Gearing Up for Another Great Year

Aug 16th, 2004 @ 10:40 am | Author: Ellen-Earle Chaffee, President
This is the week faculty are back on campus, and fall athletes are starting to arrive. Freshmen will arrive on Friday. Classes will begin next week. Yesterday I saw one of ìmyî freshman English students from last year. He has changed. I can’t explain it, except to say that last year he looked like a freshman and this year he doesn’t. I think he has a new air of confidence. It is so thrilling to watch and sometimes be a small part of that kind of transformation – full time teachers know what I’m talking about.

This will be my 13th year as president. My family always thought that 13 was our lucky number, and many conditions seem to be shaping up that way.

Last week was exciting, for example. We participated in a statewide interactive video press conference announcing a $16.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to North Dakota colleges to support undergraduate biomedical research. Valley City State will receive $1.9 million of that grant to support research by Dr. Andre DeLorme and Dr. Hilde Van Gijssel and their students over the next five years. They had a similar smaller grant for the last three years, but they had to compete all over again to win this one. The grant is a tremendous testimony to the two project directors (Dr. John Shabb of UND and Dr. Don Schwert of NDSU) – their vision, energy, and commitment to the entire state. And they are thrilled with the quality of our VCSU participants.

We also got pretty excited when we heard that our elementary education students at NDSU were getting very large tuition bills. It’s a long story, but at one point we were concerned about possibly large numbers of dropouts. Teamwork and good sense prevailed, however. Within two days, we had had a problem-solving conference call with groups from NDSU, VCSU, and the System office in Bismarck, and the solution was on its way to students.

I spent a different kind of day in Fargo last week. First I attended Senator Dorgan’s conference on RFID technology (radio frequency identification systems) – the industrial application of the nanotechnology research that is going on at NDSU. It proved to be a wonderful opportunity to connect with several individuals who are interested in supporting our community’s economic development efforts. It also gave us a chance to remind folks that we in the outlying areas can help them achieve their dreams, if they keep an expanded vision in their work.

After that, I visited an extraordinary Fargo business, Tecton Products. The CEO is a fellow member of the MeritCare Board of Directors. It is so invigorating to hear someone talk about his or her work with such passion and enthusiasm. And we had more in common than I thought. Tecton employs two doctorates in chemistry and several other scientists to keep it on the cutting edge of pulltrusion manufacturing for window frames and other applications.

I expect that the events of the coming weeks will be even more exciting in many different ways. We’re off to another great year at VCSU!