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Stop with the frigid, cold wasteland already! July 18, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, societal commentary.

This article about North Dakota colleges being a great deal showed up in the Wall Street Journal.

I had a few thoughts, and it seems easiest to just give you a bulleted list.  So here goes.

  1. Duh!  Although I didn’t realize it when I first went to college, the quality of education is not significantly different from most other places.  In fact, my experience suggests that the biggest difference is that most of the teachers care more at places like NDSU than at higher ranked universities.  (Perhaps this is because a lot of the students from North Dakota are from rural backgrounds and may not have had the opportunities available to high school students elsewhere in the country.)  However, because the North Dakota University System doesn’t charge big bucks, it doesn’t quite get the recognition it deserves.  Also, because it’s in North Dakota.
  2. People think North Dakota is inherently a cold, desolate wasteland.  For instance, in the article, “No place has proved more popular with bargain-hunting nonresidents than flat, cold, landlocked North Dakota.”  Hello?!  It’s been in the 90s with over 70% humidity for the past week.  Just because it gets cold for a couple months in winter doesn’t mean it’s always like that.  In fact, the majority of the time, it’s not that cold…and is, in fact, far warmer than I really like it.  And those cold winter months – well, we have heaters.  (And we have a wide variety of energy sources, like coal, gas, and wind power to run them.)
  3. Another comment in the article: “City leaders say that its image finally is recovering from the Oscar-winning 1996 film “Fargo,” which described it as “the middle of nowhere.”  Did we have to bring it up AGAIN?  I wish they’d named the movie “Minnesota”.
  4. “In the National Science Foundation’s rankings by federal research expenditures—a key measure of prestige for research universities—North Dakota State and University of North Dakota each jumped ahead of more than 30 other institutions over the past 11 years, to the 147th and 143rd spots, respectively.” Later in the article, they point out that “the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education reclassified the school as a “very high research activity” institution, placing it among the nation’s top 108 private and public universities.”  Now admittedly, jumping from 170+ to 140+ isn’t as big a leap as moving from 140 to 110…but it’s not an insignificant change, especially within a decade!  I think it’s even more surprising given ND universities don’t have the type of infrastructure and resources available at other similarly-ranked and especially higher-ranked institutions.  But no one seems to know this except people in North Dakota.
So those are the thoughts that pop out at me.  Mostly, I am tired of reading about the stereotypes about my cold, land-locked state.  I get tired of people thinking that North Dakota is the middle of nowhere, that there’s no culture here, that it’s a lifeless existence.  And mostly, I get tired of people asking if we really do talk like that in the movie.


1. Miss MSE - July 18, 2011

My undergrad, SnowTech, was also in a frigid, cold wasteland (for most of the academic year), though not in North Dakota.

1)In comparing SnowTech and GiantU (which are both public schools in the same state), SnowTech is much less famous than GiantU. Consequently, I was paying for teachers, whereas at GiantU, you’re largely paying for the name.

2) You can almost always put more layers on. There’s only so much you can take off.

3) I wish SnowTech’s local movie was as cool as Fargo… though we still get asked if people really talk like that.

4) There’s a lot of really excellent research happening outside of the “top 10″/Ivies schools, but it seems that those schools have better marketing departments/ football teams. (Since no one cares about hockey, apparently).


mareserinitatis - July 19, 2011


I do have to especially agree on the marketing aspect. In fact, we met with one of the marketing people here…and I think there are only one or two people on campus handling the same things that larger colleges have offices for. Basically, if the university wants to ‘market’ our research, we have to do a lot of the leg work ourselves. I’m hoping that, now that we’re a bit more coordinated, we can do it.


2. Vicki - July 18, 2011

Yeah, Western NY is simultaneously:
1) frigid,
2) within an hour of Manhattan, and
3) totally provincial.

Very annoying.

In fact, winter is cold, yes; you can go skiing or snowshoeing or snowmobiling or ice fishing. It’s hot and humid right now.

We are 360 miles from NYC.

We have a philharmonic orchestra, professional sports, pro theater, 5 universities that I count just off the bat, and you can get anywhere you want to be in a half hour.

I’ll take it.


mareserinitatis - July 19, 2011

One thing that annoys me is that there’s this notion that unless you’re in a huge city, there is no culture. Granted, maybe you don’t have a professional symphony, but that doesn’t mean that the symphony you do have is garbage. But yeah…I would rather have ‘less culture’ and a shorter commute. 🙂


3. broadsideblog - July 19, 2011

If you live in NY (as I do) and work in journalism (ditto), you know that the worldview (cough) from these newsrooms is…parochial at best. The editors of the WSJ are largely from Ivies, so the whole notion of going anywhere but that is deeply exotic to them.

I attended the U of Toronto (a Canadian school considered the nation’s best) and it has a huge campus and a really long and really cold winter. It would take me 20 minutes to cross campus and, with wet hair after the gym, I often came to class with icicles in my hair.

A crap winter is not that big a deal.


mareserinitatis - July 19, 2011

Excellent point. Coming from WSJ, i.e. a group of writers from a very different view of a good place to live and probably from a higher rung on the social ladder, I suppose they have a hard time seeing past the stereotype. (Of course, I’m probably no better – I really don’t like big cities.)

I think people also make winter out to be far worse than it is. Yeah, it’s cold…but you put on enough clothes, and it’s nothing special.


Fluxor - July 19, 2011

Toronto — really long and really cold winter? Really?! No wonder the army is needed to dig Torontonians out of a little snowfall.


4. Fluxor - July 19, 2011

Sorry, Cherish. When I think of ND, I think of Fargo, the Movie. I think the effect of that movie has a pretty long half life.


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