Scott Beaulier, the fifth and final candidate to be considered for the position of University of Idaho provost and executive vice president, said he will put students first if he is selected for the post.
Beaulier, the current dean of business at North Dakota State University, said in a virtual public forum Thursday the UI and NDSU share more than a few similarities. For one thing, he said, both are land-grant institutions in a largely rural state, the two schools have student bodies around 12,000 and 13,000 people, and both prioritize access and affordability.
A first-generation college graduate himself, Beaulier said his experience has helped guide his efforts related to access.
“When I think about what I offer you all as a candidate … the key point of differentiation for me is that this story right back here is what motivates me every day of the week and twice on Sunday,” Beaulier said. “How do we drive academic success — not for the kid who’s your student government president, not for the honors college kid who had a lot of opportunities besides the University of Idaho — but for the average kid?”
As a dean at an institution that is one of the UI’s peers, Beaulier said issues that affect both schools have much in common. He said to his mind, there are three key challenges facing institutions like the UI. Chief among these challenges, he said, is a prediction that colleges nationwide will face steep drop-off in enrollment by the year 2026.
“The enrollment cliff that we all are familiar with and we know is coming, is in fact coming and what are we going to do about it as an institution — that’s issue one that has to really be grappled with,” Beaulier said. “Issue two is the University of Idaho … is at risk of being left out in what is becoming more and more a knowledge economy-driven workforce, and a knowledge economy geographic choice as to where people want to live.”
Beaulier said the UI and the surrounding region will have to identify ways to attract students with exciting, forward-thinking educational opportunities or else risk being left behind.
He said the third challenge facing schools like the UI is integrating technology into instructional strategies. He said more and more frequently, universities are having to meet students where they are with online resources, and the pandemic has only accelerated the necessity of this adoption. Once pandemic conditions subside, he said NDSU will likely keep some of its programs online.
He said this is also another way for schools like the UI to bolster access — lower-income and disenfranchised students will sometimes have an easier time accessing an online product rather than having to move and make significant life changes to attend college.
Beaulier said student experience and access is a key pillar to his role as a leader in a land-grant institution.
“My north star … goes back to the student — these students as the core of everything we’re doing,” Beaulier said. “Putting them at the center and always asking ‘is this good for the student? Is this the right thing to be doing for the student?’ can actually result in an embarrassment of riches for your institution.”
Beaulier is the fifth and final candidate to host a public forum in pursuit of the post of UI provost and executive vice president.
The Daily News will publish a profile of Andrea Golato, dean of Texas State University’s graduate college, on Saturday. Golato’s public forum took place Nov. 13 and will be available to review on the UI’s website today.
An online feedback form for candidates will be posted after each candidate forum on the UI’s website.
Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to email@example.com.