Dec 26th, 2006 @ 10:31 am | Author: By Ellen-Earle Chaffee
During 2006 I have met with many small groups to give them an overview of where the university stands. I plan to do even more of that in 2007. If you or your group would like to talk with me about that or anything else, please call Kim Hesch at 845-7102 to make arrangements. This is your university – as a taxpayer, a North Dakota citizen, and a member of the community whose welfare is most closely associated with that of the university, you are entitled to know anything you want to know about VCSU.

The theme of the year is this: We have come a long way, and we have much to show for it. It has been uphill, and we are still a long way from the top of the hill. Your support matters now more than ever before.

The online Master of Education degree at VCSU became accredited, offered its first classes, and grew to over 60 students in 2006. Dr. Patricia Rogers became our first Dean of the School of Education and Graduate Studies.

Eagle Creek Software doubled in size this year. Since the company opened, VCSU has successfully prepared 80 people for employment in this highly specialized and well-paying field. The success of this model and its promise for other companies led to a $1 million Center of Excellence grant from the State of North Dakota. The grant established the Institute for Customized Business Solutions, now directed by new employee Ken Brooks and staffed by one trainer and two students.

Our new Vice President for Academic Affairs is Dr. Joseph Bessie, and his leadership brings energy, intelligence, fairness, and stability to the academic core of the institution.

Last fall, US News & World Report named VCSU to its top colleges list for the ninth year in a row, a distinction no other North Dakota campus has earned. Two of the major factors that contribute to that standing are our student retention rate and the percent of our alumni who contribute to VCSU Foundation programs.

Hard as it is to trump these developments, the story of the year would have to be the extraordinary generosity of Gary and Connie Tharaldson. Their gifts of $500,000 in the spring and another $500,000 in the fall are funding major facilities improvements in athletics and dozens of additional scholarships in each of the next 10 years. Don and Marge Meredith's new endowment provides generous four-year support for an outstanding science or math student every year. Hard-working members of V-500 and Century Club have continued to bring in strong support from the community and region. Increasingly, such generosity is the very lifeblood of the university.

Well, look at that. I've run out of space before I could get to the challenges of the year. Here's the short version: dramatic declines in the number of prospective students due to rural North Dakota demographics, coupled with over a decade of inadequate revenues and capital funding. "Challenge" is an understatement. For your own private state of the university conversation, please call! Thank you for a wonderful 2006, and best wishes to all for an even better 2007.