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Hanson begins his first year as BSU-NTC president

Richard Hanson

He has more height and build than half the players on the Bemidji State University football team and yet there's still a good chance new BSU-NTC President Richard Hanson will be carried off into Lake Bemidji should the team win their Homecoming football game this fall.

"My wife and I had supper with the football team the other night, and I wanted to give them some incentive," Hanson said, grinning, during an Aug. 19 interview. "I have a feeling I'll be in the lake at some point. And that's fine. It will be a lot of fun."

Having completed his first month as president of BSU and Northwest Technical College, Hanson is ready to take on his new role. While he said he feels confident about achieving his future tasks, he still has yet to feel completely at home in his new office on the third floor of Deputy Hall.

Other than his prized Macintosh computer on his desk top, at first glance, one might not know for sure if the president has really moved in yet.

"I'm bringing paintings from home that I'm going to put up on the walls in the office, just to class up the joint," he said, looking around.

To his defense, the office walls are bare for a reason. He's been outside learning the community, campuses, people and all the acronyms, what he calls the most difficult part of the job so far.

Hanson said he wants students to know eventually there will be open office hours available where students can stop by to chat.

"I want to welcome students up here. This isn't a scary place," Hanson said.

While it is clear Hanson is focused on achieving big goals, he is not as predictable as one might think. For example, he said he doesn't drink coffee or alcohol. He's not into golf. And he's not into Twitter, Facebook or blogging.

"People ask me about Facebook and I say 'narcissism.' It's a little too 'me-focused' and it makes me feel uncomfortable," he said. "My daughters ask me, 'Why don't you join?' but I say no way. Maybe if I was 25 years old I would."

Hanson said he is excited about his new job, but is also cautious.

"None of us know the impact of the state budget situation," Hanson said. "There's stuff happening around the state that's a little bit disconcerting. We cannot afford to drop any programs. We need to get students here. Recruiting and retention are very important for us. So we have to be very careful."

In talking about what he will likely be busy doing this year, Hanson said he will be watching the state budget very closely. According to him, between the budget issue, academic program development, and building the relationship between BSU and NTC, he will have lots to do.

"I will not be bored," he added.

Hanson said he is pleased to see enrollment at both institutions has been good. Enrollment is up 8 percent at BSU, he said, and NTC's enrollment remains unchanged from last year's numbers.

"We are plump full," he said. "Enrollments are good, but it's an economic recession and enrollments are always good in a recession."

Hanson said while it's nice to be on campus, his new job means spending a lot of time in St. Paul.

"We have a fairly active (Minnesota State Colleges and Universities) system," he said. "I have a lot to learn. It's a little bit daunting and a little bit overwhelming. It's a big system."

At home Hanson said he is still unpacking boxes in his newly purchased home located on the north end of town.

"Bemidji is a wonderful place," he said. "We felt welcome here. The university and the college have been warm, supportive, understanding and forgiving. There's a lot I don't know."

Hanson reflected on a few reasons why he wanted to be president of BSU and NTC.

"This is a very special place. It's a jewel. Our emphasis on sustainability is exciting and useful and important," he said. "I believe the future of BSU and NTC lie at the intersection of continuous quality improvement and innovation."

Thoughts on the Events Center

Hanson said of all the new information he has learned so far about Bemidji, one building he has found particularly interesting is the Bemidji Regional Event Center.

"I keep telling people, 'The smartest thing you've ever done was create that facility because that will be an economic engine,'" Hanson said. "I'm very excited about that. Building that was a huge risk. People don't like to have taxes, but you'll get your taxes back instantaneously as long as they book it with other things."