Board Members

The State Board of Higher Education is the policy-setting and advocacy body for the North Dakota University System and the governing body for North Dakota’s 11 publicly supported colleges and universities. The SBHE also oversees the NDSU Extension Service and Agricultural Research Stations, Northern Crops Institute, State Forest Service and the Upper Great Plans Transportation Institute.

The SBHE is made up of seven citizen members appointed to four-year terms by the governor and one student appointed by the governor to serve a one-year term. The Council of College Faculties selects the board’s non-voting faculty advisor, and the NDUS Staff Senate selects the board’s non-voting staff advisor.


Nick Hacker


Term: 2015-2023


Subcommittees: Governance; Challenge Fund Grant Review


Nick Hacker serves as President/CEO of North Dakota Guaranty and Title Co. Founded in 1955, NDGT is the North Dakota’s largest title insurance and real estate closing company with operations in North Dakota, Montana, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Nick continues to drive new growth through strategic partnerships, acquisitions and leadership development within his team.


Before joining North Dakota Guaranty and Title, Nick spent three years in Washington, DC working in Government Affairs. Prior to his time in Washington, DC he spent five years as a business development manager in the Red River Valley focused on real estate development.


Nick served in the North Dakota State Senate from 2004-2008 in District 42. During his tenure, Nick vice-chaired both the Political Subdivisions and Industry Business and Labor committees. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Managerial Finance and Real Estate from the University of North Dakota in 2005.


His passion for service continues through his leadership in numerous organizations including; as Chair of the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education, Stewart Title Insurance Agency Advisory Board, Greater North Dakota Chamber Board, Delta Tau Delta Education Foundation, and several committees of the American Land Title Association.

Casey Ryan

Vice Chair

Term: 2017-2021


Subcommittees: Research, Chair; Budget and Finance; EPSCoR State Steering Committee.


 Dr. Casey Ryan began his term of service with the State Board of Higher Education July 1, 2017.


Ryan practices endocrinology and internal medicine at Altru Health System in Grand Forks. He was president of Altru Health System from its inception in 1997 through 2014.


Ryan graduated from Grand Forks Central High School, then attended Colorado College where he played varsity hockey. After graduating from the University of Colorado Medical School he spent three years as an internal medicine resident at Mayo Graduate School of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota. After finishing at Mayo he spent nine months as an endocrinology registrar at the University of Otago Medical School in Dunedin, New Zealand.
He and his wife, Bev, have lived in Grand Forks since 1979.

Don Morton

Term: 2012-2020


Subcommittees: Academic & Student Affairs; Audit; Governance; Research; MHEC.


Don Morton was reappointed to the State Board of Higher Education for a second four-year term starting July 1, 2016.


Morton retired in late 2016 from Microsoft, where he had served as a senior director and a part of Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS), a group that develops the Microsoft Dynamics Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software solutions.


Morton had three major areas of responsibility: (1) Leading the global Microsoft Dynamics Academic Alliance team. (2) Leading a team responsible for the Executive Briefing Center (EBC) on the Microsoft campus in Fargo, ND, and working closely with the Microsoft sales teams with a focus on the Dynamics ERP and Dynamics CRM. (3)Site leader for the Microsoft campus in Fargo which has more than 1,700 employees.Prior to joining Microsoft, Don was the assistant to the president and director of university relations at North Dakota State University. He has a coaching background, serving as the head football coach at the University of Wisconsin, at the University of Tulsa and at North Dakota State University where he won four conference championships and one national championship. He also was named national coach of the year in 1983.


Morton is a native of Flint, Michigan. He earned a B.A. in Psychology at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill. and a master’s in education from Western Illinois University.

Danita Bye

Term: 2020-2022


Subcommittees: Academic & Student Affairs; Budget & Finance.


Danita Bye was appointed to the State Board of Higher Education May 2020 to fill the remainder of an open term vacated by a previous member.


Danita has been a business consultant and leadership coach since 1997 for small- to medium-size businesses in science, technology, engineering and manufacturing industries. She previously worked as an investor and sales manager for Micro-Tech, a medical device manufacturer, and in sales and sales management for Xerox Corp., a global company best known for innovative digital products and services.


She currently serves on the board for the North Dakota Petroleum Council, as well as the board for The Triple T, Inc.,  and TTT Minerals, LLC, both oil and gas companies. She also served on the North Dakota Economic Development Foundation. Bye obtained degrees in Biology and Psychology (1981) from the University of Sioux Falls (Sioux Falls, S.D.), and an M.A. in Transformational Leadership (2012) from Bethel University (St. Paul, Minn.).


Danita’s been married for 36 years to Gordon Bye. They have three millennial children and five grandchildren. They currently live in Stanley, N.D. Bye’s appointment is subject to confirmation by the North Dakota Senate, but she will begin serving on the board immediately.

Kathleen Neset

Term: 2012-2021


Subcommittees: Audit, Chair; Research; Challenge Fund Grant Review

Kathleen Neset is President of Neset Consulting Service, Inc., which provides well site geologic/geosteering services to the oil industry since 1980. She received a B.A. in Geology from Brown University and then went to work as a seismologist in Michigan. Neset worked for Core Laboratories in Texas and Wyoming. In 1979 she moved to North Dakota pursuing work as an independent petroleum geologist. She is owner of Neset Farms and formerly worked as a Tioga High School science teacher, a Tioga school board member and a substitute business manager at Tioga High School. Currently she manages wellsite geology and mudlogging crews throughout the Bakken and Northern Rockies Region.


Neset is a member of the American Association of Petroleum Geologist, Williston API, Dickinson API, North Dakota Petroleum Council Board of Directors, Bush Foundation, BSC Petroleum Technology Advisory Committee, UND Petroleum Engineering Advisory Committee, Tioga Golf & Country Club board, and St. Thomas Parish Council Secretary.


Neset was first appointed to the board June 20, 2012 filling a vacancy and confirmed by the State Senate. She was reappointed for a second four-year term starting July 1, 2017.

Jill Louters

Term: 2018-2022


Subcommittees: Academic & Student Affairs, Chair; Governance; NDUS Foundation; WICHE.

Jill Louters began her term of service with the State Board of Higher Education July 1, 2018.  Louters has 32 years of experience in education, currently serving in her eighth year as the superintendent for the New Rockford-Sheyenne School District.  Her district received the Governor’s System Innovation Award in 2018 and the National Blue-Ribbon Award in 2019 based on superior student achievement.  Her district is currently working with the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction on a collaborative, five-year grant to redefine customized, personalized learning across the state of North Dakota for all PK-12 learners.

A native of southern Minnesota, Louters worked as a social studies teacher, coach and middle school principal prior to assuming a position on the faculty of Minnesota State University, Mankato, Minnesota.

Louters completed her undergraduate degree at Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn., and her master’s degree in education administration at Minnesota State University, Mankato.  In 2017, she was the first North Dakota superintendent to complete her National Superintendent Certificate through the American Association of School Administrators and is currently completing her doctoral dissertation through St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn.

Louters has held membership on the New Rockford Chamber of Commerce, New Rockford Area Betterment Corporation, Sheyenne Economic Development Council and as a carded 4-H Horse Show Judge.  She has traveled extensively, training university staff in Europe, South Africa and Thailand.  She is the mother of four children who reside in Sheyenne, North Dakota.

Kaleb Dschaak

Student Member

Term: 2019-2020


Subcommittee: Academic & Student Affairs


Kaleb Dschaak is the student member of the State Board of Higher Education. His term began July 2019. He is a senior at University of North Dakota majoring in marketing and political science.

Kaleb has served in student government since he was a sophomore, and with other leadership organizations before that. He started as an on-campus student senator, and was then brought on as the chief of staff to president Bachmeier. During his service as chief of staff I also served as president of the North Dakota Student Association.  After that he ran for Vice-President of the student body.

Kaleb has volunteered for more than six years at the not-for-profit Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership program, which helps high school sophomores entering their junior year learn about leadership, civic engagement, and volunteering. He also volunteers each year to help new students on UND’s campus.

Board Member Tim Mihalick

Tim Mihalick

Term: 2019-2023


Subcommittees: Audit; Budget & Finance, Chair; NDUS Foundation.


Tim Mihalick was appointed to the State Board of Higher Education to fill the remainder of an open term vacated by a previous member. Mihalick was also appointed to a four year term (2019-2023) beginning July 2019.


Mihalick is employed at First Western Bank & Trust as a Senior Vice President responsible for Business Development and Facilities. Prior to that, he was part of IRET and its affiliated companies for over 36 years before his retirement. He served as the President and CEO during his last eight years at IRET. Throughout the years, he has been involved in numerous civic organizations dedicated to Minot’s betterment. He currently serves on the board of the Minot Family YMCA; current member and past chair of the MSU Board of Regents, and he is a past board member of Trinity Health.


Ohio native Mihalick attended Minot State University and obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration in 1981. During his college career, he played football for four years and participated in track for two. He was inducted into the MSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1995 and received the MSU Alumni Golden Award in 2014.


He and his wife, Laura, have been married for 36 years and are partners in their conviction to civic engagement. Laura is a member of the Minot Public School Board. The Mihalicks have two adult children living in Minot, ND.

Retha Mattern

Staff Adviser

Term: 2019-2020


Subcommittee: Budget & Finance (non-voting)

Retha Mattern has served as the president and past president of the North Dakota State Staff Senate and was elected as the Staff Advisor to the State Board of Higher Education beginning in 2019.

She works as the Business & Outreach Coordinator at the National Energy Center of Excellence (NECE) at Bismarck State College (BSC), where she also serves as the Director of the Great Plains Energy Corridor.  The Corridor, established in 2008 through funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, provides leadership and oversight on projects that promote energy education and outreach to advance the development of North Dakota’s energy resources. Retha blends her Corridor directorship with her primary duties, raising awareness of the energy industry in North Dakota and the careers associated with it.  She has worked to increase interest in energy careers in a variety of ways, from organizing sessions aimed at encouraging females to explore the energy industry to participating in statewide task force groups to identify gaps in workforce skills.

She brings with her nearly a decade of experience in communications, having previously worked as a reporter and assistant news director for KFYR-TV, the NBC affiliate in Bismarck. Retha is also an adjunct instructor for Introduction to Broadcasting at Bismarck State College. Retha holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Maryland and a Master of Science in Management from Minot State University.

Retha, a native of Maryland, makes her home in Bismarck with her husband, Mark, and their two children.

Debora Dragseth

Faculty Adviser

Term: 2019-2020


Subcommittee: Academic & Student Affairs (non-voting)


Dr. Debora Dragseth is the faculty adviser to the State Board of Higher Education. She is a tenured professor of business at Dickinson State University, former Director of Dickinson State University’s Theodore Roosevelt Honors Leadership Program and former Chair of the Department of Business and Management. She is an active speaker on the topics of leadership, outmigration and Generations Z and Y in the workplace.

Debora has been given Dickinson State University’s highest faculty award, the Distinguished Teacher of the Year. Debora was the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce’s Teacher of the Year for 2008. In 2015, she was named Innovative Teacher of the Year. She has also been named the student-elected Outstanding Faculty.

She has been the faculty-elected president of DSU’s Faculty Senate three times and served two years (2017-2019) as the president of the Council of College Faculty, the North Dakota University System’s statewide Faculty Senate.

Debora has an MBA from the University of South Dakota and a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska.

Serving on the State Board

Individuals who are interested in serving on the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education need to fill out an application and submit it to the State Superintendent, Department of Public Instruction, 600 E. Boulevard Ave., Dept. 201, Bismarck, N.D., 58505. Applications should be submitted by Tuesday, March 3, 2020. In addition to the application, applicants must provide a resume and no more than six letters of recommendation.