Greg Stemen: Dean Bresciani Must Rise to Expectations

North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani gives the State of the University address Oct. 4, 2012, on campus. David Samson / The Forum

There is a lot of talk surrounding the recent decision to delay the consideration of the contract of President Dean Bresciani of NDSU. This discussion is expected and comes with the territory of being in a position of having high expectations of extremely capable people and having to make difficult decisions in the public eye. When it comes to the responsibility of the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education (NDSBHE), one of the primary responsibilities, as laid out in the North Dakota Century Code, is to operate as a university system.

Board members recognize and respect the difficult job our institutional presidents have. They have to advocate for their university/college, while also actively participating as a member of our university system. This is no easy task and it takes highly qualified and competent people to assume those roles. We have an exceptional group of high performing leaders in place at all the members of our state system.

If this board didn’t hold NDSU and President Dean Bresciani in high regard and have high expectations for the institution and the office, we would have taken no action and let the current contract expire.

The board, with recommendations from the Chancellor and input from the presidents, is ultimately responsible for putting forth clearly defined expectations of our presidents. This is an area we can and will improve upon. Just as importantly, the board is responsible for holding each and every president accountable for meeting those expectations. Another important role of board members is to objectively evaluate each and every situation on a case-by-case basis. Personally, I think we have an obligation to hold our research university presidents to a higher standard when it comes to evaluations. I also believe President Bresciani has the ability and desire to meet and exceed those expectations at NDSU; however it is just as important to work within the system we are charged to oversee. I believe fellow members agree.

I am sure the manner in which a board operates changes periodically, based on the direction of leadership. In my year on the NDSBHE, I have had the privilege to serve with passionate, engaged, and hard-working fellow members who realize that when we make decisions we can’t put our finger in the wind and determine what decision will please the most people. We are duty-bound to put the students and the system first, period. While that isn’t what the people in each respective community might want to hear, it won’t change the duties and responsibilities this board has been charged with.

In every job I have ever held, there hasn’t been a day that I didn’t need to find ways to improve. If you talk to the most successful of all leaders, they will list off the current number of ways they can still improve, long before they even consider mentioning what they are good at… That mentality alone is one of the reasons they are successful and continue to improve on a daily basis. President Bresciani’s ability to lead his university is clearly recognizable and is applauded. No board member disputes that. He also possesses an exceptional set of skills that are valuable to helping lead a state university system. It is the board’s duty to set those expectations and see they are met. This board recognizes the value President Bresciani and NDSU are capable of bringing to the overall progress of the North Dakota University System. When it comes to the progress of a team, no leader should ever accept less than the best of what each team-member has to offer. That is the expectation of this board, from my perspective.

If this board didn’t hold NDSU and President Dean Bresciani in high regard and have high expectations for the institution and the office, we would have taken no action and let the current contract expire. This board voted instead to put attainable and clearly defined expectations on a competent and capable leader. A strong campus leader who has the ability to strengthen our university system which is in the process of becoming more efficient, more effective, and most importantly doing its best to respond to the ever-changing needs of our students.

I serve with fellow board members who take their responsibilities very seriously. We take pride in our university system, and we take pride in a great state. It is refreshing to work with fellow members who not only place high expectations on great leaders, but hold those people accountable to meeting and exceeding those expectations. I am confident President Dean Bresciani is that type of leader.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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