The thing is, I don’t actually do any of those things,” she said. “I spend a lot of my time meeting with people and trying to get the right people in the room to talk to each other.”

Communication, Ingram said, is essential in continuing NDSU’s vision and unification.

“Getting around to the entire campus is sort of the challenge,” she said.

At another North Dakota University System institution, administration and students clashed over communication, or the lack thereof.

Student government members at the University of North Dakota proposed a vote of no confidence this spring. Though ultimately tabled, the proposal alleged UND administration of not effectively communicating to student leaders.

“I have tried to institute some regular meetings with some constituencies on campus,” Ingram said of her own communication. She said she meets regularly with the university’s deans and joins President Dean Bresciani when he meets with individual colleges.

Pathways

Upset UND student government members said the tipping point they had with administration involved the proposed Pathways tuition model.

The divisive NDUS-sponsored model, if enacted as is, would bundle excess fees with tuition and raise the credit load base.

This would hike tuition, though with the removal of fees, administrators say students will not notice much, if any, of a change.

Ingram said the proposal is, in part, a response to fees “creeping into the system.” By the turn of the 21st century, the once clear model was muddled.

“You’d have to pay a fee for your chemistry class to pay for your beakers,” Ingram said. Online courses are subject to these fees, too.

Pathways, she continued, would simplify the system and push students to graduation. By bumping the base credit load to 15 credits, students will be statistically more likely to graduate.

“We know that, first of all, it puts you on a path toward graduation, but also the students that have higher credit loads are actually more successful,” she said.

Balancing act

Pathways was put on hold by Interim Chancellor Larry Skogen this spring as NDUS waited to see what the North Dakota legislature would enact during its session.

“We want to wait until the legislature has told us what their vision is for higher education before we can proceed,” Ingram said.

The legislature pushed a tuition cap through in the session’s waning days, which may complicate Pathway’s proposals. Ingram said she is not sure how NDSU will proceed.

“I don’t know that I can actually say at this point,” she said. “And I would like to have another conversation with Bruce (Bollinger) because there is still language in there that’s a little bit unclear.”

What the State Board of Higher Education, the legislature and NDUS institutions want often varies.

“Everybody wants what’s best for students, and there are always differing opinions on how to get there.”

Ingram said she has been vocal with whom these changes would affect.

If fees are wrapped into tuition, the funding model campus departments rely on for other expenditures will take a cut.

“I understand why departments are nervous because we actually haven’t been able to implement this model yet, and there’s always a fear of the unknown,” she said.

Budgeting at the beginning of the year, Ingram said, will be key.

“We had sort of gotten away from doing that with things like beakers,” she said. “But what we’ll need to do is add that back in our budgeting process.

“It’s not that we’re going to tell departments, ‘Sorry, no more beakers,’ but we do have to allow for that at the beginning of the year when we do budgets.”

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