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Martin Tadlock

Bemidji State provost and vice president of academic affairs Tadlock to present work plan for coming year

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BEMIDJI — Martin Tadlock, Bemidji State University’s newly hired provost and vice president of academic affairs, has had no problem adjusting to Bemidji life. In fact, being here is like being home for him, allowing for an easy transition.

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“I know the university quite well,” Tadlock said. “Some things have changed, but it’s still BSU and it’s still Northwest Tech, and I still feel like I know the place quite well.”

The reason Tadlock has been so successful in the transition is because he has been here before, working at the university as the dean of the College of Professional Studies and School of Graduate Studies from 2001 to 2006.

Not only is he familiar with the area, Tadlock is also very familiar with the role of a vice president of academic affairs, as he had the title at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla.

Tadlock said both universities have similar goals as both are regional institutions focused on teaching, learning and regional development.

A native of a rural area of North Carolina, Tadlock grew up picking beans, cutting okra and hauling trees to the local paper mill to help support his family. College never really seemed like an option, because the resources were not there and his grades were not the best. He spent four years in the U.S. Air Force and was sent to Vietnam.

After his four years in the Air Force, Tadlock, then 22, enrolled at Utah State University. It was there that he developed an appreciation for college, not because of the coursework, but because of the faculty members who took an interest in him, treating him as a person and not just another number. It is through this experience that Tadlock shaped his mission through which he now promises BSU students that the faculty and staff will put education and students first, treating students as individuals, not just faces in the crowd.

Tadlock said that all public universities are facing the same kinds of issues, which is why he and the rest of the BSU faculty are working to develop the “New Normal,” a paradigm shift for higher education. To develop this “New Normal” Tadlock has five recommendations or areas of focus:

E The financial impact due to the decline in state support, the rising expectations of and rapid changes in technology, decline in public funding and the increased cost of tuition.

E The way universities utilize new technologies, specifically through the increase in online education.

E Universities cannot wait for the economy to bounce back so they can resort to old models of how to do things; the old models do not work and there is no returning to the past.

E Universities around the country are losing the transformative residential experience.

E It is up to the faculty and staff to decide what the New Normal will be for BSU.

Financial sustainability is an issue facing colleges and universities across the country. Tadlock said the university continues to look at finding a funding model that sustains the university without increasing the cost to students.

“We can’t continue to raise tuition,” Tadlock said. “Everyone knows we are at the break point where people can’t afford to continue to have tuition go up.”

BSU has taken strides to retain costs through recalibration and balancing the budget. President Richard Hanson continues to look to raise money through donors and sponsors, but Tadlock said there needs to be a continued push for the state to not further decrease funding.

“The big question will come; what is the extent of services that students have to have versus what they want to have?” Tadlock said. “There is a cost gap there.”

In addition to financial sustainability, Tadlock said he would like BSU to increase its international competitiveness by increasing the number of students studying abroad and building on relationships with universities overseas such as Weifang and Guangzhou universities in China.

Tadlock said he would like to see BSU enter an agreement with CIBT, a Canada-based education management company that would help recruit internationally in southeastern Asia to provide students with work abroad opportunities, expand study abroad opportunities and bring visiting scholars to BSU while in turn hosting BSU faculty abroad.

In his time at Northeastern University, the school sent four students to Weifang University and Guangzhou University. The students served as ambassadors for their university, promoting the CIBT Global Learning Center and encouraging students to study at their university. Tadlock said he would like BSU to do a similar thing.

Tadlock said if there is one thing that he would like to accomplish before he ends his educational career, it would be to have every student at BSU experience studying abroad before graduation without it costing them more than it would to stay on campus.

“My fear right now, and I think it’s real, is that people don’t understand the international arena and they don’t understand the impact of that,” Tadlock said. “They don’t understand that what happens over there and how it impacts us.”

Tadlock said the CBIT partnership would also help recruit more international students. BSU currently has 147 international students, a number he would like to see double.

While building relationships abroad, Tadlock also wants to focus on BSU’s relationship with the surrounding community. He said that faculty engagement in the community, regardless of where they live, is highly valued and is a key part of the faculty’s review process.

“It is about teaching and learning and research and service, but engagement in the community can be all about teaching and learning and research and service,” Tadlock said. “It can integrate into all of those areas.”

He would like to see more internship opportunities for students. The Neilson Foundation funded 14 internships in Bemidji last year. Tadlock said there were others, but he would like the number to increase into the hundreds.

Tadlock said one thing that has changed since he left BSU is the summer activity around campus. He said the summer credits being taken at the school are right where they were in 2006, but the difference is that 80 percent of those credits are now being taken online, making the campus appear much more desolate in the summer months.

He agreed that part of building on the relationship in the community is keeping students active during the summer months. He said in addition to local internship opportunities, having more summer events on campus would help entice students to stick around. He said BSU would like to hire an events coordinator who would work specifically on summer residential activities as well as events throughout the school year.

Tadlock is going to present the proposed work plan for the coming year to the faculty on Tuesday.

“Universities belong to students, faculty and staff,” Tadlock said. “It belongs to people, so if the Student Senate doesn’t like it, the faculty senate doesn’t like and the staff organizations don’t like pieces of it, then we have to have a conversation and rethink it. But this is where I would like to see it go.”

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