Sep 19th, 2005 @ 4:01 pm | Author: By Ellen-Earle Chaffee
Valley City State University has been known for over 100 years as a small, personal university for traditional-age students who want to become teachers, business people, or possibly go on to graduate school or a career In information technology. With its beautiful historic buildings, huge trees, and lovely landscaping, VCSU is the living stereotype of a fine place for young people to find themselves and prepare for life.

Or is it?

Oh, yes. It most certainly is. However, that traditional element of its identity is shrinking as other compelling opportunities for service have arisen in recent years. Much of the evidence of change is embedded in this year's enrollment figures.

This fall, we have 50 fewer full-time students, 28 fewer in-state students, and 3 fewer transfer students than we had one year ago. If that doesn't sound like a recipe for disaster, add the fact that we just graduated one of the largest classes in history, leaving an unusually large enrollment hole to fill.

Under the circumstances, having two more students this year than last sounds like a miracle. Where did they come from? We have two more freshmen than a year ago, our fourth straight year of increases in that number and a wonderful sign of continuity for traditional VCSU. We also have 10 more out of state students, who are usually traditional age residential students.

But there the tradition gives way to evidence of innovation and entrepreneurship at VCSU. We knew that the demographics and competition would be fierce in these times, so we have actively sought to offset those effects. For example, the new master's degree courses attracted 21 students this fall, all older than average and many of them from out of state.

We also had four more students in our elementary education program offered in Fargo, and overall we had 52 more part-time students. We have a clinical practice program that helps vocational teachers from all over North Dakota finish their bachelor's degree – those students are part-time, as are the graduate students.

We continue to take great effort to recruit traditional students to Valley City State University, from both North Dakota and out of state. Helping us do that are the quality and variety of our long-term programs and the appeal of such new programs as psychology, health sciences, fisheries and wildlife, and the very new customer relationship management track that can lead to a job at Eagle Creek. Other key assets are the renovated residence hall, the strong athletic and intramural program, the addition of fitness facilities, and strong student activity programming.

We are also diversifying our strategies to appeal to adults who may be advancing or changing their careers. The master's degree works well for that. So does the online professional communications major. Other programs will be going online, too. And I hope that some of you out there will want to give customer relationship management a try. We aim to add more excellent career programs soon, too.

Can we continue to be the VCSU we've known and loved for all these years, while diversifying to serve new students in new ways? Come to think of it, change is another fine old VCSU tradition. Sure, we can.