In harmony: Business community ‘Wakes Up to UND’

The Varsity Gentlemen
The Varsity Gentlemen

One UND, with multiple voices singing in harmony.

That was the theme of the Chamber’s 11th annual “Wake Up to UND” breakfast. And it’s how UND will move forward: by working together and focusing on the future, said UND President Mark Kennedy.

A record crowd of 400 Greater Grand Forks Chamber members gathered Tuesday morning in the Memorial Union Ballroom to learn more about what’s happening on campus. The goals of working together and speaking as one voice resonated throughout the program, which featured Kennedy, videos, photos and a performance by The Varsity Gentlemen, an a cappella group. They sang “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” and later closed the program to a standing ovation with “Stand By Me.”

The Varsity Gentlemen, with 13 voices singing in harmony, represents our goal of becoming One UND, Kennedy said. He added that his first visit to Grand Forks was with the St. John’s University Chorus, where he sang second bass.

Chamber chair John Oncken, who introduced the president, remarked that Kennedy has a blend of business, political and academic experience that will benefit everyone.

Kennedy said he’s spent time listening to constituents across the campus, community and state, hearing both positive and negative comments. Negatives will fade away to a positive future, he said.

“We will harmonize diverse elements to become One UND.”

A record crowd of 400 Greater Grand Forks Chamber members gathered Tuesday morning (Sept. 20) in the Memorial Union Ballroom to learn more about what’s happening on campus. Photo by Shawna Schill.

Working together
Kennedy said UND will focus on collaborative governance and developing a strategic plan to lead UND into the future. The strategic planning committee, representing about 50 voices, will help develop a vision and plan that will lead UND to the next level, where it will flourish as One UND.

“We all have different notes, and I’m listening,” Kennedy said.

UND’s purpose, said Kennedy, is to be the chief opportunity engine for North Dakota and its citizens. The University is looking at great outcomes for our students, Kennedy said. The University needs to measure progress and outcomes for students and to prepare those students for a lifetime of jobs.

Technology, research and service are important, and Kennedy would like to move UND up a level in its Carnegie Research classification. Research and technology will improve the long-term future of North Dakota, Kennedy said.

Our mission of service, including economic development, service to society and grants, also serve the state, with a $1.3 billion economic impact. About 69 percent of UND graduates stay in North Dakota, he said.

Core values
The core values of the University, identified by the strategic planning committee, are collaboration and connectedness, innovation, creativity, discovery, creating opportunity, being inclusive and welcoming, global reach and offering lifelong learning. The University will channel these diverse ideas into One UND, Kennedy said.

Athletics and branding
Athletics is the front porch to the University, Kennedy said, quoting a coach from St. John’s University. And it’s best when the University wins championships, he said, noting that UND has won 12 national championships in three sports. His goal is to provide all programs with the support they need to be champions. “Success requires focus,” he said.

Also, the “interlocking ND logo” will be retired, and only the new Fighting Hawks and UND flame logos will be used.

“We will have two brands: academic and athletic,” Kennedy said.

Marketing and communications will be reorganized.

“We don’t have a mobile-friendly website,” Kennedy said. “It’s harder to navigate on phones.”

Developing a better website will attract more and better students. He mentioned that this is the fourth year in a row that the freshman class has a higher GPA than previous years, and the fifth year in a row for higher ACT scores.

Other initiatives
Kennedy announced a new online newsletter, UND Today, will launch soon, focusing on great things on campus, explaining decisions, and profiling faculty on key issues.

Regarding campus buildings, Kennedy thanked the state and legislators for the new School of Medicine and Health Sciences building, School of Law addition and renovation, as well as other investments. The rest of the buildings on campus, he said, have an average age of 50, and the University  has about $500 million in deferred maintenance. He wants to remove some buildings to cut down on maintenance costs, and to remodel the Chester Fritz Library and Gamble Hall.

Kennedy showed a photo of UND’s football facilities, which, he said, are “five logos behind,” still sporting the long-retired graphic Indian head logo. He also displayed campus housing photos.

“The 1950s called and want their housing back,” he said, noting that the quality of student housing needs improvement.

Most university campuses have a “look,” Kennedy said, citing Stanford and Harvard. At UND, there is a “collegiate gothic” look for many buildings. As the University modernizes the campus, he would like to keep that style.

Working together
Achieving these goals can be accomplished by working with the City, the Grand Forks Air Force Base, public officials and the state of North Dakota, Kennedy said. He recognized Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown, who was recently honored as the state’s top local official and received the Leadership Excellence award from the North Dakota League of Cities.

A crowd of local business and civic leaders, including Grand Forks Mayor Michael Brown and representatives of the Grand Forks Air Force Base, react to President Kennedy’s Wake up to UND presentation on Tuesday, Sept. 20 at the Memorial Union Ballroom.

Kennedy added that people with no affiliation to UND have aided the University, including oil and gas businessman Harold Hamm, who donated millions to found the Harold Hamm School of Geology and Geological Engineering; Hess Corporation; and Si and Betty Robin, who funded Robin Hall, UND’s unmanned aircraft systems headquarters.

“Our goal is to collaborate,” he said. “We can only achieve our goals as One UND. We are stronger together than apart.”

The University has many reasons to celebrate, Kennedy said, and it will achieve great things by work in harmony to become One UND.

— Jan Orvik, University & Public Affairs writer