A Niche for VCSU

Mar 24th, 2008 @ 10:52 am | Author: by Ellen-Earle Chaffee, VCSU President
Last week I proposed "human capital development" as a special hallmark for the four-year universities in North Dakota. I also indicated that people seem to want a special role for each institution. What might we say for VCSU?

All four-year universities provide access to higher knowledge and skills for people who live in this area, deliver best practices in teaching and learning, and make significant contributions to regional development and quality of life. We graduate professionals who deliver high-value services and further their own education. We develop human capital.

VCSU's human capital roles cut across all academic programs, including teacher education, business, and liberal arts and sciences. They are:

Innovation, technology, and professionalism

A generation ago, the State Board of Higher Education granted VCSU a mandate for technology leadership. We created a statewide center to help K-12 schools and teachers learn to use technologies (now known as EduTech). We became the nation's second university to provide all students and faculty with a technology-enriched learning environment through laptops. We have required all graduates to prepare a sophisticated digital portfolio for over 10 years.

The STEM disciplines are science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The need for educated people in these fields is a national emergency – the next space race. In addition to excellent science and mathematics programs, VCSU is a national leader in the "TE" part of STEM, technology and engineering education. Our faculty built a $1.7 million curriculum with federal funds to prepare K-12 teachers to teach technology and engineering. It is the only program in the nation that is built on national standards and available online at both the undergraduate or graduate levels. The National Center for Technological Literacy at the Boston Museum of Science has only one partner that prepares technology teachers - VCSU.

VCSU has had formal software-oriented partnerships with Great Plains Software (now Microsoft Business Solutions), NetWork Center, and Eagle Creek Software Services. We have one of the nation's very few enterprise software programs, and enterprise software is used in every relevant business course so that our graduates will continue to cut the leading edge for their employers in business. The Valley Development Group partnered with VCSU to build the Regional Technology Center for economic development. Our state center of excellence brings enterprise software consulting services to businesses throughout the state.

With strong growth in undergraduate research, technology has bloomed in science programs as well. Teacher education, music, physical education, and professional communication also have significant and sometimes surprising technology components.

Finally, a note about the "professionalism" part of our role. Professionals have knowledge and skills, both hard and soft. They know their discipline and they know interpersonal relations and the world of ideas. VCSU's leadership extends to all dimensions, including innovations such as the Community School of the Arts and the Kathryn Center for Lifelong Learning (now Corporate Adventures). A certificate program in "professional skills" encompasses topics like teamwork, oral and written communication, leadership, critical thinking, and problem solving.

VCSU's roles are innovation, technology, and professionalism. Don't take just my word for it. Our graduates, their employers, several national organizations, ComputerWorld, the New York Times, two national trade books, two national accrediting associations, and US News & World Report say so, too.