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BSU unveils five-year strategic plan

BEMIDJI -- BSU leaders released Wednesday the school’s completed five-year strategic plan.

Faith HensrudThe plan puts a premium on “distinguishing themes of place”; engaging more with American Indian students and communities; getting more students involved in campus life; embracing diversity and welcoming all people; and “infusing” civic engagement, multicultural understanding, commitment to liberal arts and environmental stewardship into all academic programs.

Those priorities are identical to the five presented in a draft plan circulated among university leaders in the fall, and BSU spokesperson Scott Faust said the final plan doesn’t differ in any substantive way from the draft.

Under the strategic plan, university leaders hope to create new programs and initiatives that emphasize the school’s physical location, character and culture.

They’ll also aim to double the number of chances students have to learn in nearby tribal communities and add hundreds of new non-white -- particularly American Indian -- and international students. Less lofty goals include bumping student attendance at art exhibits and plays; adding weekly art or social activities; scheduling at least one talk or event for students per semester per academic department; seeing more positive responses on the school’s campus climate surveys; and opening a diversity center on campus by the coming fall.

The strategic plan was finalized in mid-December and presented to BSU faculty and staff Wednesday morning. It went into effect two days before, on Jan. 1.

“This is not a plan that will sit on a shelf,” BSU President Faith Hensrud said in a press release. “It will be reviewed regularly for progress and adjusted should external factors require us to make changes.”

What has been added in the final document: financial projections for the plan, which covers 2018-2023. BSU leaders estimate they’ll spend nearly $1.5 million implementing it over the next five years. $400,000 of that would go to a “comprehensive brand assessment” and “brand-oriented advertising campaign, primarily in digital media.” Starting in 2020, $75,000 is budgeted annually for an outreach and recruitment position under the school’s American Indian student recruitment plan.

The plan also calls for nearly $450,000 to recruit “underserved” students and create programming to retain them, which includes hiring a recruiter this fall.

And a few miles south of the university, staff at Northwest Technical College are working on a new strategic plan of their own that could reshape their programming for years.

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education and health for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He is a Minneapolis native and a 2009 graduate of St. John's University. Before moving to Bemidji, Bowen covered education, local politics, crime, and everything in between for the Perham Focus in Perham, Minnesota, and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis.

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