The mission of the institution is approved by the State Board of Higher Education (SBHE). Any change in mission or any activity that is outside of the scope of the mission must be specifically approved by the State Board of Higher Education, in addition to major changes in curriculum or governance structures. For example, the SBHE reviewed VCSU's request to offer a graduate program and the change of the Education "division" to a "School" of Education and Graduate Studies, just as it reviewed the proposed Fisheries and Wildlife Science major, or the addition of the Prairie Waters Education and Research Center. The review process for these types of requests is outlined in SBHE Policy section 403.
The SBHE enables the organization’s chief administrative personnel to exercise effective leadership. This occurs by delegating sufficient authority to perform administrative duties without undue interference. The hiring of a new President illustrates the cooperation between the campus and Board of Higher Education. The campus search committee performed the bulk of the work, from crafting advertisements to hosting campus visits, while the NDUS Chancellor selected the committee membership and the external consultant who managed the search process. Two finalists - selected by the campus search committee - were forwarded to the Board for interviews and Dr. Steven Shirley was offered the position by the SBHE. Similarly, when the 2009 flood threatened the campus, the NDUS Chancellor was consulted but decisions were made locally.
The President works closely with the three vice-presidents (for Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, and Business Affairs) and the Executive Team (those who report directly to the President, plus staff and faculty representatives), to foster collaboration and good communication across campus. The minutes of the Executive Team meetings are distributed to all faculty and staff via email. Each vice-president, in turn, meets with those areas reporting to that office, to manage the policies and administrative functions of their designated responsibilities effectively.
In addition, to improve inter-office communication, directors in offices most impacted by student issues and changes in state technology and system practices have organized a “Campus Inter-functional Team” (CIFT) which meets twice monthly to share information from their offices and system group meetings that may have campus-wide implications. With the implementation of the new graduate program, and the increase in collaborative agreements and articulations, this communication is vital to the organization’s ability to provide accurate and timely information to students, and to design efficient processes and services. The organization of this group demonstrates the commitment across campus to placing students first.
The roles and duties of each member of the administrative team are described in Policy V307.1, Administrative Designations of Responsibility ; a chart illustrating the organizational structure of the institution may be found in Figure 4.1.
The NDUS organizational structure promotes collaboration and a spirit of shared governance. At each level of administrative structure within the NDUS, counterparts from campuses across the system meet regularly to consult, review policy, and develop common approaches to campus concerns. Currently, for example, the Chancellor’s Cabinet (the Presidents from each NDUS campus) is discussing various funding models; the Academic Affairs Council (the Academic Affairs officers from each campus) is discussing guidelines for dual credit coursework and developing a common template for articulation agreements; the Student Affairs Council (the Student Affairs officers from each campus) has made recommendations on a change in insurance providers for international students and on a policy for meningitis vaccines; and the Administrative Affairs Council (Business Affairs officers from each campus) is reviewing a risk assessment audit completed recently and considering the practicality of single tuition rates across the state.
Each director-level position - e.g., Registrar, Human Resources, Financial Aid, Library - has its own system-wide group and listserv, where they may check frequently for campus practices across the state and provide support for individuals new to their positions. These groups, in turn, research and recommend policies to the NDUS Councils, who then direct their recommendations to the Chancellor's Cabinet and then to the State Board of Higher Education for approval.
This approach to shared governance is mirrored on the VCSU campus and is central to the decision-making process at VCSU, as well. Students, staff, and faculty each have a Senate which organizes committees to manage the affairs of its constituency. In turn, these senates and their members participate in shared governance through a variety of committees. These committees are divided into two groups: those that are structured by the Faculty Association constitution and report to the Faculty Association; and those that are designed to meet administrative needs and report to the administrative office that developed them. Faculty Association committees are described in the Faculty Association Constitution; Administrative committees are described in Policy V302.4.1.
This committee structure serves several important purposes. First, it shares the work of the University across campus, involving faculty and staff more widely in making plans and decisions where their expertise and interests may be put to valuable use. Second, it increases opportunities for communication and provides a vehicle for discussion, collaboration, and recommendations for change or resolution of issues. Since many of these committees have deliberate representation from each organizational area on campus, the membership is expected to take back to their constituents the information, issues, and questions for further discussion. Two examples of these committees demonstrate the responsibilities and process of shared governance at VCSU:
Curriculum Development. The Curriculum Committee is a Faculty Association committee comprised of faculty (who vote) and several administrators who serve in an advisory capacity. Any changes to the published catalog of courses and programs must be presented to this committee for review and approval. This includes program and course changes, including graduate school revisions, changes in the General Education program, and policies governing academic processes, graduation requirements, and degree requirements. Items approved by this Committee are forwarded to the Faculty Senate for review and approval, at which point they are implemented. New programs, which must be approved at the state level (by the SBHE), begin with this campus review and approval process before they are submitted to the Board office for review and approval. Because administrators serve only in advisory capacity, there is a very real sense that the faculty "own" the curriculum and maintain the academic structure at VCSU.
Policy Development and Review. The president is responsible for all university policies and the VCSU policy manual. The University Policy Committee, with representation from all areas of campus, meets monthly to review policies proposed by any individual or group on campus. This committee serves as a clearinghouse for policy discussion, by assuring that all groups or individuals affected by a policy have had opportunity for discussion, and then by forwarding policies to the president for review and approval.
This committee was established in 2008 to assist the President in systematic review of policy and to review policy requests and revisions from campus constituents, thus assuring better communication of policy across campus. Described in VCSU Policy 100.1, its charge is
Since this committee began its work in 2008, a number of policies from the 1990s have been reviewed and updated; in addition, the process for policy development has become more transparent and inclusive for all groups across campus. The efforts of this committee to engage all constituents in discussion of policy has increased both communication and a sense of responsibility for process and policy across campus.
VCSU's governance and administrative structures are designed to promote shared governance and responsibility across campus for the work of the institution. The state system as a whole, and VCSU's policy and organization in particular, provide a structure that encourages a sense of collaboration among all parties.
Strengths: The committee structure allows for broad communication and shared responsibilities across campus.
New Initiatives: Several new committees have been formed to meet emerging needs on campus: the Online Standards Committee, to help ensure quality in VCSU's online courses; the Academic Assessment Committee, to provide oversight of academic assessment processes and ensure communication to all programs; and most recently, the General Education Council, to provide oversight and development of the General Education program.
Challenges: Faculty Association reviews its committees each year as part of its constitutional review and requires annual reports from each committee chair. However, the institution does not have a review process in place to examine the effectiveness of its committee and administrative structure, making it possible that some groups may not be operating as effectively as possible. Efficiencies need to be identified, because shared governance requires many hands, and on a small campus, these efforts often overload already very busy faculty and staff.