By Martin J. Kidston
Working collaboratively with members of the campus community, MSU-Northern Chancellor Mike Rao is holding the magnifying glass to the university, investigating areas of contention and focusing on positive change.
In March of 1999, the chancellors office drafted a detailed list of goals for the northcentral campus. A planning council was created and feedback was welcomed. Now, operating under the auspicious think regionally, the planning council has taken the chancellors original list of goals and identified six major areas of concentration areas that are important to the campus community and its future.
These priorities came from my leadership and from a lot of listening in my first six months as chancellor, Rao said. It was clear to me that people were looking to me to identify some clear priorities.
Rao said that among the priorities he set, communication and budget ranked high. To improve communication, Rao said he created a cross-constituent of councils, and is working to bring together campus groups. Whats more, when he took over as chancellor, he said the schools budget had been built with an estimated enrollment higher than what the college could actually produce.
We had no choice but to look at $481,000 worth of reductions, he said. Most of that came from administrative reorganization.
But with communication on the fix and the budget strong, Rao can now act on the feedback given by Northerns planning council.
The most important goal, according to our survey, was to achieve the teacher accreditation known as NCATE, Rao said. The trend in the last 10 years has been to make sure that your teacher accreditation program is certified by that council.
With NCATE accreditation labeled as the number one priority, Rao said marketing and advertising was placed second.
We have a lot to offer at Northern, but there is a tendency not to look outside of Hill County. We feel our future lies in our ability to bring people to Havre, not recruit people from Havre, Rao said. Were moving from a sole community based college to a university with a scope that is state-wide and beyond.
Rao said the motto think regionally applies to the schools future, where it can use its unique programs to recruit students from a wide geographical base. But while recruiting the students is one thing, treating them well is another, and the implementation of a student excellence plan was ranked as the third most important goal.
Rao said the student services excellence plan is designed as a guide to win the support of campus employees and to treat students exceedingly well.
The planning council identified the fourth priority as needing to build better articulation agreements. Such agreements make it easier for students to transfer credits to Northern from other schools, such as tribal and other two-year colleges by aligning classes. The fifth goal, Rao said, is to sponsor research grants and economic development.
This is designed to create a system of institutions and centers, so our academic talents can be offered to the region, Rao said. By initiating an Institutes and Center concept, we hope to better market the strengths of Northern to external funding sources.
Rao said the sixth goal was to develop regional programs, such as distance learning.
All of this will be designed so that the community and the region own it, Rao said. The plan will lead to greater institutional self-sufficiency. Northerns been an administratively focused institution, I think it needs to be a team of people who take ownership in the future.