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Richard Hanson: Reinventing Northwest Technical College

Northwest Technical College has served northern Minnesota since 1967, preparing thousands of students for career opportunities and successful lives. NTC has served the region in a variety of disciplines and subject areas.

Keeping pace with the needs of students and employers has spurred the continual evolution of the college, which began in the early 1960s as Bemidji Area Vocational Institute and grew to become a leader in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (MnSCU).

This evolution and adaptation has for the most part been incremental, such as the offering of an increasing number of courses via the Internet. At other times, change has been more dramatic, such as when Northwest Technical College became a separate and distinct institution in 2003, or when NTC formally aligned with Bemidji State University in 2004.

Now we are embarking on another transition to ensure that the school continues its proud tradition of contributions to the economy and quality of life in the greater Bemidji area. This time, our expectations for transformation are so high that we are calling it a “reinvention” of the college. We intend to make strategic and substantial improvements in both our academic programs and community partnerships in order to much better meet the needs of our constituents and much better connect NTC to the region.

This process is in step with a MnSCU initiative called “Charting the Future,” which calls on the system’s 31 colleges and universities to, among other things, do a better job of meeting Minnesota’s workforce needs. In pursuit of that goal, we have organized a special task force of NTC faculty, staff and students to invent a relevant and high-capacity mission for the college.

Between now and this spring, this group will assess NTC’s strengths and weaknesses, listen to regional employers and other community stakeholders and consult with higher education experts regarding how NTC can become a center for exciting and strategically important programs and services in the Bemidji community and northern Minnesota. The assignment for the task force is to recommend a plan to me, as president, which will ensure that the college remains highly attractive as an educational institution and highly relevant as a training institution.

If that sounds dramatic, it’s meant to. I have challenged the task force to undertake a comprehensive assessment and literally put everything on the table. The outcome is hard to predict, and changes that result will inevitably be disruptive as instructional programs are added or eliminated and the college’s most meaningful roles are considered.

Our commitment for the future is simple, however: The institution known as Northwest Technical College will maintain a strong and independent identity. It will have a healthy and sustainable financial model, grounded in educational relevance. And it will meet the changing needs of students of all ages and prepare graduates who are ready to contribute to the Bemidji-area economy.

The aim is clear. I look forward to receiving the task force’s recommendations, and I thank the Bemidji community in advance for its contributions as together we shape NTC’s bold tomorrow.

Dr. Richard A. Hanson is president of Northwest Technical College and Bemidji State University.

DR. RICHARD A. HANSON is president of Northwest Technical College and Bemidji State University.