Last Friday, Moore Holding Company hosted a gathering where West Fargo business and civic leaders spent some time with two new higher education leaders in the community, NDSU President David Cook and NDSCS President Rod Flanigan.

Moore Holding Company CEO Shane Waslaski and West Fargo Mayor Bernie Dardis moderated a panel discussion with the presidents to talk about how industry, government and education can work together to build an even brighter future for the people of our city, region and state.

Presidents Cook and Flanigan, who are both new to the area, introduced themselves to the gathered group. President Cook made an insightful comment about how “the future of higher education is all about how we work better and together with businesses and industry.” This set the tone for the event as the panel continued to discuss higher education’s role in supporting workforce needs and creating opportunities for education.

Dr. Rod Flanigan highlighted some statistics regarding current high school graduates and noted that 21% of recent grads are both unemployed and not attending higher education programs. He related this statistic to the great opportunity the community has in encouraging interest and enrollment in various programming. He noted that NDSCS offers numerous programs ready to meet the needs of the current workforce. He continued by suggesting that there are opportunities to build more programs, but we need students to make it happen.

Dr. David Cook expounded on another way we can build programs to support the workforce by discussing the idea of integrating business and industry into campus programming. Dr. Cook successfully expanded the innovation park at the University of Kansas, which houses 60 tenants. This concept helps to integrate curriculum with current technology and real-world issues facing various industries and their workers.

Dr. Flanigan briefly talked about the support that higher education has on the economy. He said the role of higher education in economic development is tied with providing what the workforce needs. This can be in programming and innovation. Dr. Flanigan shared a story of a student in NDSCS’s welding program who used a wheelchair. The student found accessibility and mobility was a challenge with the welding equipment, so the precision machining faculty designed and built this student a wheelchair that lifted and supported him, mitigating the mobility and accessibility challenges. This example not only represented NDSCS’s commitment to helping their students succeed, but it also shows avenues in which higher education programs can help to create innovative ways to support the workforce.

The session wrapped up with questions from the audience, which included funding issues and equal opportunities. Both presidents reaffirmed their commitment to our communities and building our workforce and shared their hopes for the future of higher education.

We appreciate this opportunity to get to know both Dr. David Cook and Dr. Rod Flanigan. The time spent with them was insightful and rewarding. We are also grateful for the strong community support we have in the FMWF area and look forward to continuing to help the area grow.

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