Presidential Podcast: Episode #7

In the latest installment of UND’s presidential podcast, Interim President Joshua Wynne welcomes incoming permanent President Andrew Armacost, who was selected on Dec. 3 by the State Board of Higher Education. President Wynne also congratulates the more than 900 students eligible to graduate this month. To cap off the episode as well as the year, President Wynne recounts the major events and successes of 2019.

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Prefer to read it instead? Here is the full transcript:

Hello, I’m UND President Joshua Wynne. Welcome to episode number 7 of the UND Presidential Podcast.

As you undoubtedly heard, Andrew Armacost has been selected as the 13th president of UND, and will be starting his presidency later this academic year. My wife, Dr. Susan Farkas, and I look forward to welcoming Andy and his wife, Kathy, to Grand Forks. He and I have been in touch with each other over the past several days as we plan for the transition and the future—and we both agree that the future of UND looks bright! I know that you will join me in warmly welcoming the new first family to Grand Forks and North Dakota.

It’s a little hard to believe in just a few days, we will be congratulating and sending forth another class of Leaders in Action during Winter Commencement exercises on Thursday, Dec. 19 and Friday, Dec. 20. It will be my honor to preside over these ceremonies and to deliver the commencement addresses.

We expect a packed house as friends and loved ones of our approximately 900 students, who are eligible to graduate, fill the Chester Fritz Auditorium for the ceremonies. The first event will take place 3 p.m. on Thursday for our students receiving graduate degrees. Then, on Friday, we will hold two undergraduate ceremonies, the first of which begins at 1 p.m., involving graduates from Colleges of Arts & Sciences, Engineering & Mines, Nursing & Professional Disciplines and the School of Medicine & Health Sciences.
The second ceremony of the day will begin at 4 p.m. for graduates of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, the Nistler College of Business & Public Administration and the College of Education & Human Development.

Please join me in wishing these graduates best wishes in their life and career adventures ahead.

A couple of quick notes for our on-campus community, UND just announced that the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program (VSIP) has been re-instituted this year. The program is offered as an incentive to those who may be considering retirement. As was noted in the announcement, approval of a request for a VSIP will be based on the institution’s strategic priorities and planning for the future.
Eligible staff and tenured faculty should have received an email about this last week. It included detailed information about the program.

I consider this program to be a good business practice, as it eliminates uncertainty as to the timing of retirement of eligible staff and faculty, and works to the benefit of both UND and the employee.

Also, for our UND staff community – during a recent meeting with Deans, Directors and members of my University Cabinet, Whitney Maine, who chairs the UND Staff Senate, informed us about a concerning number of unfilled seats on the Staff Senate. The Staff Senate is the primary collective voice for UND non-faculty employees to address and resolve staff-related matters. It is important that all units of campus be represented on this body to ensure that more voice are heard.

If you are wondering if your unit is one of those lacking representation or are interested in learning more about opportunities in the Staff Senate, please reach out to

We are now well into the holiday season – a time for family, friends and co-workers to celebrate blessings and hopes for the new year to come.

In my role as Dean of the School of Medicine & Health Sciences, which has campuses in North Dakota’s four largest cities, the annual holiday season is off to a great start! Susan and I traveled to Bismarck earlier this month for the first holiday celebration and we had a wonderful turnout. Then, the Grand Forks campus hosted its traditional Holiday Luncheon, where we served more than 650 lunches, the largest number ever!

It was good to see the many faculty, staff and students coming together for the festive occasion. Then it was off to celebrate with the folks on our Fargo and Minot campuses. In addition to all of these joyous occasions, I undoubtedly will have the opportunity to take part in other celebrations among our greater campus community in my role as Interim President. I look forward to seeing many of you at these events to personally extend to you my holiday greetings.

Also, be on the lookout for a special video Holiday Greeting from Susan and me. It should arriving in many of your e-mail inboxes in the coming days. You also will be able to view it in UND Today, our official University news source, later this month and on University Social Media channels.

As we approach the New Year, we begin to take note and reflect on what a year of transition and transformation 2019 truly has been for UND – and me personally. Big news got rolling right away in January with the announcement that UND’s $1.5 billion regional economic impact has more than doubled in the past 10 years. In May, a star-studded General Commencement ceremony included then-U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson as our featured speaker; as well as honorary degrees for North Dakota natives Heidi Heitkamp and Hollywood movie star Josh Duhamel.

Then in June, we said goodbye to President Mark Kennedy, who took a new job as head of the Colorado University System and when I assumed my current role as Interim UND President. I was honored to do and it continues to be an honor.

Soon after taking on my interim role, I was able to work with University leaders to secure a better financial deal for our students, in the form of lower-than-anticipated student fee increases, to pay for a brand-new Memorial Union. In July, the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education approved construction of a new Memorial Union and authorized demolition of the old structure. Demolition of the old Memorial Union began later the same month, followed by a groundbreaking for the new building during Homecoming festivities in October.

In August, we were thrilled to announce a record fundraising year in 2019 by our Alumni Association & Foundation in 2019, highlighted by a generous pledge from UND alumnus Werner Nistler and his wife, Colleen, for the UND College of Business & Public Administration, which now known as a the Nistler College of Business & Public Administration.

The last big change of 2019 came on Dec. 3, when the search for a new permanent UND President culminated with the selection of Andy Armacost as our 13th University leader.

What a year it was! And it appears that 2020 could be just as, if not, more exciting.

Finally, some of you may have noticed a nice story recently in The Grand Forks Herald about Sarah Heitkamp and the work she and her students are doing with our treasured UND Art Collections. Sarah, the manager and curator of the collections, periodically features new pieces from the collections at galleries on and off campus, including the Empire Arts Center in downtown Grand Forks and our newest gallery on the second floor of the School of Medicine & Health Sciences building.

Now is a good time to head to the Empire Arts Center for the latest display of the UND Art Collections. There you can preview the just-opened exhibition of George Starcher: Untitled. George Starcher was UND president from 1954 through 1971, when Thomas Clifford took over the presidency. Starcher, a mathematician by training, exemplified the intersection of science and art, as demonstrated by the nonrepresentational artworks on display, a small sampling of the nearly 200 works of art recently discovered in UND’s archives.

The exhibition will be at the Empire until April 3, 2020, when it will transition to the School of Medicine & Health Sciences gallery.

This is slated to be the penultimate edition of the UND President Podcast for the Fall Semester.
The aim is to cap this semester’s run of podcasts with a recording of my Winter Commencement Address. Then we’ll be back in late January with the first podcast of the Spring Semester.

So, with that, I say thanks for your support in these past few months! Happy holidays and a Happy New Year to you and your families.

Until Next Year – Go UND!