Senator V.J. Smith Elected Treasurer of Midwestern Higher Education Compact

South Dakota Senator V.J. Smith was elected the treasurer of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) on November 9, during the Compact’s Annual Commission Meeting, held in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Although, he could not attend in person, he was able to join MHEC virtually for the vote of the commission.

One of four regional higher education compacts in the United States, MHEC brings together midwestern states to develop and support best practices, collaborative efforts, and cost-sharing opportunities. Through these efforts it works to ensure strong, equitable postsecondary educational opportunities and outcomes for all.

“I am pleased to welcome Senator Smith as our newest executive officer,” said Susan Heegaard, MHEC president. “V.J. is well liked and respected by his South Dakota colleagues and brings a wealth of experience having worked in the public and private sectors, most recently at South Dakota State University. As a sought-after author and public speaker, he has touched the lives of many people, especially youth, across the country with his positive messages,” added Heegaard.

Also elected were Rep. Rick Carfagna, assistant majority floor leader of the Ohio House of Representatives, who will serve as chair; and Dr. Devinder Malhotra, chancellor of Minnesota State, who will serve as vice chair; and Dr. David Eisler, president of Ferris State University, who will serve as past chair.

"I am honored and delighted to accept the position with the Midwestern Higher Education Compact,” stated Smith. “Postsecondary education is a critical component for people and communities to thrive. The MHEC organization supports this idea through partnerships, collaboration and sharing of best practices."

Smith is a graduate of South Dakota State University (SDSU), in the 1980s he worked for the Allied Signal Aerospace Company in Kansas City, Missouri. He returned to his alma mater in 1990 to serve as assistant athletic director for the SDSU athletic program. He was executive director of the SDSU Alumni Association from 1996-2007. He is an author and professional speaker. He was elected to the Senate in 2018 and re-elected in 2020, serving District 7.

MHEC’s states are synonymous with the Midwest census region states. South Dakota joined the Compact in 2008. Smith was initially appointed as a MHEC commissioner in 2019, and reappointed in 2021. He is a member of the South Dakota Senate Education Committee. He is joined by additional South Dakota commissioners: Michael Cartney, president of Lake Area Technical College; Representative Erin Healy; Representative Larry Tidemann and Governor Kristi Noem’s designee; and Dr. Janelle Toman, director of communications for the South Dakota Board of Regents. Senator Reynold Nesiba and Representative Marli Wiese serve as commissioner alternates.