John Hoffman assumes new role as BSU, NTC president
John Hoffman’s first few days as Bemidji State and Northwest Technical College president kicked off the first “season” of his new tenure.
Being named the new president during a March 16 meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Minnesota State System of Colleges and Universities, Hoffman’s appointment began Friday, July 1.
“It was a great first day,” Hoffman said during a July 1 press conference. “The first ‘season’ I’m looking at is the first three months. The first 100 days of my presidency I envision as a season of listening.”
Taking on the responsibility of leading a four-year university and two-year technical college, Hoffman noted the opportunity for collaboration between the two institutions.
“The two institutions have more in common than they realize and at the same time are more different than they realize. That sets up for a rich collaborative relationship,” Hoffman said.
First things first
As part of his immediate work, Hoffman aims to address two facets of higher education at both institutions: enrollment challenges and ensuring greater student success.
According to former BSU and NTC President Faith Hensrud, BSU has seen an enrollment decline of roughly 1,000 students since 2018. NTC saw a loss of students in the first year of the pandemic, but their enrollment has since increased again.
“The best way to solve your enrollment challenges is to first ensure that students who come to you are successful, and second, ensure there is equitable success among students and use that momentum to help build enrollment,” Hoffman detailed. “And that takes time. It’s not going to happen in a year.”
He emphasized the importance of enrollment being rooted in equity and inclusion, another part of ensuring student success and an area he focused on throughout his previous role as vice chancellor for academic and student affairs at the University of Minnesota - Crookston.
Assuming duties as the senior vice chancellor in 2021, he overhauled enrollment management functions and co-authored the University of Minnesota system-wide strategic enrollment management plan.
Other previous work included implementing multifaceted student success programs credited with increasing student success and retention rates, reducing the first-year retention rate disparities between Black and Indigenous students, and students of color and their white counterparts, and increasing performance on two-thirds of core learning outcomes for all students during their first year of college.
Using an analogy about Lake Bemidji, Hoffman described the outcomes of supporting various diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
“We can have individuals sitting on different corners of Lake Bemidji, and we can get into battles about who has the best view of the lake or who knows more about it,” he said. “Or we can engage with one another and ask the question, ‘how do we collectively learn and know more about the lake from different vantage points?’”
The next season
Hoffman credits Hensrud, who announced her retirement plans in August 2021, for aiding him in his transition from Crookston to Bemidji.
“Hensrud has been exceedingly generous with her time, and I cannot thank her enough for that or for her work over the past six years,” Hoffman said.
Referencing collaboration with Hensrud’s former presidential cabinet, interactions with tribal nations and the BSU/NTC strategic plan for 2018 to 2023, Hoffman looks forward to the next seasons of his presidency in terms of forging community relationships and putting thoughts into action.
“If the first 100 days become a season of listening, the next 100 days can become seasons of planning and then putting plans in place,” Hoffman mentioned. “BSU and NTC have a strong history of engaging the community, but we’re coming out of two years of a pandemic.
“As we shift into more of an endemic, it’s going to be critically important that we reach out to nonprofits, to schools, to tribes, and that we engage with folks to build those interconnections.”
For these actions and many more, Hoffman will have his family alongside him.
“I’m really looking forward to the community meeting (my wife) Dr. Joy Hoffman. She is the part of our family that’s really impressive,” Hoffman added lightheartedly. “We’re coming as a family. It’s fun to be able to do this together in this season, this chapter of our lives and we’re excited to get to know the community in the weeks, months and years to come.”
Prior to his start at the University of Minnesota - Crookston in 2018, Hoffman held a variety of faculty and administrative positions within the California State University System between 2004 and 2018 including being the chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and director of the Doctor of Educational Leadership Program.
Over the span of 10 years at California State Fullerton, he earned tenure and advancement to full professor, and his leadership contributed to significant diversification of the faculty, enrollment growth including increases in the racial and ethnic diversity of students and enhanced graduation rates with no measurable achievement gaps by race or gender.
Prior appointments include service as dean of students at Concordia University Irvine from 1998 to 2004, multiple student affairs roles at Concordia University St. Paul from 1995 to 1998, and a year of service as a major gifts officer at Concordia University Nebraska from 1994 to 1995.
He holds a bachelor’s degree from Concordia University Nebraska and a master’s and a doctorate from the University of Minnesota.