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MSU to host NDGA Summer Institute: 'Oil, Water and the People of North Dakota

Minot State University, the North Dakota Geographic Alliance, Neset Consulting and Hess Corporation hosted a professional development program for K-12 teachers, “Oil, Water and the People of North Dakota,” June 9-13. It focused on current topics and various impacts the energy industry and water resources have on technology advancements and the North Dakota economy as well as on the environment, communities, schools and students.

Keynote speaker, Mark Vollmer, Minot Public Schools superintendent, opened the Summer Institute June 9 at Erik Ramstad Middle School. Model lesson plans were discussed throughout the Summer Institute; topics included “Change — A Penny for Your Thoughts,” “Teaching Without a Textbook” and “The Role of Place Identity in Understanding Energy Landscapes and Environmental Disasters.”

June 11, participants experienced a day in the Oil Patch with “Follow the Barrel,” an expedition with the Hess Corporation. They explored the oil-extraction process and transport procedures.

“The theme is current, relevant and statewide,” said Marilyn Weiser, NDGA director.

June 12, participants celebrated North Dakota’s 125th anniversary with author Kathleen Norris. Norris is the award-winning poet, writer and author of The New York Times bestsellers “The Cloister Walk,” “Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith,” and “The Virgin of Bennington.” 

“I suspect that when modern Americans ask ‘What is sacred?’ they are really asking ‘What place is mine? What community do I belong to?’” Norris wrote in “Dakota: A Spiritual Geography.”

Norris interacted with readers and promoted investigation of the book’s themes at the Taube Museum of Art. A book signing and reception at Main Street Books followed the lecture. Norris’ talk and the book signing and reception were open to the public.

The Summer Institute featured a panel discussion June 13. Panelists were John MacMartin, Minot Area Chamber of Commerce president; Deb Sisco, MPS English language learners coordinator; Rep. Kenton Onstad, District 4; Randy Burkhart, Minot Parks and Recreation maintenance director; and Margie Zietz, law enforcement officer. They discussed how geography impacts their careers, how their jobs have changed in recent years and why global communication skills are important in the workplace. Jacob Sowers, MSU geography associate professor, facilitated the panel discussion. The public was invited to attend this event

 “The annual Summer Institute rotates with four regions of the state. We are especially excited for Minot to host this event for the first time,” Weiser said. “Task force members are Scott Weston, Erik Ramstad Middle School, Joe Super, Minot High School Central Campus, and Lori Olson, North Plains Elementary School.”

NDGA is housed on MSU’s campus. For a complete schedule of the Summer Institute, go to

Published: 06/06/14

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