2018: A good year at VCSU

By: Alan LaFave, D.M.A.
Date: Dec. 20th, 2018
I officially began my work on campus December 17, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve this outstanding institution. When the State Board of Higher Education selected me as VCSU’s 14th president on September 27, I couldn’t have been more excited, and the excitement has continued to build since then.

Prior to my visits to campus this September as part of the interview process, I did my homework and knew of several of the accomplishments listed here. Now that I’ve come to know the people of VCSU and Valley City a little better, I understand how all of this has happened: I see the pride, I see the effort, I see the commitment.

Thank you for the trust you have placed in me—let us work together to build upon the rich VCSU legacy in the years to come.

Going forward, I’ll tell you more about what I’m doing here as the new president of Valley City State University, but for now I’d like to recognize some of the successes the university enjoyed in 2018 under the leadership of Interim President Margaret Dahlberg.

It’s been a good year at VCSU; here are some of the highlights.

National recognition

The university continues to receive national recognition. Early January 2018 brought the news that VCSU’s online programs were nationally ranked in U.S. News and World Report’s “2018 Best Online Programs.” We’re proud of our people and our programs, and thankful for the opportunity to make a VCSU education available to those at a distance who need the flexibility that online programs offer. And in September, we learned that VCSU once again was named a U.S. News “Best College” for 2019, the 21st consecutive year for that recognition. U.S. News ranked the university third among Midwest public regional colleges in their “Best Colleges 2019” guidebook; VCSU has now been ranked among the top three Midwest public regional colleges each year since 2010!

Enrollment records

A VCSU education continues to be a great choice for students and their families. In the first week of February 2018, the university took pride in announcing record spring enrollment with a headcount of 1,500 and an FTE (full-time equivalent) figure of 1,044. The final fall enrollment numbers were announced on September 18, and you guessed it, another record for VCSU! Fall semester brought a record-setting headcount of 1,547 students, with 1,404 undergraduates. Let me repeat Interim President Dahlberg’s words: “Strategic growth doesn’t happen by accident—it takes dedication and commitment—and I applaud the community for these achievements that come from working together.”

Athletic successes

The Viking athletic program enjoyed many successes in calendar year 2018. Women’s basketball won the conference tournament championship in February and advanced to the NAIA national tournament in March. The softball squad was ranked in the national Top 25 poll for the first time in program history last spring. Track and field’s Megan Johnson (triple jump) and Kyle Odegard (javelin) earned All-American honors at the NAIA national meet in Gulf Shores, Ala., in May. In the fall came notice that the Viking athletic program had earned NAIA Champions of Character recognition for the 16th consecutive year and silver-level recognition for the second straight year. And in November, three cross country student-athletes—Grace Miller, Allyssa Weitkum and Riley Roy-Lagasse—ran at nationals in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Record scholarship allocation, track fundraising highlight foundation efforts

The VCSU Foundation allocated a record $1.623 million for student scholarships in 2018-19. That tremendous amount of support makes a real difference for our students and their families as we strive to keep a VCSU education affordable.

In support of Viking athletics, the VCSU Foundation kicked off fundraising efforts for the track and field facilities at Lokken Stadium. Announced in June 2018, the project—which exceeded $1 million—enjoyed a fast start thanks to the generosity of John Hill, one of our stalwart supporters from Valley City who contributed much of the needed funding. Most of the work was completed before winter; next spring the final surface will be applied to finish this upgrade to our athletic facilities.

The foundation also recognized Kevin “Sparky” Kamphuis of Valley City in August with its “Difference Maker Award” for his steadfast volunteer efforts in support of Viking athletics over the years.

Alumni achievements

Our graduates figure prominently in the VCSU story. One of our most distinguished alumni, Gary Tharaldson, class of ’67, came to campus on May 8 for a presentation and book-signing of his biography, “Open Secrets of Success: The Gary Tharaldson Story,” in the W.E. Osmon Fieldhouse. The entrepreneur and hotel magnate shared stories and answered questions; by all accounts, it was a great day to be a Viking!

Two more alumni received national honors in November 2018. Deep in the heart of Texas, VCSU alumni Peder Gjovik ’77 and Katie Hatt M.Ed. ’16 won national awards November 28 at the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) national conference in San Antonio. Gjovik, associate professor and chair of the VCSU Department of Technology, was named ACTE 2019 Teacher Educator of the Year, while Hatt, health careers instructor in the Grand Forks Public Schools and the Grand Forks Area Career and Technology Center, was named ACTE 2019 New Teacher of the Year.

Recognition for alumna and staff member Stephanie Roelfsema ’07, M.Ed. ’14, director for residence life, came in the December 2018 issue of Prairie Business magazine. Because of her active involvement in the VCSU and Valley City communities, Stephanie was named to the magazine’s 2018 “40 Under 40” list, which recognizes 40 of the top business professionals under the age of 40 in the Northern Plains.

Visit from Governor and Lt. Governor

The campus drew distinguished guests in October 2018, when North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum and Lieutenant Governor Brent Sanford came to visit on the 9th. They toured campus, saw the Valley City floodwall protection, met with students and faculty in the education and fisheries and wildlife science programs, held an open forum with faculty and staff, and met with the VCSU administrative leadership team. We’re thankful that our students were able to share their experiences and that faculty and staff had the opportunity to share their concerns as well.

Thanks to Margaret Dahlberg

On November 29, 2018, the community formally recognized Margaret Dahlberg for her service as interim president with a reception on campus and the presentation of a portrait to be hung in the Student Center President’s Room along with the portraits of all VCSU presidents. Margaret’s two stints as interim president are much appreciated, and she’ll continue to serve us very capably as vice president for academic affairs.