Another successful year has come to a close at VCSU, and year-end provides an opportunity to review what has taken place at the university. Many good things happen on a daily basis on campus; here are just a few of the highlights from 2017.
- In the U.S. News and World Report 2018 college rankings released this fall, VCSU tied the University of Minnesota Crookston for the No. 1 public regional college in the Midwest. VCSU was the No. 1 ranked public regional college in the Midwest in the 2017, 2016, 2013 and 2012 rankings. The university has also been ranked a U.S. News “Best College” for 20 consecutive years. The rankings are nice, but key here is the recognition of the quality that we have been able to sustain over time.
- Students are at the heart of what we do at VCSU, and we’re proud to say we keep bringing more and more of them into the fold. We set enrollment records in all three terms this year. The spring semester student headcount of 1,407 students was a record, as was the full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment of 1,007. A record 633 students registered for summer term 2017, and the FTE of 226 was also a record. This fall, we reached our all-time high for headcount with 1,522 students, along with a record 1,372 undergraduate headcount.
- What brings students to VCSU? One factor that plays a big role is the amount of financial support they receive, and this academic year students benefited from a record $1.425 million scholarship allocation through the VCSU Foundation. Those 2017-18 dollars were distributed in 757 individual scholarship awards to 475 students.
- VCSU has also made college more affordable by increasing faculty use of Open Educational Resources (OER), free course resources used in place of textbooks. In the 2017 spring and fall semesters, students saved $437,116 through the use of OER. Dollars are relatively easy to measure, and although it’s tougher to quantify, the use of OER in the classroom also provides greater access, meshes nicely with our laptop program and engages students to a greater degree than traditional textbooks.
- The help of alumni, friends and volunteers is key to the VCSU Foundation’s fundraising work. In 2017, the university recognized two Valley City individuals who have helped lead our foundation: Jeff Nathan and alumnus Bob Bergan each received the VCSU Distinguished Service Award. The award, VCSU’s highest honor, is given at the discretion of the president in recognition of exceptional contributions to the university’s vision. Three other Valley Citians with close ties to VCSU received statewide recognition for their philanthropic efforts at the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ National Philanthropy Day luncheon Nov. 16 in Fargo. Alumni Audrey (Dohman) and George Gaukler were named Philanthropists of the Year, and Dean Pedersen was one of two individuals receiving the Outstanding Volunteer award. This special group has done so much for the university and Valley City; we thank them, and all of you, for contributions of time, talent and treasure.
- Athletics plays a big role on campus, and it’s been another successful year for the Vikings. In October, VCSU was named an NAIA Champions of Character institution for the 15th consecutive year, moving up from the bronze level to the silver. Last winter, the women’s basketball team competed in the NAIA national tournament, and this past spring, Seri Geisler (javelin and shot put), Mackenzie Huber (shot put) and Megan Johnson (long jump) qualified for the NAIA Track and Field Championships in Gulf Shores, Ala., with Seri bringing home her second national title in the javelin. The list of national qualifiers also included Grace Miller, who ran in the NAIA Cross Country Championships at Vancouver, Wash., in November. The Viking athletic program is now led by Jill DeVries, who took over as athletic director in August following 17 seasons as head women’s basketball coach.
- In real estate, they say “it’s location, location, location.” If that’s the case, we’re good on all counts because in May, the VCSU campus was named the most beautiful college campus in North Dakota in an article on BuzzFeed. That followed an article on Expedia in March that had named Valley City the most beautiful town in North Dakota.
- We added to the value of our campus with the October completion of a new, state-of-the-art heat plant. This $13.9 million investment in our campus by the state legislature was much needed, and we have plans to add a revenue-producing activated carbon plant to the facility in the future.
- We have experienced a presidential transition this fall. Tisa Mason, who had been with us for three years, was selected as president of Fort Hays State University in November. She returns to Kansas, where she had previously served as vice president for student affairs at Fort Hays State, and I return to a familiar role as interim president, a position I held previously following the departure of Steve Shirley to Minot State University. Assisting me is Julee Russell, long-term English professor at VCSU, who will serve as assistant vice president for academic affairs.
- In mid-December, we held our third winter Commencement. There we gave special recognition to 13 students who had completed their undergraduate degrees in less than four years; 13 students who graduated in May also achieved the same feat. We’ve identified and smoothed the pathways for students to earn their degrees in three-year programs, and it’s gratifying to see many taking advantage of the opportunity.
Although that’s a big list, it could be much bigger—we have plenty of achievements, recognition and innovation to talk about at VCSU. Thank you for all that you do for our students, faculty and staff; we look forward to working together in the coming year.