September, 2014

Prairie Business: TALK OF THE TOWN: Southern anchor

September 30, 2014

By Kris Bevill

Like most communities in the northern Plains, Wahpeton, N.D., is growing. The 2010 U.S. Census pegged the city’s population at 7,766. Jane Priebe, economic development director for the city, says that number is now likely to be nearly 7,900.

Wahpeton is also facing the now all-too-familiar growing pains associated with the region’s strong economy and expanding businesses — not enough workers and not enough houses. The economic development office recently conducted a survey of 17 Wahpeton businesses and found availability of skilled labor to be the top concern for all participants, followed closely by overall availability of employees and affordable housing.

But Wahpeton has a secret weapon that other communities lack — North Dakota State College of Science. Founded in 1903, NDSCS is one of the oldest public two-year colleges in the nation and its presence is felt throughout every aspect of the Wahpeton community. The school is the city’s largest employer, it is a major economic driver for the city’s engine and the various activities offered through the school — from athletics to musical performances — provide social opportunities for community members. Perhaps most importantly for businesses in the community, particularly in recent years, is the school’s ability and willingness to collaborate in the recruitment and training of in-demand workers.

“We have a long history in working very closely with the business and industry there in providing those educational opportunities and having access to that immediate workforce,” says NDSCS President John Richman.

Manufacturing is a mainstay of Wahpeton’s business sector and many of the city’s manufacturing businesses work frequently with the school, offering internships to students and serving on advisory committees to help provide the most valuable education possible to NDSCS students.

WCCO Belting, which currently employs about 200 people, has a long-running relationship with the school and has provided sponsorships and internships to its students for several decades. WCCO CEO and President Tom Shorma credits NDSCS as being one of the reasons why the company his father founded 60 years ago has been so successful, and why Wahpeton is a great place for business in general.

“Over the years, the signature traits of the type of student that attends NDSCS is one who is willing to show up for work on time and will work hard, is a person who is mechanically oriented, and is someone who really enjoys doing things versus watching others do things,” he says. “The people that NDSCS brings into the community really fit in with our business culture. As such, we have employed hundreds (if not thousands) of students who work part-time while they attended college and frequently they become full-time even after they have graduated.”

Total fall enrollment at NDSCS in 2013 was 3,168 students, one of the largest enrollment numbers in the school’s history. Prior to the final tally for this fall, college officials said they expected enrollment this year is to be at or near 2013’s number in spite of declining high school graduation numbers, a trend Richman says is expected to continue until 2018.

One factor contributing to the school’s strong enrollment numbers is a gradual overcoming of the two-year school stigma — parents and young people are beginning to realize the solid career potential for many of the skilled jobs that require two-year degrees. Larger efforts like National Manufacturing Day help to spread the word to high school students by offering tours of local manufacturing firms and educational institutions and on Oct. 22, students in the Wahpeton area will have the opportunity to participate in the second annual local tour, which will include visits to NDSCS, WCCO Belting, Bobcat and Com-Del Innovation/Heartland Precision. Shorma says WCCO employees enjoy visiting with the students and demonstrating what the company does. “We also participate in order to demonstrate to students and their parents that great careers do exist locally and that not always do they need the traditional four-year degree to get them,” he says. “Many times the students, and in many cases their parents, don’t even know what type of great career opportunities exist locally.”

Richman and Shorma represent Wahpeton in the Valley Prosperity Partnership, a coalition of industry, education officials and community representatives from communities throughout the Red River Valley. Richman, who serves on the group’s workforce subgroup, says the VPP has so far laid out what he believes are good overall objectives to set a strategic direction for continued success throughout the valley. One of the workforce group’s objectives is to encourage communities to grow their own workforce. Local businesses can help by identifying potential new workers in their industry, engaging them through part-time work as high school students and sponsoring their post-secondary education, he says. “What we’re trying to do is have a collective, collaborative approach to how we position the valley for today as well as into the future,” Richman says.

For Wahpeton, which prides itself on the tight-knit business community and forward-thinking leaders, that goal may already be met.

Full article from Prairie Business

Daily News: NDSCS surpasses 3,000 students for fourth year in a row

September 26, 2014

By Matthew Liedke

The incline for enrollment at North Dakota State College of Science is trending upward as the school surpassed 3,000 students for a fourth consecutive year in the fall semester.

According to a press release from the college, NDSCS has enrolled 1,706 full-time students and 1,327 part time students. Further breaking down the numbers, NDSCS has enrolled 2,016 freshmen and 1,017 sophomores, 465 of those students are 25 years old and older and 298 of those students attend the Fargo campus.

“What it says about the college is that there’s a real recognition in the value in the need for the type of education that we provide here at NDSCS,” said Harvey Link, vice president of academic and student affairs.

“I think over the last few years we’ve seen a significant increase in the type of employment opportunities that are available,” Link said. “Business and industry are requesting education for those opportunities, and students are recognizing it and finding their way here.”

In total, the fall 2014 enrollment was 3,033, which had a slight dip from 2013 where 3,168 students had enrolled. NDSCS officials explained that this was mainly due to a drop in the amount of North Dakota high school graduates in 2014.

The number is still high for the college, though, and Executive Director of College Relations and Marketing Barbara Spaeth-Baum explained that the enrollment comes from a multitude of reasons.

“It’s a combination of things. This is a concerted effort by the college to raise awareness of the need for the type of education that we provide,” Spaeth-Baum said. “We have the one side with the advertising we do, but we also have that public relations aspect and that word of mouth that is so viable in the state of North Dakota.

“We have a lot of legislators who understand our message and who are telling our message,” Spaeth-Baum added.

“NDSCS also has a regional reach,” Link explained. “We reach those in Minnesota and in South Dakota. Many students who attend NDSCS go on to get their first job or continue their education in North Dakota, so we are able to bring talented individuals into the state, train them and put them in a good job.”

Another positive from this semester’s enrollment support is the number of students retained, which has risen from the previous year.

“The new Student Success Division, which is a program that helps retain students by providing services and resources when they need it the most and we’re already seeing that it has massed a difference with our retention from years prior,” Spaeth Baum said.

As the state of North Dakota continues to grow and the population increases, Link said the enrollment numbers in turn would most likely go up, however, he said that the impact of state growth won’t happen immediately.

“Growth in North Dakota, in relation to the number of high school grads, won’t happen over night,” Link said. “The number of high school grads will decline for a few years and then it’s going to slowly go up.”

Full article from the Wahpeton Daily News

NDSCS fall 2014 enrollment surpasses 3,000 students for fourth consecutive year

September 23, 2014

Fall semester enrollment at the North Dakota State College of Science has surpassed 3,000 students for the fourth consecutive year, and the number of students who are choosing to live on campus has grown by more than 7 percent over 2013. Overall, fall enrollment of Wahpeton, Fargo, online and dual-credit students totals 3,033, a slight dip from fall 2013 when enrollment was 3,168. 

“Students and their parents are realizing that a two-year degree can provide the springboard to launching well-paying careers and transfer opportunities to four-year universities,” said NDSCS President Dr. John Richman. “While enrollment is somewhat down from the 30-year record set last fall, this was anticipated due to the number of high school graduates trending downward across North Dakota.”

The number of students living on campus has grown from 969 in 2013 to 1,042 in 2014. “NDSCS has invested in remodeling and updating several residence halls on the Wahpeton campus to create housing options that are more appealing to today’s students,” said Melissa Johnson, executive director of student and residential life. “These efforts are paying off for students and the College.”

The 2014 student body is comprised of 1,706 full-time students and 1,327 part-time students. There are 298 students taking classes at NDSCS-Fargo. A breakdown of the total enrollment of 3,033 includes 2,016 freshmen and 1,017 sophomores. Men continue to outnumber women at NDSCS: men, 1,666 - women, 1,367. There are 465 students who are 25 years of age or older. 

The enrollment data shows that more than 70 percent of the student body is from North Dakota, and more than 22 percent are from Minnesota. Students from the neighboring state of South Dakota make up more than 2 percent of the student body while those from Montana comprise 1 percent of the total enrollment. There are nine students from seven different countries represented in the student body.

“The future of NDSCS is exciting, for Wahpeton, Fargo and online students as we focus on their success,” said Richman. “The newly created Student Success division will provide students greater access to the resources they need to be successful – which will also allow us to better meet North Dakota’s workforce needs.”

Daily News: Pioneering lawmaker set the bar for other women

September 22, 2014

By Kathleen Leinen

Mildred Johnson, described as an attorney who trailblazed the way for other women, died Friday, Sept. 12 at age 96.

Johnson was the first woman appointed to the North Dakota Higher Board of Education. She was the only woman to graduate from her class at the University of North Dakota Law School in 1939 and was awarded the Order of the Coif, the highest academic honor for graduating law students in the United States. Johnson was also the first woman to try a case before the North Dakota Supreme Court.

Being known as the type of woman other women could talk to, Johnson left a mark in this state. The library at North Dakota State College of Science was christened the Mildred Johnson Library in 1971 in recognition of her work on behalf of the school.

She was a tireless leader and her passing has left behind a legacy few others can attain. The NDSCS campus community is saddened to learn of the passing of Mildred Johnson, said Dr. John Richman, president of the college.

“Mildred was a true pioneer among women in our state, forging the way for others and often bringing a woman’s perspective to her many roles in both higher education and public policy,” he said. “Her numerous and vast accomplishments speak volumes about the part she played in North Dakota’s history and her dedication to our state.

“Mildred was an avid supporter of NDSCS and its mission, for which we are truly grateful,” he said. “Mildred will be missed and remembered by many.”

The funeral service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014 at Bethel Lutheran Church, Wahpeton, North Dakota, with visitation one hour before the service. Interment will be at Fairview Cemetery, Wahpeton.

Full article from the Wahpeton Daily News

Photo Courtesy of Inforum

Grand Forks Herald: Mildred Johnson, first woman to serve on ND higher ed board, dies at age 96

September 18, 2014

By Adrian Glass-Moore

Mildred L. Johnson, a trailblazing North Dakota attorney who became the first woman appointed to the North Dakota Board of Higher Education, died Friday at the age of 96.

She was the only woman to graduate from her class at the University of North Dakota Law School in 1939, and went on to prominent roles in law and education.

She was also a confidant for women at a time when authority figures – lawyers, doctors and clergy – were almost exclusively men, her son, Russell Johnson, said from New York City.

She was a “woman that other women could talk to confidentially,” Johnson said Wednesday. “My mom was very helpful in that regard.”

In a story for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in January, the 95-year-old attorney described how she was often acutely aware that she was treading into male-dominated territories.

When North Dakota Gov. Clarence Brunsdale called her to appoint her to the Board of Higher Education, she agreed but became worried when she then found out she was pregnant.

“What to do?” she recalled. “It was a difficult decision. Then I figured, what the heck, the guys on the board wouldn’t know the difference for about five months.” As it turned out, “the guys didn’t even care,” she said.

While on the board, she voted in sometimes unpopular ways. During the McCarthy era, she defended faculty members accused of being communist, her son said.

“She was the lone vote on the board to support that,” he said. “She did what she thought was right. … That took some courage.”

“I always tried to promote discussion, but I wasn’t always popular,” Mildred Johnson said in January. “One editorial in The Forum spoke against my appointment for a second time. I was called a Communist. Can you believe it? I’m a good North Dakota Lutheran Republican. But I got lots of good support and the appointment.”

After her second term ended in 1966, she continued to practice law and took on pro-bono cases to help victims of domestic abuse.

In 1971, the library at the North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton was named after her in recognition of her work while on the board to purchase more land so the campus could expand.

She had a long marriage to Vernon Johnson, a two-time speaker of the North Dakota House who died in 1996.

She met Vernon Johnson, also a UND law school grad, while working a case in Red Lake Falls, Minn. They were married in September 1940.

Mildred Johnson was a lawyer for 48 years with the Wahpeton law firm Johnson, Johnson, Stokes, Sandberg & Kragness.

She had recently left Prairie View Assisted Living in Perham to move back home and live on her own in Perham, her son said.

“I talked to her the last day that she was alive and she was sharp as a tack; she always was,” Russell Johnson said.

She never lost her flair for the law, either. Seventy years after she passed her bar exam, her granddaughter became a public defender in New York City, which gave them a lot to talk about.

“They’d get engrossed in all the cases,” he said.

There will be a service at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Bethel Lutheran Church in Wahpeton.

Full article from Grand Forks Herald

Photo Courtesy of Inforum

FM Area Foundation: Women Find Interest in Nontraditional Fields

September 18, 2014

Women’s Fund Grant Supports YWCA Initiative

A few years ago, a woman staying at the YWCA’s shelter wanted to make a change for her and her family. She wanted to go back to school, but didn’t think it was feasible with a child at home. When an opportunity arose to try an eight-week manufacturing program through NDSCS, she decided to participate through the support of the YWCA and a grant from the skills and technology program. After completing the training, she secured employment, moved out of the YWCA’s housing program and is now supporting herself and her two children while completing her associate’s degree.

This story inspired the staff at the YWCA to start an initiative focused on providing training for women in nontraditional fields. “We thought this was a tremendous opportunity because a lot of the women in our shelter and housing are not employed. One of the major things we work on with women is education and employment,” said Julie Haugen, Associate Director of the YWCA. “We’re all about empowerment at the YWCA.”

The new program, Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW), is a partnership between the YWCA and NDSCS. The reason the YWCA decided to focus on nontraditional jobs for women is two-fold.

“In a few months, women are able to receive training to dramatically improve their income to support their families. We also thought this was a great opportunity because of the state’s economy. It’s a great way to quickly train women and help them fill the thousands of jobs that are currently vacant in these fields,” Haugen said.

A grant from the FM Area Foundation’s Women’s Fund will fully support the program for the first year. The grant money will go toward tuition, as well as providing transportation and childcare, which are barriers that often keep women from furthering their education or finding employment.

“The Women’s Fund is driven to improve and impact the quality of life for all people by enriching the lives of women and girls in the Cass-Clay community,” said Marcia Paulson, volunteer chair of the Women’s Fund. “Our recent grant award to support the YWCA’s NEW program is an investment.  When women exercise self-determination and begin to identify themselves as leaders and providers for their families, our community is better for it.”

The women at the YWCA shelter and in the housing program will be able to choose if they want to participate and if they have an interest in a nontraditional field, such as welding or manufacturing. 

“For many of the women, it’s the first time they’ve had the opportunity to choose what they want to do. Most of the women that come to us have been victims of domestic abuse,” Haugen said. “The women we serve are hard-working and want to support their children, and we’re helping them do that.”

The women participating in the NEW initiative will be an inspiration to their children and to other women in similar situations.

The YWCA plans to launch the NEW initiative this fall. Their goal is to have 5-10 women complete the program by fall 2015.

Full article from FM Area Foundation

Daily News: Renovating Old Main

September 12, 2014

By Matthew Liedke

Old Main renovations meld modern technology with the original character of the building

For more than a hundred years, North Dakota State College of Science’s Old Main has overlooked the campus.

It was built in 1891 and after a hundred years of use, the building needed renovations.

Executive Director of Facilities Management Dallas Fossum said work will ensure that Old Main stays standing for another 100 years.

Starting in February 2014, the renovation project at Old Main has been an effort to bring the best of two worlds together by fully revitalizing the building with new technology and its original character.

The full renovation of the building is expected to be finished by the summer of 2015and be ready for use during that fall semester. So far, Fossum said everything is running on schedule.

“We’re nearing completion on a lot of the structural steel work inside that was required both to accommodate the new design and to shore up the building so it can last for decades to come,” said Fossum. “They’re already framing a lot of interior walls and are nearly done with sheet rock work.”

Additionally, Fossum explained that a lot of the plumbing and electrical work has been accomplished. Currently, the crews are focused on the basement level of the building, as Fossum said there is renovation work to be completed on the drain tile to make sure moisture stays out of the building.

“The windows will then follow,” Fossum said. “The plan is to start installing the windows here in late September, working from the fourth floor down. They want to get it done this fall so they can do the finish work over the winter.”

As it nears completion, Fossum said landscaping work will begin to get completed and by mid-summer of 2015 the fence is expected to come down.

Upon its completion, the building will be utilized by students and faculty alike, holding both offices and classrooms. Also included will be a tutoring center and an academic services center.

“There’s excitement to get back into that building,” Fossum said. “There are a lot of people displaced in temporary offices, who are making it work, but they are excited to get back to their permanent location.

“We also have classrooms that will be set up in a collaborative style which will be the first of their kind on this campus,” Fossum continued. “The rooms will have round tables with technology at every table instead of the traditional lecture room. Our students are coming in and expecting a different way of learning, this is one of the ways to help accommodate that.”

There is also excitement from a tradition standpoint, as the building offers history both on the outside and after the renovation, the inside as well.

“When we started to demo the building, we were able to salvage a lot of historical items, including documents and pictures. Those will be displayed in cases or frames when the building is open,” Fossum said.

“This is the icon of the campus. When you drive into town, you see the ‘S.’ Anybody who comes to the school here knows about Old Main, whether or not they even had any classes in the building, they know Old Main,” he added. “That will be even more so with the future alumni because the activities in there will bring more people than the past many years.”

Full article from the Wahpeton Daily News

INFORUM: Plan B: Skip the degree: Skills training available for those opting against degrees

September 08, 2014

By Angie Wieck

The notion that a four-year degree is the best way to ensure job security, good pay and overall job satisfaction has taken a hit in recent years.

As tuition costs and subsequent student loan debt continue to rise, many students are opting for short-term job training instead.

A number of noncredit programs ranging from welding to truck driving to customer service and computer skills are available at North Dakota State College of Science campuses in Fargo and Wahpeton as well as campuses of Minnesota State Community and Technical College.

Patty Kline, dean of outreach for the trainND Southeast program at NDSCS, said the college has been expanding these programs in recent years in order to help businesses gain skilled employees and move them up the ladder.

In addition to recent high school graduates, she said the programs appeal to nontraditional students who may already be working and want to improve their job skills or pursue a different career.

In some cases, the cost of these programs may even be covered by Job Service. The federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act funds short-term training for youth, adults and adult dislocated workers who are struggling with unemployment and meet low-income guidelines.

“If you’re looking for someone to pay your kid’s way through college, this isn’t the answer,” said Fargo Job Service office manager Carey Fry. “But if you are a young adult struggling in a no-end job and you’re supporting yourself, we are the answer for that.”

Customized training

Besides open enrollment sessions for students, both colleges offer customized training for employers as well.

“We try to meet the customers’ needs so when they want it, where they want it, how they want it, we’ll be there,” Kline said. “We’ll do classes for as few as two people if that’s what they want.”

G.L. Tucker, dean of custom training services at MSCTC, said he sees customized training as the way of the future. The college has invested in a mobile welding lab they can bring to individual job sites. Officials also hope to purchase a CDL (commercial driver’s license) training trailer that has truck driving simulators.

Program details

A number of training opportunities are available, but programs for certified nursing assistants, welders and truck drivers are three of the most popular with students and employers.

Listed below are specifics about course length, cost, average starting wages in North Dakota and Minnesota as well as the job outlook for those careers.

Minnesota wage numbers were taken from the 2014 MnCareers Regional Supplement for West Central Minnesota, compiled by the Minnesota Department of Economic Development.

North Dakota numbers were taken from the 2013 Employment and Wages by Occupation provided by Job Service ND.

Certified Nursing Assistant

NDSCS: A six-week program that includes classroom, lab and clinical experience will be held evenings from 5 to 10 starting Monday and again Oct. 20. The course is $500. A $120 testing fee is required as well. 
MSCTC: Day and evening sessions are available for this 77-hour program that includes 55 hours in the classroom and lab, two hours of clinical orientation and 20 hours of clinicals. Daytime sessions begin Sept. 22 and evening sessions start Oct. 15. The cost is $495 with a separate testing fee of $160. 

The hourly wage for a CNA ranges from $10.40 to $12.60 in Minnesota and $11.28 to $14.60 in North Dakota.


NDSCS: Officials with trainND are planning open enrollment sessions this fall in 40-, 80- and 120-hour increments. Cost will depend on the program length.
MSCTC: The fall and winter course times have not yet been announced. Last year, MSCTC offered 120-hour programs for $2,200 and 160-hour programs for $2,950. 

The hourly wage for a welder ranges from $13.90 to $18.30 in Minnesota and $15.48 to $27.56 in North Dakota.

CDL (truck driver)

NDSCS: The next session of trainND’s CDL training begins Sept. 29. The six-week training program includes classroom and behind-the-wheel training. It also includes the use of a truck during testing at Department of Motor Vehicle offices in Moorhead and Fargo. The cost is $4,500. License fees are required at the time of testing as well.

The hourly wage for a truck driver ranges from $15.20 to $21.10 in Minnesota and $17.01 to $25.81 in North Dakota.

There is a great demand for all three occupations in the region.

According to an August online job openings report, this region of North Dakota reported 115 health care support openings and had only 81 active resumes on hand. That means if every job seeker were placed, there would still be 34 open positions.

For production, which includes welding, there are 444 open positions and just 257 active resumes. There are 660 open transportation and material moving positions and only 129 active resumes. 

Full article from

Daily News: NDSCS receives national ranking for graduation rate

September 04, 2014

By Matthew Liedke

College officials say rates consistently exceed the national average

National recognition is becoming a habit for North Dakota State College of Science as another publication ranked the school among the country’s best.

An article titled, “Large colleges with the best 6-year and 3-year graduation rates, 2012,” published by the Chronicle of Higher Education, reported that NDSCS has been ranked No. 6 among two-year colleges.

According to the report, NDSCS achieved a 50.7 percent graduation rate in 2012 and a 47 percent graduation rate in 2013. This is the third time in recent years the college has received recognition, with positive rankings already coming in from and Washington Monthly Magazine.

“I think it’s made possible because of the faculty and staff that we’ve been able to attract here. They show up each day very committed to what they do when teaching students,” said NDSCS President Dr. John Richman. “This isn’t our first national recognition for the results we’ve created. I find it very rewarding, gratifying and reassuring that the philosophy we have here works.

“That philosophy is we are in the development business,” Richman continued. “We develop people, so student success always comes first and foremost.”

“Another component in our programming is that it aligns with both the needs of the state and the desires of the students,” said Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs Harvey Link. “When students get into a curriculum and they can see an end goal, they persist and continue on.”

Associate Vice President of Student Success at NDSCS, Jane Vangness Frisch, added that the college is also focused on reaching out to family and to the students themselves.

“We’ve been intentionally reaching out to family members and spouses, too, letting them know what the students will go through at the college,” Vangness Frisch said. “We also know that there isn’t one type of student, not all of them are just out of high school, so we want to keep different types of students involved.

“Our graduation rates consistently exceed the national average,” Vangness Frisch said. “We also pride ourselves on the fact that we don’t just offer the two-year degrees. We also have the certificate and diploma opportunities that meet the needs of the workforce demands. That is something that helps set us apart.”

Despite the positive ranking, though, Richman explained that progress and improvement can still be made.

“We’re very proud of this and the other recognition we’ve gotten, but we’re not satisfied, we have to do a better job at student success,” Richman said. “We have created a Student Success Division last year to do so. It’s a campus-wide initiative that monitors students’ attendance, success, provides assistance where needed and helps place them in the right programs and courses.

“The goal of that is to increase our retention rate which will in turn raise the graduation rate,” Richman added.

Full article from the Wahpeton Daily News

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