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Colleges meeting today's needs

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Minot State University and Dakota College at Bottineau meeting today's needs

by Kent Brick

The combined administration of Minot State University (MSU) and Dakota College at Bottineau (DCB) features the efficient connection typically operating between the one- and two-year degree colleges, and university degree granting institutions. These days, MSU and DCB are leveraging this alliance in many ways to respond to the energy and natural resources industry transformations taking place in northwestern North Dakota.

“As you look at that full complement of educational opportunities between Minot State University and Dakota College, you see it serves well not just residents in our backyard here, but really the entire state of North Dakota, during this unprecedented boom and population growth we are now experiencing,” says MSU President Steven Shirley, who oversees MSU and DCB operations.

Shirley moved into the MSU president’s post last year, departing the president’s post at Valley City State University, a position he held for six years.

Founded as Minot Normal School in 1913, the school’s century-old mission remains to serve and educate the people of north central and northwestern North Dakota, Shirley says. Its curriculum foundation consists of teacher education, nursing, social work, business administration, criminal justice, addiction studies and communication disorders, among many other degree programs.

Shirley says the growing population base in the MSU region underscores the importance of strength in these programs.

Dr. Ken Grosz, campus dean for DCB, has been working at the college since 1975, the last 13 years in the dean’s position. Grosz, (a Kulm native, North Dakota State University graduate, with doctoral studies completed at the University of South Dakota) says DCB continues its more than 100-year-old mission of serving students who favor the shorter-term, and technical certification, higher education option. He says DCB’s 33 programs prepare students to move on to four-year collegiate degree programs, or enable them to take an associate in applied science degree or technical education degree directly into the job market.

Grosz says the other big dimension of the DCB mission is natural resources education and conservation. This has always entailed programs and courses focusing on horticulture, agriculture and forestry.

“We maintain those programs, and have built on them with programs in sustainable vegetable production, laboratory and field technology, environmental technology, landscaping, and flower shop technology,” Grosz says. This unique mission has national appeal. The college enrolls students from 40 different states participating in these DCB programs.

Shirley, a Fargo native, who completed all his university – including doctoral – studies at the University of North Dakota, says the teacher training programs of MSU continue to be central to its mission.

“The fabric and the founding of Minot State is that it once was Minot State Teachers College. It was founded as a normal school, to provide teacher education,” Shirley says.



“Today, I would put Minot State’s teacher education up against any in the country.” He says MSU teacher graduates are readily employed in North Dakota, and many other states. “We hear from those states, and they say they will take 25 more of the teachers from our program if we’ve got them.”

Shirley says these views are supported by the strong reputation of the MSU teacher education program, which is buttressed regularly through external program accreditations.

Shirley says MSU supports strongly the Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics (STEM) training program for teachers. Education emphasis on these areas is strong at all levels of education in the state, and it comes at the right time, he adds.

“It’s going to continue to be a very important part of the ingredients for success in our state. We need to make sure we have enough young people going into these career fields,” Shirley says.

Grosz says many North Dakota teachers get their start at DCB, and transferring into all of MSU teacher education programs is common and efficient.

For many DCB programs, work with business and industry advisory groups is essential.

“These are professionals from the industry, from whom we get critical information about making our curriculum state of the art,” Grosz says. Shirley says the use of advisory groups from the private business sector is also commonplace and important to MSU programs.

A current priority development project being pursued jointly by MSU and DCB is a new center for career and technical education, to be located on the MSU campus. Grosz, with other career development associates, has for some time observed that Minot needs a career and technical education center. Shirley, in his initial period as MSU president, has taken this concept and spearheaded the preparation of a proposal for such a center. The proposal is being reviewed by the state Legislature. 

Both Shirley and Grosz indicate that students on their campuses are expected to develop an appreciation for the world outside college confines.      “We encourage our students to be good citizens,” Shirley says. “We want our students out in the community, out working with nonprofits and charitable organizations. We want them to give back.” He says MSU asks Minot area residents to support a wide variety of campus and student activities, so MSU students should return value to the community.

At DCB, Grosz says students and staff join in mutual study and discussion of what natural resources bring to the quality of life. All share in the “Nature, Technology and Beyond” program.

“It’s to leave our students with a care and concern for the environment,” Grosz says. He says natural resources preservation is a