Lake Region State College has been a big part of Dr. Doug Darling’s life.

Lake Region State College has been a big part of Dr. Doug Darling’s life. In fact, it’s almost been a second home. That is why being named President of the campus after serving it for so many years is so rewarding.

“My heart has always been with this college. Every step of my career to date has prepared me to take this leadership opportunity, not just to become a college president, but to become Lake Region State College’s president,” he said.

Darling has been employed full time at LRSC for 21 of the past 24 years. He has held faculty positions in Marketing and Information Technology, served in staff roles of Public Information Officer and Director of Continuing Education, and in administration as Vice President of Instructional Services and interim President.  The three years he was not at the college he was Vocational Director of the Lake Area Career and Technology Center in Devils Lake and continued to be an instructor for LRSC part-time.

His degrees also support his passion for education. Darling holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing Education from UND, a Master of Science degree in Vocational Education from UND, and a doctorate of philosophy in Occupational and Adult Education from NDSU.

Now as Lake Region State College’s leader, Darling has the opportunity to write the next chapters in the college history. Darling hopes to carry on some longstanding traditions and explore new areas to allow the campus to excel.
“We’ve been building some great things at LRSC,” he said.  “Now, (with permanent leadership) we are positioned to move forward again,” he said.

The great groups of individuals that make up the faculty, staff, and student bodies at the college are ready to help the college continue to carry out its mission too, Darling said.

“For 71 years – ever since our first classes in 1941 – LRSC has successfully worked to enhance lives and foster community vitality through quality education. This is the essence of our college’s mission. It defines who we are and what we strive to be to our students, our community and our region.”

Today, as a comprehensive community college, LRSC has grown immensely, serving more than 3,000 students each year, from the recently graduated high school senior who is getting started to the adult learner seeking to jump-start their career.
The continued growth of students served has created a challenge for facilities in some program areas. That is why the Erlandson Technical Center capital project is so important to Lake Region State College, Darling said.

The project was listed as LRSC’s top facility need and also was included in the State Board of Higher Education’s capital project list. The center was included in the Governor’s Executive Budget, supported by the Senate, and is currently being reviewed in the House.  The project, if funded, would renovate and expand the current Erlandson Technical Center to better accommodate nursing, wind energy, automotive technology, electronics, and law enforcement programs.

“These programs have great graduation rates and the graduates live and work in North Dakota. We can do more with these programs, but we need more space,” Darling said.

The college’s nursing students pass their NCLEX exams and live and work in North Dakota. From 2006 to 2011, 88 percent of LRSC nursing graduates were placed in jobs in North Dakota.

The Peace Officer Training Program has had a huge impact on law enforcement in North Dakota.  Since 2002 it has graduated about 600 graduates, with 82% of them working for 93 different law enforcement agencies in North Dakota.
In an effort to make do with current facilities, many physical spaces have been optimized, Darling said. However, options for further tweaks are hard to find. An even greater concern is that when a new training need emerges the college must either close a program to make room or find resources to rent space off campus.

“The renovation and expansion of the Erlandson Technical Center will give our region the state-of-the-art technology training facility we need to meet the educational and economic demands in northeastern and north-central North Dakota. This project is not only critical to LRSC’s future – it’s critical to the region’s future.”

Lake Region State College is progressing with other initiatives as well. The Wind Energy project became a reality earlier this year when a 1.67 megawatt turbine was installed. The turbine assists the college in energy costs savings while providing a live lab for wind energy technology students.

The college also is moving forward with its $2.99 million Department of Labor Grant. Lake Region State College, through its Dakota Precision Ag Center, a center of excellence, will develop and deliver technical training in precision agriculture technologies. The grant targets workers eligible for training as a result of unfair foreign trade that has caused job loss or threatened job loss.

Darling is optimistic about statewide plans such as the North Dakota University System’s Pathways to Student Success.  The plan focuses on student retention and completion. A new college funding model proposed by the governor would also bring Lake Region State College to a more equitable funding formula as other community colleges in the state.

“We’ve done a great job of getting students here and educating them. We want to make sure we are helping them reach their goals, ensuring they complete a degree, and assessing our quality. We must constantly work on continuous improvement.”

There will be a community reception to welcome Darling into his new position later in April.