Congratulations to graduates!

Dear Students, Staff and Faculty,

Please view our video.

We did it!

As the 2019-20 academic year officially draws to a close, it is time to reflect upon – and even more, celebrate – our incredible achievements, some of which took place under the most challenging circumstances.

Ever since our first students – six women and two young men — graduated in the late spring of 1889, commencement has been one of our most joyous celebrations. This spring will be no different. We are exceptionally proud of our 2020 spring semester graduates and their contributions to our scholarly environment. And although we can’t be together, we have planned special ceremonies (General Commencement, Law, and Medicine), all virtual events set for 10 a.m. Saturday, May 16. The celebrations will include lots of good wishes from familiar faces to honor our newest graduates.

A phenomenal number of our soon-to-be-grads – more than 1,200 — sent us personal images to use in the ceremonies. That kind of “turnout” is an amazing reflection of student pride and enthusiasm for their alma mater, and also shows that we are filling an important need for our graduates to celebrate with family, friends and fellow classmates.

Achievements abound

We also want to take time to recognize some of our amazing students.

We’re referring to students such as Michelle Nguyen, a double major in UND economics and political science and first-generation student who supported her Vietnamese immigrant parents while in high school and was awarded the Scholarship America Dream Award. And Joel Runnels, a Fulbright Scholar and Ph.D. candidate in Educational Research & Foundations, who grew up with a speech impediment, now studying sign language and education accessibility at UND in hopes of, one day, making a difference around the world. Michelle and Joel are among seven UND student recipients of prestigious national awards.

We also admired the grit and determination of UND student-athlete Hunter Pinke, whose positive spirit inspired us after a debilitating spinal injury. Furthermore, we beamed with pride when Hunter’s fellow UND student-athletes scored in the top 10 nationally in 12 of 17 UND Athletics programs for community volunteer hours this year.

You also may have seen in the latest issue of Alumni Review a feature on Kate Long, one of our spring graduates and another first-generation student who’s overcome life’s challenges, including uprooting and moving to western North Dakota during her senior year of high school. She’ll earn her bachelor’s degree in political science, with minors in history and international studies, with an eye toward law school.  And we can’t pass up the opportunity to mention that the “Fighting Hawk” is also graduating this weekend. Donovan Knott, who’ll earn degrees in sociology and math, will go down in local trivia lore as UND’s very first Fighting Hawk mascot — a duty he’s performed proudly since he officially hatched at the 2018 Potato Bowl football game. Go Hawks!

Finally, a first salute to cadets in the UND Army and Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps programs who’ll be commissioned as military officers. As former military officers, ourselves, representing the Army (President Wynne) and Air Force (President Armacost), we appreciate the sense of accomplishment these cadets are feeling now.

Campus highlights

We can’t forget about others that made this past academic year special.

We renamed the College of Business & Public Administration after alumnus Werner Nistler, and his wife, Colleen, and on the same day, student leaders – past and present – broke ground on a new UND Memorial Union.

The School of Law started the year on a high note, as well, after its enrollment jumped more than 30 percent.

We also celebrated UND’s pioneering activities in autonomous systems, with the 10th anniversary of the nation’s very first degree program in Unmanned Aircraft Systems.  Other areas of national leadership are the National Resource Center on Native American Aging and the Center for Rural Health, both of which recognized big milestones this year, 25 years and 40 years, respectively. Our Indians into Medicine program also made history with the launch of the world’s first Ph.D. program in Indigenous Health. Another highlight came from the College of Engineering & Mines, where the world’s largest oil and gas drilling simulation laboratory was unveiled.

At the Energy & Environmental Research Center, the newly established State Energy Resource Center, which supports emerging research critical to North Dakota’s future, is going strong, with more than 20 funded proposals and five new-invention disclosures.

As COVID-19 sent school kids home to remote classrooms, the College of Education & Human Development was an important asset for the K-12 teaching community and parents, with tips and best practices for online teaching.

The College of Nursing & Professional Disciplines continued UND’s national leadership on opioid-abuse prevention with a new initiative focused on new mothers in the nation’s most underserved areas.

We welcomed Michelle Sauer, of the Department of English; and Sean Valentine, in the Department of Management, as our newest Chester Fritz Distinguished Professors, the highest recognition that a faculty member can receive. Also, Stephanie Walker, dean of libraries and information resources and an advocate for more Open Educational Resources (OER) for students as alternative to costly text books, announced UND’s total OER savings for students is approaching $11 million.

We’re also proud of UND’s distinction as North Dakota’s first “Cardiac Ready” campus. And just last month, Chester Fritz Librarian Karlene Clark was named the Midwest regional Student Employment Supervisor of the Year.

In closing, we take great pride in everyone’s accomplishments, and acknowledge the invaluable contributions of our strong alumni network. You all make UND a very special place. You are the University of North Dakota.

Best wishes,

Joshua Wynne
Interim President

Andy Armacost
Incoming President