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Wednesday, May 17, 2017


DON’T CLING TO OLD MODELS Last week ND Gov. Doug Burgum warned that technology was disrupting the traditional university model, reducing the need for physical campuses and raising questions about ND’s need for 11 higher education institutions. Forum columnist Rob Port applauded, “The Governor is 100 percent, spot-on accurate. His comments are like a breath of fresh air.” Port’s colleague and frequent adversary, Mike McFeely, groused “Burgum’s belief that we should do away with that aspect (face-to-face communication) of higher education is bovine waste matter.”

ANTICIPATE DISRUPTION But UND President Mark Kennedy was in tune with Burgum. Kennedy discussed a new strategic plan for UND which anticipates “disruptive change” attributable to internet and communications technology. He sees a series of threats to the traditional model for higher ed. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty took the notion a step further, he said, "We are at the dawn of the fourth industrial revolution." He warned Minnesotans to prepare for profound changes that technology will produce.

NEWSPAPERS ALSO MUST ADAPT “So, dear readers, please know that we're trying.” -- GF Herald Publisher Korrie Wentzel. He said the Herald has been cutting staff and reducing newspaper space to correlate with advertising revenue. The closure of the GF Macy’s store was an example of a changing retail scene that has forced all kinds of business to adapt. Wentzel said, “In some ways, we have been caught off-guard by how fast some of these industry and retail changes have happened.”

A GRAND MUDDLE When Bruce Gjovig retired last month as head of the UND Center for Innovation, his retirement was portrayed statewide as a happy event marking the end of a fruitful career. Now, Gjovig is saying he did not retire, he was pushed. No one seems willing to take responsibility for the pushing. The board of the foundation which governs the Center points at UND’s president, provost and the recently-resigned dean of the business school. The president and provost deny it. The chair of the entrepreneurship school which is allied with the Center also resigned this year. The business school has an interim dean.
UAS "North Dakota continues to stand out as a leader in the UAS technology research, development and training." -- Sen. John Hoeven announced the 2017 Drone Focus Conference in Fargo on May 31. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao will address the gathering of local, national and global leaders.

THE ND ECONOMY is just too volatile to forecast credible 2-year budgets. For that reason, columnist Lloyd Omdahl believes it’s time for the state to drop its biennial legislative sessions and move to annual 40-day sessions. He says, “State finances are an incoherent mess” and “It's the institution that is at fault.”

THEY’VE GOT THE MONEY With $200 million of annual oil and gas revenue, the Three Affiliated Tribes at Ft. Berthold are on a building binge. They just completed a $17 million courthouse-law enforcement center at New Town and are planning a $25 million drug treatment center in Bismarck. An assisted living center and recreational water park are also on the drawing boards.

HE WHO PROTESTS TOO MUCH Columnist Mike Jacobs wrote that Dickinson State University had “a scheme that enrolled Chinese students and granted them degrees without requiring anything other than money from them. This is best described as a 'diploma mill.’ “ DSU President Thomas Mitzel objected, “There has never been a time when DSU provided degrees for cash.” Mitzel joined DSU after the scheme was uncovered.

PHYSICIAN COMPENSATION in ND is the highest in the nation according to a Medscape survey. ND’s average of $361,000 was followed closely by Alaska and SD. This is one of the reasons Fargo was ranked the 8th best city for physicians; Minneapolis was first and Sioux Falls third.

VISA PROGRAMS allow foreign doctors to work in underserved areas. Nearly five percent of the doctors in ND work under this program -- the highest rate in the nation. About a fourth of the state’s doctors are foreign-trained.

“COME HELL AND HIGH WATER” is the name of a 16-minute composition performed this week by 100 area musicians in Ada, Minnesota, to commemorate the flood of 1997, which forced evacuation of three-quarters of the city’s residents and destroyed its hospital and school. The work for band and choir was commissioned as part of a Flood Memorial Project designed to bring closure to the tragedy. Now, an aspect of this story that is hard to believe. The musical was composed by Karl Swenson, a 14-year-old musical prodigy in Kindred, ND., who wasn’t born yet when the flood swamped Ada. Swenson took six months to write the symphony’s three movements. He has been composing since he was seven.

DAKTOIDS A $500 million plant under construction near Beulah will turn by-products of an adjoining synfuels plant into 380,000 tons of urea fertilizer annually. NDSU estimates the state annual urea use is 450,000 tons . . . Grand Sky business park at the GFAFB is the first spot in the U.S. where drones may be flown without chaser planes . . . White Cloud, the albino buffalo, is returning in triumph to Jamestown’s National Buffalo Museum -- only she is stuffed. The preservation work cost $50,000. 

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