North Dakota announces applicants for Board of Higher Education

The eight-member board oversees the North Dakota University System, which includes the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University.

north dakota university system.jpg
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BISMARCK — North Dakota announced on Tuesday, May 3, the names of the candidates applying for two open positions on the board overseeing the North Dakota University System's 11 public colleges and universities.

The Board of Higher Education will have two vacancies after the four-year terms of current members Jill Louters and Danita Bye expire on June 30. Both have applied and are candidates for a second term.

The eight-member board oversees the North Dakota University System, which includes the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University. The state's University System has an approximate annual enrollment of 61,000 students and biennial budget of nearly $2.7 billion, according to the Department of Public Instruction.

Gov. Doug Burgum appoints Board of Higher Education's voting members, and the new appointees will begin on July 1. One student also serves a one-year term on the board. The candidates announced on Tuesday were screened by a state nominating committee, which Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler chairs.

The candidates for the two open seats are:


  • Mary Aaland — Fargo, a professor of surgery and director of the Rural Surgery Support Program at the UND medical school.
  • Curtis Biller — Fargo, principal business consultant for Stengths Inc. and partner in Northern Plains Business Advisors.
  • Kevin Black — Minot, CEO of Creedence Energy Services.
  • Danita Bye — Stanley, business consultant.
  • Sabina Gasper — Bismarck, Director of health economics and outcomes research at Alkermes Inc.
  • Blaine Huff — Donnybrook, a farmer, rancher and trucking company operator.
  • Erika Kenner — Leeds, a farmer and rancher.
  • Robbie Lauf — Bismarck, Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library's programming and partnership director.
  • Jill Louters — Sheyenne, New Rockford-Sheyenne Public Schools superintendent.
  • Stan Schauer — Bismarck, Department of Public Instruction assessment director.
  • Jennifer Withers — Bismarck, Department of Public Instruction program administrator.

North Dakota also announced the candidates for the Board of Public School Education on Tuesday. This board oversees the development of a state learning continuum and career and technical education programs.
The seven-member board will have two openings for members representing many of the state's western counties. The governor appoints six of the members, and Baesler is the seventh.

Candidates for seat overseeing Adams, Billings, Bowman, Dunn, Golden Valley, Grant, Hettinger, Mercer, Morton, Oliver, Sioux, Slope and Stark counties:

  • Jeff Fastnacht — Mandan, Mandan Public Schools assistant superintendent.
  • Lori Furaus — Mandan, Mandan School Board.
  • Marcus Lewton — Dickinson, Dickinson Public Schools superintendent.
  • Mike McHugh — Mandan, North Dakota Aeronautics Commission education coordinator .
  • Jennifer Steiner — Golden Valley, rancher, Lone Tree School District board member.

Candidates for seats overseeing Burke, Divide, McKenzie, Mountrail, Ward and Williams counties:

  • Steve Holen — Watford City, McKenzie County School District superintendent.
  • Eric Nelson — Williston, Creedence Energy Services technology director.
  • Mark Vollmer, Minot, Minot Public Schools superintendent.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at

Michelle (she/her, English speaker) is a Bismarck-based journalist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and Report for America, a national service organization that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered topics and communities.
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