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Gov. Burgum names members to ND higher education task force

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. Blake Gumprecht / The Forum

BISMARCK — Gov. Doug Burgum has appointed members to his task force to study North Dakota's higher education governance structure and help public colleges and universities better meet the state's "educational and workforce needs."

The 14 task force members, announced Thursday, Dec. 21, were selected from a pool of more than 230 applicants, which Burgum said reflected "intense interest" and "demonstrates the passion North Dakotans feel toward their higher education system."

Burgum will lead the task force. He has been an outspoken advocate for a more nimble higher education system that is able to adjust quickly in the face of pressures brought by technological changes and the needs of an evolving workforce.

"This group represents a wide range of backgrounds and expertise that will ensure a thoughtful assessment of our nearly 80-year-old governance structure and whether the higher education system is operating at its full potential to prepare students for success in a world undergoing rapid technological disruption," he said.

The North Dakota University System, comprised of 11 colleges and universities serving 45,000 students, is overseen by the eight-member State Board of Higher Education.

The task force is expected to present recommendations to the North Dakota Legislature in 2019. The 14 members in addition to Burgum, a graduate of North Dakota State University and Stanford University, are:

• Gerald VandeWalle, chief justice of the North Dakota Supreme Court.

• Don Morton, chairman of the State Board of Higher Education, a retired Microsoft executive and former head football coach at North Dakota State University.

• Sen. Brad Bekkedahl, R-Williston, a dentist and finance commissioner on the Williston City Commission.

• Sen. Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford, a retired teacher.

• Rep Shannon Roers Jones, R-Fargo, an attorney for Roers Companies. 

• Ellie Shockley, institutional research analyst at Bismarck State College and a former postdoctoral fellow at the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center.

• Rep. Mike Nathe, R-Bismarck, a funeral home owner and former chairman of the House Education Committee.

• Paul Markel, professor of psychology at Minot State University and former president of the Council of College Faculties.

• Angie Koppang, vice president of quality assurance for AdvancED, a nonprofit that conducts reviews of educational systems and institutions, from Alpharetta, Ga.

• Jonathan Sickler of Grand Forks, chief legal officer for AE2S, an environmental and civil engineering consulting firm.

• Tim Flakoll, provost of Tri-College University in Fargo-Moorhead, chairman of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact and a former state senator.

• Thomas Erickson, chief executive officer of the Energy & Environmental Research Center at the University of North Dakota and a chemical engineer.

• Jeffry Volk, president and chief executive officer of West Fargo-based Moore Engineering.

• Katie Mastel of Bismarck, a marketing major and student body vice president at NDSU.

Patrick Springer

Patrick Springer first joined the reporting staff of The Forum in 1985. He can be reached by calling 701-241-5522. Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to

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