A bi-weekly column from the Office of the President

Key personnel changes in new year

By: Margaret Dahlberg, Ph.D.
Date: Jan. 19th, 2018
As you read this, VCSU will be in its second week of the Spring 2018 semester. It’s a time of new beginnings for students and faculty who return with (perhaps) a New Year’s resolution or two about success during spring semester. In addition, some of our faculty are experiencing significant changes to their roles at VCSU this spring.

Julee Russell, Ph.D., professor of English, has been named dean of faculty and assistant vice president for academic affairs. Russell will assist Margaret Dahlberg, vice president for academic affairs, while she serves as interim president.

Russell has served VCSU for 23 years. She is a graduate of the University of North Dakota, where she earned her Master of Arts degree in English and her Ph.D. in teaching and learning. Russell serves as a lead program reviewer for the National Council of Teachers of English, a member of the graduate faculty, and chair of the Department of Language and Literature. 
 
Dr. Russell writes: “I look forward to working with faculty, staff, administrators, and students to continuously promote and improve the VCSU campus experience. I embrace the new challenges of this position and am honored to serve.”

Sheri Okland, Ph.D., associate professor of education and elementary education chair, will serve as dean of the School of Education and Graduate Studies (SEGS), a position previously held by Gary Thompson. Thompson will continue to serve VCSU as a SEGS faculty member.

Dr. Okland has worked at VCSU for nine years. She holds a Master’s of Education degree from Minnesota State University in educational leadership with a technology emphasis, and a Ph.D. in occupational and adult education from North Dakota State University. Previously she was an elementary teacher for 15 years, teaching several grade levels from kindergarten through sixth grade. She also served her school as an instructional technologist and designer. 

Okland has found that “The faculty and students at Valley City State are the hardest working, professionally creative, and most supportive individuals that I have ever had the pleasure to teach and learn from.” Dr. Okland is excited to continue the traditional excellence in the VCSU teacher education department. She has already begun teaming with the Valley City Public Schools (VCPS) on a collaborative project that will benefit VCPS’s professional teachers and VCSU’s preservice teachers. 

Jennifer Jenness, M.S.L.S., associate professor of communication arts, will now serve as interim director of library services. Jenness replaces Donna James, who retired as library director. James will continue to serve VCSU as an adjunct faculty member in the graduate education program.

Jenness has worked at VCSU for 11 years. She is a graduate of the University of North Texas, where she earned her Master of Science in Library Science. Prior to her work at VCSU, Jenness served as the technical services coordinator at Northern State University in Aberdeen. She says she’s excited for the opportunity to lead our library and make it a place for students to study, experiment, and have a good time. She looks forward to collaborating with our local public and school libraries, and working with librarians across the state. 

Jackie Owen, M.S, M.Ed., assistant professor of education, will serve as interim coordinator of the Learning Center and disabilities services. She takes the position vacated by Monica Moore, who resigned recently for a new position in Jamestown.
 
This is Owen’s ninth year at VCSU. She holds two Master’s degrees, one in education from Utah State University and a second in educational leadership from North Dakota State University. Prior to coming to Valley City State University, Owen spent 29 years teaching grades K-7 in Utah and California, where she also held adjunct teaching positions in higher education.

Last fall, Owen and Sarah Larsen, Staff Senate president, initiated the pop-up projects “Welcome Windows” and “Back to the City Night” to connect new students with downtown businesses. “As Learning Center coordinator, I won’t teach an actual course, but I do hope to help students realize that as Valley City State University students, they have unique opportunities for continued growth,” explains Owen. 

Her goal is to make the Learning Center the kind of environment where students can safely land, receive assistance, and progress “from being students to successful students, to learners, and eventually to autonomous, lifelong learners.” She notes that “VCSU is the perfect environment for this to happen, because we are a smaller school with smaller classes, excellent professors, committed staff, a strong base in technology, and a relationship-oriented environment.”

VCSU is fortunate to have these talented faculty who are able to move into new positions and help maintain our traditions of excellence and innovation. I am honored to be able to work with each of them in their new roles.