President Cook Gives State of University Address for NDSU Homecoming

Last Friday morning, President Cook gave the annual State of the University Address to a mixed crowd of students, staff, faculty, and alumni. This was Cook’s second address as president of NDSU, and he began by expressing how he feels “genuinely deeply honored and privileged and proud to be the president of North Dakota State University. It’s probably the hardest job I’ve ever done and the most rewarding job I’ve ever done.”

Cook started by speaking about how important the support of people in North Dakota was for him; over the summer he toured the state and he said “it helped me understand what the land grant means to North Dakota.”

NDSU staff and faculty were given a 6% raise this year and a 4% raise next year through money from North Dakota legislature, as well as a $4.3 billion equity that allowed them to combat inflation without raising tuition prices.

Upcoming projects for the school include a new agricultural field facility, to be built next spring, and a new engineering and computational sciences facility. The funding for these comes from the state as well as through philanthropy. Last year the indoor practice facility and Grandmother Earth’s Botanical Gardens were completed, and the Peltier complex, which began construction in 2021, will be finished by next spring.

This year, NDSU staff revamped the budget model to better fit with how funding is received by the school. “The faculty and staff…put in five years worth of hard work in one year, maybe more,” said Cook. “I’m kind of amazed at what everybody did.”

Cook paused to remember John Klai, a renowned alumni from NDSU who passed away this year. Klai was a talented architect and philanthropist who was passionate about supporting students at NDSU. of One of NDSU’s downtown class buildings, Klai Hall, is named after him.

One big achievement that NDSU had this year was increasing retention rates. In the past, about 75% of freshmen who started in the fall returned the following fall, but this fall that number increased to 77%.

Cook’s goal is to get retention rates up to at least 85%, and he plans to do this by increasing the support available to students on campus. The Bison Bridge program is new this year and aims to support first-generation and Pell-eligible college students in their transition to college.

Recently, Cook sparked controversy by dissolving the vice provost position, which some saw as part of a recurring pattern of removing women from places of leadership at NDSU. “I understand this issue one thousand times better than I did two or three weeks ago…the best I can do is commit to trying to do better,” he said.

Cook announced that NDSU would be awarding an honorary doctorate to Norma Peltier, wife of alumni Joe Peltier. “The Peltier name is synonymous with NDSU,” he said. “It seemed only fitting that you get an honorary doctorate.”

Cook has accomplished much during his first year as president, and he plans to keep working to improve NDSU with each year. “I’m really looking forward towards finding ways to continue to invest in our students, invest in our faculty, and invest in these community partnerships,” he said.

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