Presidential Podcast: Episode #2

On his newest “Presidential Podcast” episode, UND President Wynne talks about a new name for the CoBPA, a packed house at the first Faculty Lecture, torrential rains on campus and much more.

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Hello again, I’m University of North Dakota President Joshua Wynne!

It definitely has been an exciting couple of weeks at UND since my first Presidential podcast in early September. During this episode, I plan to touch on a few of those exciting developments.
First, the State Board of Higher Education on Thursday unanimously approved a joint request from the UND Alumni Association & Foundation and UND to name the College of Business & Public Administration after Werner and Colleen Nistler. From now on, it will be known as the Nistler College of Business & Public Administration. Werner Nistler Jr., a UND alum, was born and raised on a farm outside Golva, North Dakota, and later, spent his formative years in nearby Beach, North Dakota. Over the years, Werner started and then grew a variety of businesses, including Touchmark, which, today, operates 14 full-service retirement communities in the U.S. and Canada. Always humble, Werner is quick to attribute his success to others. We could not have a more deserving person represent the University’s College of Business & Public Administration. Special thanks goes to UND Alumni Association & Foundation CEO DeAnna Carlson Zink and College of Business & Public Administration Dean Amy Henley for their leadership on this change and their sincere dedication to the Nistler family. Thanks also to the State Board of Higher Education, including Chair Nick Hacker and Vice Chair Dr. Casey Ryan, for allowing us to honor the Nistler name and legacy. There certainly will be much more to say and celebrate about Werner and Colleen during UND Homecoming next week!

I also want to say how proud I was to see that so many people attended our first Faculty Lecture of the academic year, featuring my colleague at the School of Medicine & Health Sciences and Director of our Indians into Medicine program, Dr. Don Warne. Dr. Warne presented a fascinating and sobering talk about healthcare inequities that exist among our American Indian communities, including those right here in North Dakota. We are so thrilled to have someone of Dr. Warne’s stature here at the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences to not only sound the alarm on these important health concerns but to also lead the way in reversing their course. Dr. Warne’s big day was made even more special by the presence of North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and First Lady Kathryn Burgum. They actually led things off by introducing Dr. Warne for the day’s lecture. Please be sure to join us for the next Faculty Lecture on October 23, when we welcome UND Associate Professor of English Crystal Alberts to the lecture stage.

I also want to take a moment to thank our University Police Department, Operations & Facilities crews and Student Affairs and Housing Office staff members, in particular, for their efforts to keep the campus community safe and dry, after nearly 6 inches of rain fell on Grand Forks in a matter of hours late last Friday. I’m told that University Police Chief Eric Plummer and his officers were up late into Friday night, helping stranded motorists who got caught in streets that had quickly turned into rivers. Lower levels of some of our buildings, including Robin Hall, Swanson Hall and the High Performance Center, to name a few, took in some water and sustained minor damage. Reports came in throughout the weekend from facilities staff members who would not have normally worked those shifts, and in some cases, had homes of their own with water damage. We are all grateful for their selfless efforts and dedication to the University community. The good news is that no one was hurt and the educational mission of the University was unaffected.

As some of you may know, I have been spending the month of September getting to know the campus community a lot better. As Dean and Vice President for Health Affairs, I like to think that I already have a pretty good grasp of what is going on at the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences. So stepping out of my comfort zone over the past month, I was able to personally visit all seven of the other Schools and Colleges and all many of the UND Vice Presidential Divisions on a series of Meet and Greets. I treated the visits as important listening sessions to hear from staff, faculty and administrators. During these listening sessions, I would start off by describing for my audiences my time as Interim President in two words: “Busy” and “Fun.” It certainly has been a challenging position, at times, as I balance it with my other professional roles, as well as being a husband and grandparent, but it’s also been fun to see the University through a different prism that is not healthcare education.

During each visit, I made sure to heed my anatomy lessons from my student days, which taught me that I have one mouth and two ears. Thus I turned the attention to my audience so I could do the listening. There were many thoughts and concerns expressed at each of my visits but I would say, for the most part, topics usually revolved around UND’s future growth in online education to help us better serve students and the needs of the state. There were also questions about the One UND Strategic Plan and our research mission as it relates to our 5 Grand Challenge areas (that is Autonomous Systems, Energy & Sustainability, Human Health, Rural Health & Communities and Big Data). Still others wondered about how UND is balancing its strong commitment to Liberal Arts with its strategic vision to support the workforce needs of the state.

There also were questions about UND’s budget planning tool, the Model for Incentive-based Resource Allocation, better known as “MIRA.” I will readily admit that the MIRA model can be intimidating and complex. But I will also say that the more I learn about MIRA and what it is doing for our University, the more I like it. To that point, I have asked Vice President for Finance & Operations Jed Shivers and colleagues to develop new and easier ways to explain the MIRA model to the campus community and make it less intimidating. Stay tuned for more opportunities to learn about MIRA.

Earlier this week, I led my first State of the University and Wake up to UND presentations – two more instances where I was able to express how busy I have been and how much fun I am having as Interim President, as well as emphasize how UND is moving forward and striving for excellence. I’m also happy to report that our Wake Up to UND event, sponsored by The Chamber, was the second-highest attended in its history – a testament that our friends in the community share our optimism and excitement for the future. I must thank Josh Brown, chair of The Chambers’ Executive Committee, President and CEO Barry Wilfahrt, and Vice President of Operations Kimberly Strom for helping to make the event a magical one. I also want to commend those with whom I shared the Wake Up to UND stage: They were UND Provost Tom DiLorenzo, Vice President for Marketing & Communications Meloney Linder, Interim Vice President for Research & Economic Development John Mihelich, DeAnna Carlson Zink, Jed Shivers, and last but certainly not least, our wonderful Student Body President, Gracie Leon.

Now on to next week and one of my favorite times of the year at UND – Homecoming Week. We’ll look forward to honoring some of our most accomplished alumni on Thursday night at the Sioux Awards Banquet at the Alerus Center. This year we will pay tribute to Gary Hagen, Gordon Henry, Jennifer Neppel and Greg Everson as well as our Young Alumni Achievement Award recipients: Andrea Hanson and Christina Sambor.

Friday will be a big day, too, as we celebrate the Nistler Family and the newly named College of Business & Public Administration. Later that same day, we break ground on what will become the brand new Student Union along University Avenue.

Don’t forget the UND Homecoming Parade on Saturday morning, and of course, the Homecoming Football game between our Fighting Hawks and the Aggies of the University of California-Davis at the Alerus Center.

That’s it for now.

Thanks so much for your time, and I look forward to joining you again for more exciting UND news in a couple of weeks. As always – Go UND!