2017 Listening Session Recap — Education

Faciliator: Dr. Tim Goodwin, assistant professor and chair, BSU Department of Professional Education
Location: Bemidji High School Media Center

TOPIC: General appreciation for the community engagement and support of the BSU Department of Professional Education

  • In eighth year as principal of Bemidji High School and 16 years as an elementary teacher and assistant principal, I appreciate the leadership and contributions of BSU, including placement of student teachers – “The feeling I have as a principal is that we’re all in this together and we want to produce the best product we can.” (Brian Stefanich, principal, Bemidji High School)
  • Appreciate free professional development BSU offers. Availability of Glenn Richgels is “awesome,” and Derek Webb is very quick in responding to statistical questions. (Amie Westberg, math teacher, Park Rapids Area High School)
  • “I love that I teach in a college town” – student teachers ask good questions that I have forgotten about at this stage in my career. Appreciates quick responses from BSU faculty to questions – “I got five responses in three days.” (Mary Overlie, director of curriculum and instruction/math teacher, Trek North High School)
  • Teaching for almost 20 years, have been coming back to BSU for different things throughout that time. Appreciate summer programs, grants for low-cost professional development over the summer. “It’s nice to go back and have people who can guide you in the right direction, and not just over the summer. You can call them at any time. (Becky Rud, undergraduate student at BSU)
  • Recalls when was in Bagley and teaching a class developed by the math department at BSU through a grant, intended to help seniors place higher in college courses – “and they came out once a week and met with me, asking, ‘What are you going to do this week, and what are your problems?’” (Becky Rud, BSU student)
  • Would not have been able to get master’s if not for the summer programs offered – not only very affordable but also high quality, with individualized support. (Amanda Mix, math specialist, Bemidji Area Public Schools)
  • Working on master’s at BSU, “and I’m constantly contacting BSU to ask, ‘What can I do better.’ They say, ‘Here, try this, or here are three different examples you can try.” (Kristie O’Bierne, middle and high school math teacher, Bagley schools)
  • Earned master’s at BSU and encourages others in the region to do the same – “and you don’t have to drive to Fargo.” (Amie Westberg, Park Rapids)

TOPIC: Ways to provide better service to teachers and schools in the region.

  • Some teachers are interested in being able to get a more specialized master’s in education. (Amie Westberg, Park Rapids)
  • Would like BSU to offer more professional development opportunities in region south of Bemidji – Park Rapids, Walker, Laporte, Nevis, Sabeka. (Amie Westberg, Park Rapids)
  • Are their ways BSU could help mentor first-year teachers? “There are so many things thrown at you in your first year that you’re oblivious to while you’re going to school.” This would help with turnover, which is 50 percent within five years, even higher in math. (Kristie O’Bierne, Bagley)
  • Could BSU help find and facilitate student teaching opportunities in the summer “so licensing can occur?” Bemidji High School doesn’t allow teachers to do any student teaching during the school year; considered a breach of contract. (Amanda Mix, Bemidji)
  • Suggestion that graduates of BSU professional ed could meet with student teachers from districts around the region once a month to share questions and advice. (Jessica Strom, math teacher/staff development, Win-E-Mac Public Schools, Erskine )
  • Harder to get student teachers at more isolated districts and could use help from BSU to help encourage those placements. (Jessica Strom, Win-E-Mac)

TOPIC: Critique of preparedness of student teachers from BSU.

  • Now have two English and two social studies teachers – really look forward to getting to work with BSU students. (Kristie O’Bierne, Bagley)
  • Helpful to have discussion in advance about the role of student teachers. Program is very well laid out now – paperwork, etc. – “We know what our role is, too. I appreciate that.” (Becky Rud, BSU student)
  • In addition to the normal situation of feeling completely overwhelmed, recent student teachers have come to realize they don’t really understand the Minnesota standards at a higher competency level – “They knew how to integrate a standard into a lesson: ‘Here are the standards we are going to add,’ but in terms of creative a formative assessment, the students do not understand the standards … . There is a lack of competence there. … It would be great if there could be a course in understanding and applying the standards – how to break those down.” As an example, the students aren’t able to distinguish how to evaluate standards based on the verb that is used, such as “identity or locate” or “create.” (Amanda Mix, Bemidji)
  • Also, students need to understand the terms students will be exposed to on the statewide assessment, such as the fact that a “pictorial” is a picture. (Amanda Mix)
  • Seems to be a gap in general education student teachers’ awareness of special ed, such as we now have a student teacher who said “we don’t learn anything” about special ed, and they have to learn in the field, “whereas at places like UMD they can get a joint license in special ed. (Mary Overly, Trek North)
  • Question about whether students are learning about the meaning of a Title I intervention. (Goodwin replies that there is a course called Adaptations in Management, adding, “What I’m hearing is they’re not transferring that course to their practice.”) (Amanda Mix, Bemidji)
  • Encourage teaching students to be aware of the option for a class-wide Title I intervention if most students in a class are struggling with the same concept. (Amanda Mix, Bemidji)
  • Some professional teachers continue to be concerned about impact of having a student teacher on student test scores, and that makes them reluctant to seek one out. (Mary Overlie, Trek North)
  • Interest in exploring idea of co-teaching with students instead. (group)

2017 Listening Session Recap — Environment, Natural Resources and Sustainability

Facilitator: Dr. Richard Koch, professor of biology, BSU
American Indian Resource Center

TOPIC: Quality of Bemidji State students in environmental/natural resource fields

  • Twenty years ago, BSU graduates “didn’t compete very well” with North Dakota and Wisconsin graduates. But more recently, they have become very competitive. See benefits of diverse course offerings and faculty relationships with professionals in the field, such as Andy Hafs and Brian Hiller. “Those folks have really placed an emphasis on getting students experience, whether it’s a summer internship or volunteer experience, and that has really served to prepare them very well” for work after graduation. (Henry Drewes, regional fisheries supervisor, Minnesota DNR, Bemidji)
  • Quality of two recent interns from the BSU Sustainability office has been excellent. “I don’t know if that’s because of the academics or because of their outside interest in sustainability, but that part of the program seems pretty strong.” (Megan Fitzgerald, development specialist, Headwaters Regional Development Commission, Bemidji)

TOPIC: Strategies for boosting career preparedness and prospects for BSU aquatic and wildlife biology graduates (and others?)

  • Best if students get low-level field experience while in school so professionals get to know them. (John Williams, northwest region wildlife manager, Minnesota DNR, Bemidji)
  • DNR has provided universities with a list of the wildlife courses the agency will require for anyone being hired into a professional-level position. “That functions as a filter for the list of candidates we get.” (John Williams, Minnesota DNR)
  • Academic programs need to keep step with changes in the field, such as increased emphasis on the environmental impact of fish and wildlife management practices rather than simply striving to increase public access and use. “The North American model has always been to have fish and wildlife funded by fees, the fewer hunters and fisherman, the less fees, the less in terms of budget support.” (John Williams, Minnesota DNR)
  • Acknowledges that BSU and other universities have a challenge in attracting students to the STEM fields because of competing time spent with and interest in electronics. “They don’t have a direct connection to that land.” (John Williams, Minnesota DNR)
  • Involvement with professional societies has increased over the past 5-7 years, and those organizations reflect changes in the fish/wildlife fields toward more environmental awareness and concern. “Look at the Wildlife Society. The history of the Wildlife Society was hunting, and now they talk about pollinators and insecticides and clean air and trees.” Seeing students form BSU chapters of groups such as the Wild Turkey Federation, the Deer Hunters Association and Ducks Unlimited. “Those things are important, and they lead to jobs.” (Dave Rave, Bemidji-area wildlife supervisor, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources)
  • Important for graduates to have had wide-ranging exposure to various topics such as forestry and its place in wildlife management. The DNR’s Bemidji wildlife office manages 5,000 acres of forest. (Justin Pitt, Minnesota DNR)
  • Continue to encourage faculty to maintain contacts with those in the field and to facilate field experience for students. (John Williams, Minnesota DNR)
  • For example, DNR asked Andy Hafs to serve on an advisory committee rewriting the fish management plan for Cass Lake. “He brought a lot as a non-DNR person and brought back a real-world perspective to students.” (Henry Drewes, Minnesota DNR)
  • Another benefit of faculty having field experiences is that it helps them work across different disciplines and develop “a more integrated system of thinking” they can share with students. (Brick Fevold, vice president, Minnesota Headwaters Audobon Society)
  • An area of opportunity for both BSU and its students is hydrology, groundwater and watershed science. The DNR’s Division of Ecological and Water Resources is having a difficult time filling entry-level hydrologist positions. Because of the Clean Water Fund, $80 million will go into water protection strategies over the next 17 years. “That’s a big niche BSU could fill. … What better place to train people in that field than here” in the Bemidji region. (Henry Drewes, Minnesota DNR)
  • Another field with opportunity is engaged species management, both in aquatic and wetlands. (Amy Westmark, assistant area wildlife manager, Minnesota DNR)
  • Clean energy is a source of a lot of new jobs, “and it’s not going away.” (Megan Fitzgerald, Headwaters Regional Development Commission)
  • The impact of agriculture on water quality and soil agronomy are important fields to consider and explore. For example, researchers are experimenting with multiple-species crops that keep soil covered throughout the year. (John Williams, Minnesota DNR)
  • The impact of climate change is an obviously increasing area of focus – “certainly clean water, soil health, agricultural sciences, even clean energy, are burgeoning fields that humanity needs.” (John Williams, Minnesota DNR)
  • Forestry is a bigger issue in the Bemidji region than agriculture. As the government increases harvesting of trees, “there are a lot of research projects to look at not only how trees come back, but soil health that depends on older trees or younger trees. … We need to maintain the forestry industry, but we also need to maintain the forest.” (Dave Rave, Minnesota DNR)
  • Study of the government and political environment is important as well. Some students have an idea that they “want to go into wildlife. Then they’re hit with the reality that they can’t just work in wildlife. There are also the people, the producers, the agriculturalists – or the person bothered by a raccoon in their house, whatever it might be. It’s not a one-size-fits-all thing.” (John Williams, Minnesota DNR)
  • An example of this is the issue of wolves. “Some people absolutely hate them; some people absolutely love them. And it comes down to whether they grew up on a farm where wolves killed their cattle or grew up in the city where wolves are a symbol of the wilderness.” (Dave Rave, Minnesota DNR)
  • “There’s no middle ground anymore.” (John Williams, Minnesota DNR)
  • The ability to listen is very, very important. “We truly need to be able to listen and communicate with people who may have different ideas and be receptive to their needs. … It’s a fundamentally important skill set.” (Brick Fevold, Mississippi Headwaters Audobon Society)
  • Echoing the point about communication and sensitivity, says public meetings “can go really badly” if don’t keep in mind aspects of social capital and issues framing. (Megan Fitzgerald, Headwaters Regional Development Commission)
  • Echoing the point about the importance of systems, graduates need to learn how to think critically about the models they’re using for the basis of action – including “different cultural platforms and applications.” (Brick Fevold, Mississippi Headwaters Audobon Society)
  • A knowledge of statistics is very important – not just simple but advanced. (John Williams, Minnesota DNR)
  • GIS is also increasingly important, as well as knowing how to manage budgets. (Dave Rave, Minnesota DNR)

TOPIC: Ways BSU can help those in the field

  • This coming fall will need students to help with research on chronic wasting disease in deer, talking to hunters at DNR stations, etc. Sometimes it’s difficult for students to meet some of the liability requirements. (John Williams, Minnesota DNR)
  • There are a lot of opportunities for students to become engaged in nonprofit environmental organizations in the immediate region. “We could come up with a half-dozen projects that students could immediately be put to task on with a lot of creativity and opportunity.” (Brick Fevold, Mississippi Headwaters Audobon Society)

2017 Listening Session Recap — Arts and Humanities

Facilitator: Dennis Lunt, assistant professor, Department of Humanities, and director of Leadership Studies
Crying Wolf Room, Bemidji State University

TOPIC: Desire to have academic arts programs restored and/or added at BSU

  • We would like to see strings brought back to instrumental music – “One of the things that draws people to our field is strings. It’s very attractive and important.” We also want to see the theater program brought back because it unites the symphony and choir. (Pat Mason, conductor, Bemidji Chorale)
  • “Theater opportunities abound” in the Bemidji region, but without a theater program at BSU, local theater companies are not getting the student participation they once did. The theater in Bangsberg is an excellent facility, even if it may need updating. BSU’s biannual opera performances are incorporating drama and music on the stage, “but the lack of a theatrical component is so telling. There’s a giant hole in the heart of our artistic community, and we would encourage you to do something about it.” (Kristine Cannon, board member, Bemidji Community Theater)
  • One consequence of the loss of the theater program is that in the past is we’re not getting those trained students coming forth to participate in community theater. Also, because of our collaboration, BSU in the past hosted and housed all of the actors in the summer for the Paul Bunyan Playhouse, but doesn’t do that now. “Last year the bill on that was $10,000, which is a big expense for a nonprofit.” (Season Ellison, board member, Paul Bunyan Playhouse, Bemidji)
  • We don’t have as great a relationship as we once did with the theater department to get grant applications from students and faculty. “That has fallen off since these cuts have been made.” There also seem to be fewer arts and cultural events on the BSU campus than in the past. “I don’t make it here (to BSU) to have that kind of richness lended to my community, so I find it elsewhere in the community, and I think that’s sad because the arts is a great way for a university to make a bridge with the community.” (Holly Alcott, grants manager, Region 2 Arts Council, Bemidji)
  • Pretty sure BSU is the region that the Bemidji area has such a good arts scene – thanks to rich resource of faculty, staff and students. When Visual Arts was removed as a separate department, there were fewer students attending the First Friday Art Walks and getting out into the community that way as a result. “We have lost a huge audience and a huge resource. … People are astounded by the amount of art we have in the community. I hope it doesn’t go away, because having a strong partner with the university was critical for us.” (Lori Forshee-Donnay, executive director, Watermark Arts Center)
  • I was a freshman in 1967 with an art concentration. There were a wide range of courses to choose from in the visual arts. “Bemidji was just booming with opportunities for kids to be involved, to write, to paint, to draw, to act. … We aren’t drawing the people that are very serious about art. … There are practical applications offered by TAD but in terms of accomplished artists and career artists, we’re not drawing the same kind of students to BSU. (Lorie Yourd, board president, Watermark Art Center)
  • I see the benefit of the literary arts coming from the English program, and we also see that with the music department. “We get grants for some really amazing connections between the community and BSU.” The TAD program is “very ill-defined in my mind. Not that it’s not strong unto itself, but doesn’t translate very clearly for me as a community member or as someone who is supporting people in the arts. … It’s not the individual faculty; it’s more the TAD department and how it sees itself and really what it is, I guess, compared to what it used to be.” (Laura Seter, executive director, Region 2 Arts Council, Bemidji)
  • I have a question about why TAD is part of the College of Business. “It may make good administrative sense, but to the community it says something about the value of art and design because business is so heavily stressed.” (Kristine Cannon, Bemidji Community Theater)
  • TAD is a very strong program, but we’re just not seeing the fine arts students coming out like before – “we’re not having that student aspect, that student component that we were also integrating into our programs.” (Lori Forshee-Donnay, Watermark Art Center)
  • You can’t measure the value of arts programs based solely on how many students choose them for a major because participation in the arts contributes to well-rounded students. “Even if music and theater are not going to be their majors, the ability to speak in front of a crowd, the confidence in speaking to other people, the outlet for the emotions – the arts are just very important in everybody’s lives, whether they major in them or not.” (Vicki Stenerson, vice president, Bemidji Community Theater)

TOPIC: Contribution of BSU to arts in the Bemidji area

  • People involved in and supporting the visual arts have a wonderful relationship with BSU. There is a reciprocity, with some things occurring on campus and some occurring at the Watermark Arts Center. Appreciate BSU’s funding of a gallery in the Watermark Art Center that will feature the Margaret Harlow ceramics collection and Lillie Kleven print collection. “That kind of support in the community is very much appreciated. We have worked very closely with BSU in preparing for this, … and it’s going to help Watermark survive and thrive.” (Lorie Yourd, board president, Watermark Art Center)
  • I see the benefit of the literary arts coming from the English program, and we also see that with the music department. “We get grants for some really amazing connections between the community and BSU.” The TAD program is “very ill-defined in my mind. Not that it’s not strong unto itself, but doesn’t translate very clearly for me as a community member or as someone who is supporting people in the arts.” (Laura Seter, executive director, Region 2 Arts Council, Bemidji)
  • A native of College Park, Md., who always felt a strong connection to the Maryland Terps, she has not felt the same connection to BSU living in Bemidji because of the relative lack of connections in the arts. She also mentioned the decline in awareness and participation in the international student event (Festival of Nations), which once was more of an active presentation of food and culture and more recently features students performing in English. “I really want to feel connected here and proud of being in the community with Bemidji State University, but there’s never been a real strong connection there.” “Participation in the arts humanizes us and makes us more complete. They are just as basic as math and foreign language skills. Music and the arts are so integral to who we are as human beings.” (Mary Auger, treasurer, Bemidji Symphony Orchestra)
  • By not having a more robust arts program, BSU is missing an opportunity to recruit students from the tribal communities “who don’t necessarily want to travel far and might think about coming here if they want to pursue a four-year degree.” (Karen Goulet, program director, Native American Gallery, Watermark Art Center, and art teacher at Leach Lake Tribal College)
  • Also are some missed opportunities in attracting high school students from the region to BSU. “There are some amazing programs in the arts.” (Lori Forshee-Donnay, Watermark Art Center)

TOPIC: Quality and contributions of BSU students

  • When they audition for Bemidji Chorale, they are very well prepared. “The kids that have come out of BSU are fabulous.” (Pat Mason, Bemidji Chorale)
  • Art/design student Hope Wall completed a branding and signage project for the Watermark Art Center. “She did a beautiful job, and it was a great learning experience for her. She had a client, she responded to our feedback and did a presentation to the committee and did an excellent job.” (Lori Forshee-Donnay, Watermark Art Center)
  • There is a core group of artists and designers, including Alice Blessing, now in their 30s and 40s who came here because of BSU and have stayed. “They are really interesting, really invested in the community and really interested in making change.” (Laura Seter, Region 2 Arts Council)
  • Many graduates have gone on to success. One former student when I was teaching mass communications at BSU 22 years ago was Jon McTaggart, now CEO with MPR/APM. “In that arena, our students from BSU have achieved a great deal of success and were very well prepared to contribute in the community at large, even if not in this particular community. (Kristine Cannon, Bemidji Community Theater)
  • One-third to half of all BSO board members are graduates or faculty and staff with BSU. The faculty are involved with the community in other areas. “That’s probably my strongest connection to BSU is being on the board with current or retired faculty members.” (Mary Auger, Bemidji Symphony Orchestra)
  • An inherent challenge in arts education at BSU is the lack of good-paying jobs in the region. “Whether it’s music, visual art or the performing arts, the number of paying jobs available to us are very few.” Students need to go to the Twin Cities or elsewhere to grow their careers. (Kristine Cannon, Bemidji Community Theater)
  • But the arts are growing in the region, and there are opportunity for administrative positions related to the arts in Bemidji and the surrounding area. (Laura Seter, Region 2 Arts Council)

TOPIC: How BSU can contribute more to the community

  • It would be helpful to have better information about how and where we can post information about events and programs on campus, and also to learn if there is some way to streamline it so it’s more consistent. (Lorie Yourd, Watermark Art Center)
  • There are definitely opportunities to increase awareness on campus about arts events in the community and to increase awareness in the community about arts events on campus. (Lori Forshee-Donnay, Watermark Art Center)
  • It would be good to have a way to share events on a university calendar. (Natalie Grosfield, regional office coordinator, MPR, Bemidji)
  • “A lot of students don’t know what’s happening in the community because they don’t have a way of knowing what’s happening out there.” (Mary Knox-Johnson, artist Gallery North, Bemidji)
  • More could be done to inform people involved in the arts of the resources and opportunities available at BSU, such as one-time use of a hologram on stage. (Mary Knox-Johnson, artist)
  • It would be helpful if groups had better information on who to contact about their events. It’s a missed opportunity in educating our students. “Being an engaged member of the community is a big part of a student’s education.” (Linda Seter, Region 2 Arts Council)
  • Overall, faculty and arts organizations need to develop stronger relationships. “Being able to find those connections and develop those relationships is important, and it has to be both ways.” (Lori Forshee-Donnay, Watermark Art Center)
  • It can be difficult to purchase tickets to BSU arts events because they can be only ordered online. (Pat Mason, Bemidji Chorale)
  • Continue to hold and support the summer theater camp for children held at Bangsberg. (Kristine Cannon, Bemidji Community Theater)
  • With agreement from former BSU President Hanson, Bemidji Community Theater has held rehearsals at Bangsberg for several weeks a year. But they have declined to act on another part of that agreement, which would allow BCT to hold performances at Bangsberg, because organizers do not believe they would be able to attract an audience there. They also anticipate it would be difficult to find suitable dates because of conflicts with use of the building by the BSU music department. (Ernie Rall, board president, Bemidji Community Theater)
  • Watermark Art Center hopes to enlist BSU faculty in a future lecture series that will accompany exhibitions at the center. (Lorie Yourd, Watermark Art Center)

TOPIC: How people and organizations in the arts can contribute to BSU

  • As adults, we can model interest and involvement with the arts beyond our area of focus. We’d like to see students from across the university become more interested and involved in all aspects of the arts, and that’s true for many of us as well. (Lorie Yourd, Watermark Art Center)
  • “Maybe the onus is on us to reach out and share more information and help ourselves.” (Natalie Grosfield, MPR, Bemidji)
  • BSU could take better advantage of artists in the Bemidji region by bringing them in to meet with students in fine arts courses. (Mary Knox-Johnson, Bemidji)
  • Bemidji Community Theater productions frequently pertain to real events in history. Performers might be able to benefit students by sharing their dramatic characterizations with students in relevant courses. (Kristine Cannon, Bemidji Community Theater)
  • Graduates within the community and beyond in a variety of arts and humanities fields can be invited back to campus to how their majors and preparation at BSU helped them be successful in their careers. (Vicki Stenerson, Bemidji Community Theater)

2017 Listening Session Recap — Trades, Manufacturing and Workforce Development

Facilitator: David Towley, assistant professor, BSU School of Technology, Art & Design
Location: Northwest Technical College

TOPIC: Employers in building trades seek prospects with strong “soft skills”

  • We look for people with a good work ethic, which is hard to train for. (Jamie Quello, Jamie Quello, Peterson Sheet Metal)
  • Students who work for a firm while attending NTC don’t necessarily made good permanent employees because they lack communication ability and work ethic. (Brian Kuhrke, Todavich Electric)
  • Many NTC graduates and other new employees demonstrate a lack of awareness of what the job required. They want to communicate via phone and use a computer, “but don’t know how to show up at 8 o’clock.” (Brian Kurhke, Todavich Electric)
  • We recognize that NTC has the same challenge – “I don’t know how you fix that.” (Sam Mason, manager, Beltrami Electric)
  • “They need to be able to stay on task all day not find 100 reasons why they need to leave.” (Sam Mason, Beltrami Electric)
  • New employees have difficulty following directions. They expect that they “get a vote, not just input.” They need to understand that they are welcome to share ideas – “but don’t necessarily expect them all to be implemented… You have fewer good people who are willing to learn. Maybe that it’s everybody needs to be an individual.” (Sam Mason, Beltrami Electric)
  • Lack of regimentation and structure in college sets poor example for workplace. Would prefer if students had more or less a full day of classes. What happens is that they have a class that starts at 10, “and they’ve gotten slack.” (Brian Kurhke, Todavich Electric)
  • Believe it would be best to hire people while they’re still in high school “so we can teach them how to work and what’s expected… It’s expensive when you do that.” (Brian Kurhke, Todavich Electric)
  • “It’s not the school’s responsibility to teach soft skills… It’s important for us as managers to help people outside of college. It’s a learned behavior.” (Trisha Newland, Trisha Newland, Knife River Materials Materials)
  • Quality of NTC graduates is more uneven than it once was – “Your top students are just incredible, but your worst students are horrible.” (Sam Mason, Beltrami Electric)

TOPIC: Strong core skills in a trade area are more important and valuable than more specialized knowledge

  • “I need for them to know how to hook up a three-way (switch? outlet?) before they install a solar system.” (Brian Kurhke, Todavich Electric) 

TOPIC: Specific skill areas needed and/or hired

  • Diesel automotive mechanics are needed by construction companies in the area. It’s not hard to fill office positions. 70 percent of hires are employee referrals, but not the case with diesel mechanics. (Trisha Newland, Knife River Materials)
  • Shortage of candidates for CDL-required jobs (commercial driver’s license). (Trisha Newland, Knife River Materials, and Tim Qualley, business services specialist, Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development (DEED), Bemidji)
  • Successful hiring BSU grads for project management. (Trisha Newland, Knife River Materials)
  • Need for nursing graduates. Hospitals have openings they can’t fill – and even harder for nursing homes because they can’t pay as much – “They’re scrambling to get anybody.” (Tim Qualley, DEED)
  • There’s a need for more tradespeople – carpenters, that kind of stuff. “Any of the building trades are really scraping for people. A lot of baby boomers are starting to retire, and they’re not getting people for those jobs.” (Tim Qualley, DEED)
  • Also demand for higher-tech jobs that require basic computer skills but can train for higher-level skills. (Tim Qualley, DEED)
  • When NTC had a carpentry program, graduates knew carpentry was what they wanted to do. Now start with 24 new employees “and end up with six.” (Mike Carom, carpenters union, Bemidji)
  • In carpentry union’s apprenticeship program, which runs for 2-3 years, there is a code of ethics class that covers such things as how to dress for a job site, proper language – “even down to body odors that offend people next to you.” (Mike Carom, carpenters union)
  • Students have more interest when there’s a value-added outcome such as a specific certification card – “like an OSHA card.” (Mike Carom, carpenters union)
  • Augmented reality/virtual reality not yet big in the Bemidji region. (Howie Zetah, Zetah Construction Co., Bemidji)
  • A son is in the NTC electrical construction program and doing well – “He said it’s pretty good. For him, that’s saying you’re great.” The son is married with child and has already worked in construction for three years. “He appreciates the opportunity of getting an electrician’s license to move him out of being that guy in the trench with a shovel.” (Sam Mason, Beltrami Electric)

TOPIC: Students would benefit from having a more realistic idea of job market before they graduate

  • Recommend a course that prepares them for reality of job market, regional wage levels – “A lot of the kids coming out of college expect seventy grand to start. That’s more like Minneapolis wages… We hire about 150 people a year, and every one who sits across the desk from me always has an expectation that’s not realistic.” (Trisha Newland, Knife River Materials)
  • Also could use better interviewing skills and understanding of what’s needed to find jobs and apply. (Trisha Newland, Knife River Materials)
  • Need to highlight for students that quality of life and more affordable housing are advantages of living in the Bemidji area. (Howie Zetah)

TOPIC: Ideas for improving quality of graduates and preparedness to be successful employees

  • “Can we look at better recruitment (by NTC), reaching out to the high schools and getting kids into the industry and see if we can get them excited… We’ve got to be realistic about pay… To find those kids is hard, but I think if NTC is really digging deep and sending people out to talk to kids – not just about carpentry but about all of the programs…  You’ve got to get the kids in here.” (Howie Zetah)
  • “A lot of the kids who get into carpentry are going to turn into project managers and start their own businesses. You never know where it’s going to take you.” (Howie Zetah)
  • “As a faculty person, I could get into the classroom, and maybe I’d be there for a whole day talking about all the programs the college offers. A recruiter can’t get into the classroom.” (Paul Nelson, NTC faculty, high-performance engine machining)
  • If we could get into shop classes once or twice a year and explain that trades are a good thing – “you can earn a good living.” (Brian Kurhke, Todavich Electric)
  • Consider asking recent grads who have a few years of success in the field to participate in recruitment. (Sam Mason, Beltrami Electric)
  • Invite employers to meet with students on the last day of class “rather than getting lost in a big job fair.” (Trisha Newland, Knife River Materials)
  • CTC in Staples does mock interviews for students – “they’ve had a lot of success with that.” (Trisha Newland, Knife River Materials)
  • Provide information about faculty directly to businesses so they can make a direct connection with them. (Trisha Newland, Knife River Materials)
  • Would be beneficial to offer course in family budgeting and bookkeeping – “I make X dollars; that gives me X dollars a month.” (Sam Mason, Beltrami Electric)
  • In seasonal trade fields, graduates need to understand that they might not be employed full-time year-round. (Jamie Quello, Peterson Sheet Metal)
  • Important for NTC to have representatives, including with the NTC Foundation, who are out in the community and can make connections with business people. (Howie Zetah)

2017 Listening Session Recap — Health Care, Wellness and Social Services

Facilitator: Tiffany Hommes, associate professor, BSU Department of Nursing
Community Commons, Northwest Technical College

Topic: Quality and preparedness of NTC and BSU graduates

  • We hire a couple hundred interns a year, including 80-100 for nursing. “We are so impressed with these interns. It’s hard to pick and choose because they are so great. Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.” (Kim Olson, director of Center of Learning at Sanford Bemidji)
  • On average, per year, we hire 50 RNs, 30 PNs and up to 100 CNs. “The quality of the students is very good. We just need to figure out how to make more classes available.” One of the concerns is retention. Would like to see more CNs and PNs, which are good prep to become LPNs and RNs. “Is there any way we (NTC-BSU?) could be offering classes to working students in the evening so they can work simultaneous to going back to school?” (Brian Mathews, vice president for human resources, Sanford Bemidji)
  • We thoroughly appreciate the nursing program, and we hire and employ a lot of nursing students. “Our problem is just getting enough. We’re struggling to get enough at all levels.” Our problem is how to recruit enough to take care of residents. (Brandon Bjerke, administrator, Havenwood Care Center, Bemidji)

Topic: What can NTC and BSU do to better serve the community?

      • We encourage the nursing programs to help educate about leadership and prepare nurses to be leaders and seek leadership opportunities. “Nurses are leaders in general, and there are so many opportunities in health care organizations, so maybe you could strengthen that … as a component of the curriculum.” (Kim Olson, director, Center of Learning, Sanford Health, Bemidji)
      • Even though the salaries don’t compete with those offered by Sanford, there is a need for community health nurses. I encourage the nursing program to consider the public health side of nursing. They play an important role in trying to help folks entering the health care system. “We have a hard time getting a good number of applicants for the small number of positions that open up.” (Cynthia Borgen, director, Beltrami County Department of Public Health)
      • We would like to see CNA be viewed and treated as more of a career-path opportunity. Our unions definitely agree with this need and objective. “How do we make the CNA job more of a career track and show people how they can progress from step to step? There are pieces missing in terms of education and job opportunities today. (Brian Mathews, vice president of human resources, Sanford Health, Bemidji)
      • Want to encourage students and faculty to consider CNA opportunities in smaller communities outside of Bemidji. Would like to establish better connections with the NTC programs to promote the advantages of a different kind of setting. “When you ask applicants about memory care or dementia, some haven’t had any exposure. They may have worked one time with a patient, but they aren’t really sure. So it wasn’t really brought out in the forefront through their experiences or in their clinicals.” (Gina Zubke, director, May Creek Senior Living Campus, Walker)
      • Because of increasing prevalence of dementia in the senior residential population, including many types of dementia, it’s important that memory care be included in the CNA curriculum as well. (Gina Zubke, May Creek Senior Living Campus, Walker)
      • Agree that there is a need for more focus on memory care in the CNA program. (Shirley Danielson, manager, Tamarack Court Assisted Living, Bemidji)
      • Because the Bemidji Boys & Girls Club serves about 200 youngsters a day, we would like to have nurse on site from 3-6 p.m. every day to help in the same way a school nurse does. Could we develop a relationship with nursing students, and maybe dental as well, to be a first line of health assessment and advice for these children? (Andrea Ohnstad, executive director, Boys & Girls Club, Bemidji)
      • We need a four-year program for early childhood education. The Bi-Cap Head Start program has eight sites throughout Beltrami and Cass counties. We employ a lot of two-year graduates from NTC, but the federal standards are changing and there will be more of a requirement for four-year teachers. We had to shut down for a couple of days because we didn’t have enough staff, and that is devastating for the low-income population we serve. “If you don’t have a teacher, you don’t have a classroom.”There are students at NTC who want to go onto get their four-year degree, but the only available program is at Mayville State in North Dakota. (Wendy Thompson, executive director, Beltrami Area Service Collaborative)
      • Because of the need for more young child teachers, we support the addition of night classes that will allow more students to attend. (Dana Patsie, childcare resources and referral, Mahube-Otwa Community Action Partnership, Park Rapids)
      • When students have to go to Mayville State, we lose a lot of prospective teachers. “The program at NTC is great, and (instructor) Pam Stowe does a marvelous job with getting those students as ready as she can. But the program is kind of resting on her shoulders.” Some students really do want to go on to a four-year program, and we need to be growing those opportunities. (Barb Moran, executive director, Bi-County Community Action Programs, Inc. (Bi-Cap), Bemidji)
      • We see a need for a master’s level social work program at BSU, and possibly a doctoral program as well. “We need to grow our own because we can’t recruit them in. We can pay what The Cities pay.” If they come here for their master’s, they’re more likely to stay here. (Jeff Lind, Beltrami County social services director)
      • We now have four social workers in master’s programs outside the Bemidji area. Once they get exposure to other areas, it makes it much harder to keep them. Having a master’s-level counseling and social work degree would be very advantageous, and it needs to include substance abuse disorders. Likewise, BSU could be a resource to provide the continuing-education credits that professionals need. Now, we sometimes have to close our offices so staff can travel to complete those credits. (Patrick Plemel, director, Upper Mississippi Community Mental Health Center, Bemidji)
      • In behavioral health, there is a shortage of psychiatric practitioners. We employ about 10 FTE social workers at Sanford Bemidji, but only a couple are LCSW, which is the license that makes them fully available from an operations perspective. It takes a long to achieve. “People stay here because they want to live here, and we need that kind of individual choosing to live in the lakes and the trees and willing to stay, otherwise we are putting a large investment in people, and they can make more money in Minneapolis, so they leave. (Joy Johnson, chief operating officer, Sanford Bemidji)
      • I would like to see students graduate with better critical writing skills. This is a piece of a larger need for soft skills to make students are prepared to work autonomously and exercise good judgment. Students “have high expectations of what they want and what they deserve and what they need. And students of the past didn’t necessarily have that same idea.” (Jeff Lind, director of Beltrami County Social Services Division, Bemdji)
      • Larger class sizes in some courses have made teaching writing and other soft skills more of a challenge. (Riki Scheela, emeriti BSU nursing faculty, Bemidji)
      • Although many financial workers in social services have a two-year degree, they have not received training in how to use the state DHS system. “That is a statewide issue. Every county has financial workers. We have about 35 employees who make a decent wage, 20-plus dollars an hour, I believe.” (Jeff Lind, Beltrami County social services)
      • The internship requirement of nursing could be a model for other programs as well. It would be great to see students in marketing and communications, physical education and other fields have the same kind of field experience. (Andrea Ohnstad, Boys & Girls Club, Bemidji)
      • One complication to providing internships is the need, at least in social work, to have a licensed social worker as their supervisor. Perhaps there’s an opportunity for BSU to help arrange someone from outside an agency who has that degree to supervise the student. (Jan Guggenheimer, retired professor of social work at BSU)
      • There could be an advantage in opting for a shorter-level practicum rather than a full-length internship because of the insurance requirements that come into play when people come in and out of our agencies. On the other hand, I could see the value of a formal apprenticeship arrangement for students who are contemplating human services as a career. (Patrick Plemel, Upper Mississippi Community Mental Health Center, Bemidji)

2017 Listening Session Recap — Business and Economic Development

Facilitator: William Graves, assistant professor, Department of Accountancy
American Indian Resource Center, Bemidji State University 

TOPIC: What has been your experience in hiring BSU and NTC graduates?

  • We have had a string of interns over the past few years, and they were in general well spoken, self-led and disciplined. “We offered two of them permanent jobs, “but they had opportunities they wanted to pursue before settling in Bemidji. … With some people, it’s hard to keep them down on the farm.” (Ryan Zemek, economic development director, Headwaters Regional Development Commission)
  • We had an intern who was going to stay on with us as a permanent hire, but when he finished the internship, he had job offers at accounting firms elsewhere in the United States. He wanted to do some traveling. It can be hard to keep talented interns. “At some point I hope comes back. We stay in touch with him.” (Leon Kremeier, area manager, Ottertail Power Co., Bemidji)
  • Most of the graduates we hire start at our call center. We have definitely been happy with the majority of people we have hired. We are open to a variety of majors and do not look for a certain GPA. We look for students are involved in a lot of activities, even if they have a slightly lower GPA, because they were active in leadership, sports teams or academic clubs and still were able to excel at a fairly high rate. Probably the biggest challenge are the people skills – it’s not necessarily BSU but more of a generational stereotype of thing, with a lack of work ethic and people skills. Another challenge has been keeping people in the Bemidji area because a lot of BSU graduates are from the Twin Cities. “They start in entry-level jobs and they want to move to the Metro. It’s a community challenge keeping people here who aren’t from the area. They’re in a hurry to make a change after three months.” (Corey Rupp, vice president of lending, Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union, Bemidji)
  • We hire graduates from BSU because we believe they are more likely to stay in the area. “BSU has provided us with excellent students. They are tech savvy, amazingly so it seems, the way they pick things up. They are generally, to some extent, well prepared.” We have seen a change in that the accounting graduates are less focused on earning their CPA. When I went to school there was a focus on taking and passing the CPA exam, and that’s much less true today. “That’s important to us because we’re looking for CPAs. If someone comes out of an accounting program and doesn’t take the CPA exam, they can’t stay with the firm long-term.” It’s harder to get graduates to take the exam once they’re out of college because of the time needed to prepare for the exam. So there are both fewer who take the exam and fewer who pass it. “Otherwise, the quality of the students has been excellent. “We hire good students, so they’re intelligent people, and they learn fast and are prepared, and they have the accounting knowledge that we expect. (Glen Lindseth, retired president Miller MacDonald accounting firm, Bemidji)
  • The interns I hired needed a little more direction than I thought they would. “In some ways I was surprised they knew so much about everything but sometimes not the small, little basics” such as how to write proper letters. It would appear they are not learning business etiquette, such as when they need to write structured letters to a vendor rather than sending an email. (Jennifer Johnson, owner, The Skin Company & Spa, Bemidji)
  • We also did not have the greatest experience in the intern we had. It would help if they had guidance on how to be more goal-oriented and have better time-management skills. “We can’t always be there.” (Roy Harvey III, chief operations officer, Red Lake Inc.)
  • When students (or new graduates?) are in the workplace, they’re used to having tasks set for them. They’re not self-led. (Justin Beaulieu, CEO/COO, Ogaakaaning Enterprises/Red Lake Gaming Enterprises)
  • The biggest gap we see is in the graduates’ level of management skills. “We have to rely on their natural ability to be leaders and managers, rather than having background and training in that area. … We are not are not as satisfied about the management skills of the (BSU graduates) as we would like to be.” (Hugh Welle, vice president, First National Bank, Bemidji)
  • The Bemidji area is in the biggest workforce crunch I’ve seen. Companies want to hire for character, and they’ll provide training for the skills if necessary. “It is a community issue of keeping talent here. There is a role that BSU and NTC can play.” I have seen that BSU students really aren’t aware of what local businesses are here. “There could be a more concerted effort by BSU and NTC faculty to get students out into the community. I’d be willing to be helpful with that.” He cited MARS as a program that has made a “significant move” in that direction. “The more you can do that as faculty, the better it is for our community.” (Dave Hengel, executive director, Greater Bemidji)

TOPIC: How do BSU and NTC contribute to the well-being of the community?

  • A major way the university contributes to the university is through the performing arts and athletics that serve as forms of entertainment and activity for the community. I realize that the cost of athletics is a “tough question for some faculty members, but I can tell you it is of huge significance to me and what we do to promote the community.” Also, don’t lose sight of the importance of providing talent to the region when we need it bad. “I’m not sure what the community would look like without the university. It would be hard to have economic development activity without the university. The university is one of the critical partners in being able to pilot things when we call on them, such as the possibility of establishing a “maker space” on the campus. “That’s one that could play a pretty significant role in terms of piloting things and trying things that are different.” Specifically mentions MARS in the Mayflower Building and adds that at the Launchpad space in the Mayflower, “young entrepreneurs love to connect with students. The university is also an important partner in terms of how we promote the region and the community. “We cannot be super successful without the university being successful. We are hand in glove, if you will, in terms of the future.”(Dave Hengel, Greater Bemidji)
  • Having BSU is what sets us apart from other regional centers in Minnesota such as Alexandria and Fergus Falls. (Ryan Zemek, Headwaters Regional Development)

TOPIC: What more can BSU and NTC do to benefit and support the Bemidji-area community?

  • The college and university can do more to learn more about the opportunities in the communities and match graduates to those positions. We have jobs that are going without applicants. (Roy Harvey III, Red Lake Inc.)
  • Encourage awareness of opportunities beyond Bemidji in the surrounding communities, such as Park Rapids. “I hear from a lot of those communities. They’re trying to figure out how to survive in a world where distance has been them at a disadvantage. … How can BSU and NTC be the region’s school and not just the Bemidji school? I don’t have all the answers, but it’s a question that needs to be explored.” (Ryan Zemek, Headwaters Regional Development)
  • I appreciate that BSU leadership continues to be at the table in terms of local business. Keep doing that. (Dave Hengel, Greater Bemidji)
  • We strongly support employees being involved in nonprofit organizations that are working to solve community problems and help neighbors who are less fortunate. Given the size of its workforce and their relatively higher than average wages, “I think the university (and its employees) could be more active in that area” of civic involvement. (Hugh Welle, First National Bank)
  • BSU people could do a better job of understanding what the community’s needs are and how they can apply their different skills to issues. (Ryan Zemek, Headwaters Regional Development)
  • I’d also like to see students become more involved in the community, not just BSU as an institution, because it can help them develop people skills, charisma and character. (Jennifer Johnson, The Skin Company & Spa)
  • We have seen over the past several years more cooperation and involvement from faculty, not just Career Services, so when we bring up challenges we can go to BSU for help. But would also like to have more contacts and stronger relationships with faculty so we know who to reach out to when we are looking to fill a particular job with someone who is well qualified. Maybe there could be some kind of “lunch and learn” or open house event where business people could get more acquainted with faculty. (Corey Rapp, Affiniity Plus Federal Credit Union)
  • Echoing the point, it would be helpful for businesses to have a clearer picture of whom they should call if they need to access university talent or resources. (Dave Hengel, Greater Bemidji)
  • Echoing the point, if you don’t already know someone at BSU to call, it’s pretty unclelar where you should start. (Ryan Zemek, Headwaters Regional Development)
  • Recommend BSU and NTC have periodic meetings between faculty and corresponding industries and employers so they can share feedback on what employers are really looking for in prospective hires. This is especially important at NTC because so much of the workforce skills gap “is in their wheelhouse” – “maintaining those industry groups in those areas, in those trades, is crucial to keeping those programs on target for what industry needs. … If a program’s not relevant, it’s not going to succeed. It’s all about training people where the needs are.” (Glen Lindseth, Miller MacDonald accounting)
  • Am surprised that NTC doesn’t have more of an impact in addressing the regional workforce shortage and needs. The bank works with a number of business owners who say they can’t find enough skilled employees and are forced to hire people with less than desirable backgrounds. In such things as truck driving or carpentry skills, “it seems like the college is the answer, and yet it hasn’t been. I don’t know if there’s an image issue. I do know that when the carpentry program was in place, they were not willing to teach students how to use the newest equipment because they didn’t have access to the newest equipment.” (Hugh Welle, First National Bank)
  • Long course blocks at NTC, versus shorter and more frequent courses, don’t promote good workplace habits because they lack regular structure. At NTC, “classrooms are sitting empty about 90 percent of the time. You walk through there, and if you’re a traditional student, you get a weird feeling when you walk through the building.” (Notes unclear on who said this)
  • NTC needs to do a better job of making sure students have the right equipment to teach students. They also need to provide good structure and emphasize the career and pay opportunities that are available to students when they graduate. When programs are relevant and students are in the building, you can develop a “sense of vibrancy.” Cites the Northland Community and Technical College aviation program in Thief River Falls as an example of one that works. Students, teachers and employers are all enthusiastic. “I think that’s missing at NTC.” (Bill Batchelder)
  • “I see a vision of the technical college that’s a job center. I think people will go to technical college as a job center, as an entry point to get a real job.” I can think of many companies and employers, from manufacturing to trades to health care, that have hiring needs and would endorse that idea. The high school academies approach can be a great thing for the technical college, and it’s moving in that direction. “The vision is pretty clear of what could happen, from my perspective.” (Dave Hengel, Greater Bemidji)
  • As an example of unmet workforce need, Ottertail has a chronic shortage of linemen. (Glenn Kremeier, Ottetail Power)
  • Part of the challenge is in reaching out to students and helping them be prepared for opportunities that are here. “You need to look at the fact that 22 percent are under the poverty level and another 26 percent are right at the poverty level (?), and they don’t’ have the normal life skills. Mentions Boys & Girls Club as one place that children are beginning to develop a skill set so they can grow up and provide for themselves. “Red Lake has similar issues. It’s hard to get kids to go to college. They don’t have family members who are going to college, so they don’t have that as a goal.” (Justin Beaulieu, Ogaakaaning Enterprises/Red Lake Gaming Enterprises)
  • Believe that of all the Minnesota State universities, BSU has the biggest percentage of first-generation college students. It seems that BSU could be building connections with students in lower-income communities. In places like Park Rapids, Mahnomen and agley, what are the needs for the workforce there? It’s not only a matter of reaching out and encouraging kids to learn a trade at NTC. “There also a huge preference there of kids who want to go to BSU, whose relatives went to BSU.” (Ryan Zemek, Headwaters Regional Development)
  • As the workforce gets older, and baby boomers transition into retirement, we need to get more people trained to fill those roles. We need to create college programs in things that students may be excited about, such as walleye and forestry, focusing on the things we already have going, but also in such areas as computer circuity and computer programming that will bring more dollar into the region. (Roy Harvey III, Red Lake, Inc.)
  • Following up, there are entrepreneurs who get together every Wednesday at the Launchpad space in the Mayflower Building. Most are BSU grads, and most are graduates of the industrial technology program. “We should be asking, what is it those students learned in industrial technology that leads them to start businesses, and are there things we can do, such as creating a fabrication maker lab, that people can do together that will encourage that activity.” (Dave Hengel, Greater Bemidji)
  • Unclear if this was in specific reference to BSU or NTC, but notes that the university (and college) can probably do more to reach out to local businesses and appeal to their compassion for the community in terms of contributing scholarship dollars to help low-income students. “People are very generous if they are asked if they want to do more.” (Corey Rapp, Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union)

TOPIC: Perceived threat of loss of local control for BSU and NTC versus being directed at the statewide level by the Minnesota State system.

  • We hear that there are excessive central office administrative costs for Minnesota State with duplication of functions that exist at the colleges and universities. “I’ve been told that the central office costs more to run than any one of the universities. … They occasionally come up here to visit, have coffee, shake hands and then they’re back to St. Paul.” (Bill Batchelder, Bemidji Woolen Mills)
  • Echoing concern about the loss of local control, “I wonder if there’s a role for our community in that conversation.” (Dave Hengel, Greater Bemidji)
  • BSU and NTC “need to be connected at the hip with area employers and workforce needs, and with some of that local control taken away by MnSCU, it doesn’t allow you to be fluid and responsive to local needs.” Because of the time and steps involved in program changes, for example, by the time you can make the change, the need or opportunity might be passed. (Ryan Zemek, Headwaters Regional Development)