by Tisa A. Mason, Ed.D.
Valley City State University President
As a state comprehensive university, VCSU has a responsibility to be a steward of place. The term “stewards of place” was coined by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) in 2002 to describe the role of our public comprehensive colleges and universities. AASCU describes this role as follows:
“We are ‘stewards of place.’ We engage faculty, staff and students with the communities and regions we serve—helping to advance public education, economic development and the quality of life for all with whom we live and who support our work. We affirm that America’s promise extends not only to those who come to the campus but to all our neighbors.”
Although there are numerous ways in which Valley City State University effectively serves as a steward of place, one of the ways in which we accomplish this important aspect of our mission is to host three Academic Centers—all focusing on our passion for teacher education:
- The Don Mugan Career and Technical Education Center supports career and technical education to meet North Dakota workforce needs.
- The Great Plains STEM Education Center provides professional development opportunities for K-12 teachers and hands-on, inquiry-based learning opportunities for students.
- The Prairie Waters Education and Research Center provides environmental learning opportunities focused on North Dakota waters for students, teachers, and professionals, and research on aquatic biological resources.
I recently had the pleasure of learning more about the Prairie Waters Education and Research Center and was truly impressed with its impact, especially since it has only been in existence for five years! Here are a just a few of the highlights:
- This past year the center hosted 104 classes and more than 2,200 students.
- The staff of Prairie Waters worked with eight high schools across the state on the River Watch program, in which students are trained to use our equipment to measure and report local water quality.
- Several of our students partnered with the center for their undergraduate research. For instance, one student, Josue Hernandez, took part in a two-year survey of mussels found in the Sheyenne River in a project funded by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. He was an integral part of the sampling team and was in charge of a section of the project which marked a subset of several hundred mussels and tracked their changes in weight and size over several months. He presented his work by giving talks at the 2014 Dakota Chapter of the American Fisheries Society annual meeting and the 2014 North Dakota Academy of Science annual meeting. Josue is currently working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Valley City Fish Hatchery and is looking into going to graduate school for a master’s degree.
- Part of the Macroinvertebrate Lab is dedicated to providing VCSU students with the opportunity to help with the water-quality measurements in Lake Ashtabula for the Army Corps of Engineers.
- This spring the center partnered with the North Dakota Department of Health to offer a water-quality certification program. The Department of Health would like to be assured that the folks sending them water-quality reports have both consistent training and meet some minimum standards.
This is just a small sampling of the impact the work of the VCSU Prairie Waters Education and Research Center has had on our students, community, and state. It is also just one of a multitude of ways in which we focus our energies to “advance public education, economic development, and the quality of life” for our neighbors—and it is yet another reason why it is a great day to be a Viking!