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Fargo’s College Town Atmosphere

Higher education institutions enhance quality of life

By Stephanie Stewart-Howard on August 17, 2015

People gather under the marquee at the Fargo Theatre
Fargo / J. Alan Paul Photography

The Fargo-Moorhead area is home to North Dakota State University, Minnesota State University Moorhead, Concordia College, and several other institutions, including the Fargo campus of the North Dakota State College of Science, Minnesota State Community and Technical College, private Rasmussen College, the University of Mary and Globe University Minnesota School of Business. Collectively, these colleges serve well more than 25,000 students.

The presence of all these places of learning brings more than a school-year collection of new, temporary residents: Colleges impact a community culturally and economically, bring in future residents and entrepreneurs, and provide myriad advantages that raise the quality of life for residents across the board. For example, NDSU alone has an $884 million economic impact annually.

Cultural Implications

“The contributions of the university community are many, and they’re fundamental to life here,” says David Wahlberg of MSUM. “When you look at the national indicators, having a college in the area adds to culture, quality of life and livability for all residents.”

Wahlberg points to the football, basketball and other athletic teams that get the area fired up each sports season, and NDSU’s Media Relations Coordinator Sadie Rudolph says the university football team’s four Divisional national championships keep fans excited.

Fine arts, theater, music and dance events are also open to the public beyond the university community. In particular, Wahlberg notes the summer Straw Hat Players at MSUM.

“They’ve built a reputation across the upper Midwest since the early 1960s. Now they perform five to seven shows a summer and also provide an opportunity for students to receive college credit for working on productions.”

John Miller, director of performing arts at NDSU, concurs on the importance of colleges’ cultural impact on the area.

“The arts blend all the best aspects of NDSU and the community — performing and fine arts events where both the university and the community are participants, as well as sponsors and audience members.  I have yet to be in another community where there is such a great interaction in the variety of age groups and events.  Dozens of NDSU as well as community theater productions, music performances and art exhibitions contribute to this vibrant atmosphere.”

Concordia College and its renowned Concordia Languages Villages Program are recognized leaders in global education. All Concordia College students learn one or more of nine world languages, and nearly half study abroad.

Business and Education

Beyond the cultural, students and departments at all the schools impact the area economy in various ways. Both NDSU and MSUM have solid education departments that provide a supply of strong teachers across the region. Indeed, while NDSU began as a land grant university, MSUM started as a “Normal School” – a teacher college.

NDSU, a highly regarded research institution, is among only 108 universities in the elite “Research Universities/Very High Research Activity” classification tier established by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.

All three large colleges have a relationship with the burgeoning tech industry in the Fargo area, which has been referred to as a Midwestern alternative to Silicon Valley.

“We turn out a lot of graduates that appeal to the tech industry,” Wahlberg says. “MSUM makes a practice of meeting annually with different industry groups for breakfasts where we talk about what they need – technology, education, banking and finance, and so on. We sit down and brainstorm what we need to teach to prepare students best.”

Rudolph echoes this sentiment, pointing out the ways NDSU’s MBA program has grown to meet the substantial needs of the regional market and increased its accessibility for students, from internships to online learning opportunities. She adds the engineering and accounting departments particularly have seen steady growth. The university’s strong extension programs, meanwhile, extend education to North Dakota residents of all walks of life across the state on topics like agriculture and community development.






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