Among his main topics included the pandemic and increasing diversity on campus
During these difficult times, North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani gave his annual State of the University Address on Oct. 2. Throughout his speech, Bresciani discussed how NDSU is handling the pandemic and facing challenges along the way.
“If ever a time in history showed us who we are, the importance of what we contribute, the value placed on our community, this is it,” Bresciani said highlighting the fact that COVID-19 has shifted a lot including the educational approaches NDSU has had to take to ensure the safety of students, faculty and staff.
Though NDSU had to close campus in March, Bresciani talked about how that gave the university the time to decide how to approach this fall semester. Since the majority of students preferred to meet in-person, that lead to the decision to incorporate the HyFlex learning system into classes.
“We were the first college or university in North Dakota, and one of the first in the nation, to publicly commit to in-person operation in the fall of 2020,” Bresciani said. “It was questioned by some at the time but was soon after supported and extended by the State Board of Higher Education to all of North Dakota’s 11 colleges and universities.”
The implementation of the HyFlex system was made possible by funding from the CARES Act which also supported the training for faculty to learn how to effectively teach both virtually and physically at the same time.
Bresciani went on to explain how successful the HyFlex system has been so far saying that he was mentioned during a video conference for the presidents of all public research universities across the nation.
“An enormous message of respect goes out to the staff, faculty and students who adapted and endured and made that success possible,” Bresciani added.
While this year has created challenges, Bresciani also discussed how NDSU has had to face enrollment drops in past years with the decrease in demographics for college-bound students which has been made worse by the pandemic.
Bresciani talked about the importance of recruiting and meeting the expectations of students saying, “At the core of NDSU, students are why we are here, and faculty supported by our staff are how we serve those students.”
With the first-year enrollment up, Bresciani said that waiving the $35 application fee and making the application process time saving with the high-tech mobile application helped with that increase.
These changes also helped increase the enrollment of diverse student groups. Bresciani said that this semester, African American prospective students went up 51% with admits up 57%. Applications from Indigenous American prospective students went up 41% with admits up 49%.
Bresciani expanded on the diversity and inclusion at NDSU by talking about the changes being made this year to “improve not just our campus but also our surrounding community.”
Bresciani talked about the newly created President’s Council of Diversity, Inclusion and Respect and how all three aspects are included in one of the five pillars of NDSU’s strategic plan.
“I want this council to provide NDSU administration with guidance on how to make NDSU a better community for historically underserved populations and to operationalize the diversity and inclusion goal of the strategic plan.”
Among other diversity changes, Bresciani said that a draft of an Indigenous Lands Acknowledgement is going to be adopted by NDSU with a broader committee having been appointed.
The new location of the Grandmother Earths Gift of Life Garden has been finalized as it is now located adjacent to the existing NDSU Horticulture Research and Demonstration Garden. Bresciani explained that the Grandmother Earths of Life Garden “honors and connects the campus to indigenous cultures and lifeways.”
With Indigenous People’s Day being Oct. 12, Bresciani said that he has asked administrators to change the institutional recognition from Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s day on the NDSU calendar.
Bresciani also said flags of all of North Dakota’s indigenous tribes will be hung on the west entrance of the Memorial Union while spaces in the Union will be named after North Dakota tribes not currently represented in the building.
In June, Bresciani announced that NDSU police received additional training on race and policing. Bresciani said that all of the campus police officers accepted the additional training and NDSU Police Chief William Vandal will be working with underrepresented student groups throughout the rest of the year.
Bresciani ended his speech on a positive note reflecting back on the success NDSU has had so far into the semester.
“In closing, let me note that it has become rather trite to say this past year has been one to remember. However, in spite of COVID-19 and the broad range of challenges we experienced locally and nationally at the same time, I can honestly say that this has been another impressively successful year for NDSU.”