SBHE focuses on strategic planning, future of AI in higher ed

SBHE focuses on strategic planning, future of AI in higher ed

BISMARCK, N.D. – The State Board of Higher Education during a meeting today revisited work completed by several study groups during last month’s Envision 2035 Summit. The Board reviewed findings from the event and further considered how artificial intelligence and digitization would be a priority for future planning.

Envision 2035, which is a blueprint for how the North Dakota University System will adapt to evolving needs and challenges in higher ed, prompted the formation of nine study groups. They include Programs of the Future for Agriculture, Energy, Digitization and Healthcare, as well as Student, Teacher, Infrastructure, Human Capital Workforce and Values of the Future groups. The groups will study how advancements in their respective areas will affect students and the workforce and how best to adapt and develop new priorities for higher ed.

One of the persistent topics discussed within each group was the need to adapt to the expansion of artificial intelligence and digitization.

“I want to thank the Board for the work you’ve done on this (Envision 2035). This (AI) is going to change our state, our people and our students. Every college and university will need a plan,” said Chancellor Mark Hagerott, Ph.D.

Hagerott pointed to the example of the University of Florida, which is one of the nation’s first universities to offer students AI Across the Curriculum with courses augmented by artificial intelligence. The Chancellor also commended Bismarck State College, citing its student body using AI to write plays for performances on campus. He further mentioned President Joe Biden’s executive order on AI and its ramifications for higher ed.

“This is further evidence in my mind that we really need a consolidated approach to data and learning. This may be the unifying theme,” he said.

Hagerott also referenced the upcoming strategy review sessions between Gov. Doug Burgum and each of the institutions of the NDUS. He said the Governor has asked the campuses to include in their report the practices they have adopted in the areas of automation and artificial intelligence (AI).

Board member John Warford, Ph.D., offered additional insights for current college enrollment challenges and how to bring new students on campus into the future. He brought up the potential of offering accelerated degrees, as well as focusing on recruiting students who have started but have not finished degrees. He said this would help to address the state’s workforce challenges. There are about 106,000 students in the state with some college education but no degree.

Each of the Envision 2035 study group leads had opportunities to report on their progress. Most groups had not had an opportunity to meet since the November summit but anticipate meeting in January 2024.

Dr. Josh Wynne presented on behalf of the Healthcare and Education Group. Over the last few months, the group has met with campus and community members and North Dakota legislators. Wynne said the group summarized its findings into four general themes: Get more scholarships and student support, resource sharing, opportunities and working relationships.

Wynne emphasized the importance of leveraging strengths within the North Dakota University System, the community, and private sector to educate health students.

Board member Danita Bye gave a report from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Learning. During a roundtable discussion, the commission discussed AI and also the popularity of digital learning and 3-year degrees. Bye said there appears to be a trend to offer 3-year degrees that are 90 credit hours rather than 120 credit hours.

Hagerott went over several presidential evaluations, saying it was a distinct pleasure to work with all the presidents and they all have his full support. The Chancellor went through the presidents’ goals and progress that has been made through the academic year. The Chancellor commended the presidents for their work in a challenging environment, as pertains to enrollment.

Student member of the Board Sadie Hanson provided an update from the North Dakota Student Association. The group discussed NDUS diversity tuition waivers at its November meeting.

Faculty Advisor to the Board Lisa Montplaisir, Ph.D., gave an update from the Council of College Faculty. She discussed emerging expectations, including AI, its impact on classrooms and how to best address those challenges.

Staff Advisor to the Board Michael Linnell gave an update from the State Staff Senate, which had met on Nov. 13. They discussed expanding the tuition waiver program to attract and retain talent. They also established a subcommittee to make recommendations on school closures and remote work during those weather events.

The Board heard first readings of Policies 604.2, (Performance Evaluation Chancellor), 409 (degrees offered), 420 (accreditation), 306.2 (Part B – Internal Audit Charter) and 706.1 (Board member and advisor per diem payments) and all were approved.

Second readings were heard for Policies in the 600 Series, which includes several human resources topics. Also heard were HR Policy 10 (Retirement) and Policies 610 (Oath for Teachers), 611.9 (Selection of Textbooks and Other Curricular materials), 305.1 (Institution President Authority and Responsibilities; Contract Terms), 604.1 (Performance Evaluation Presidents) and 604.1 (Performance Evaluation Chancellor).

No public comments were made.

The Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 18.

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