Letter from President Armacost: Contemplating Change and Overcoming Obstacles

Dear Members of the UND Community,

In my remarks during the Oct. 5 UND presidential inauguration, I talked about the “Chain of Office” and how it symbolizes both a connection with the past and the need to contemplate change. A good example of this is how the last few months have been profoundly different from what we expected for the fall semester. This change has demanded incredible work by many and the patience of all.

COVID and its obstacles

We’re now heading into a tough time for the pandemic, and I respectfully ask everyone to redouble their efforts to keep themselves and others safe. The recent increase in COVID-19 cases has been steady. Unlike the quick rise and fall of cases we saw in late August, we are now seeing a steady increase in cases. The measures we are taking for testing, isolation, and quarantine are certainly suppressing the growth in cases, but the steady increase without abatement indicates we have work to do.

Let me reiterate our expectations: wear a mask when interacting with others; wash your hands frequently; keep a safe distance of six feet or more from others; and avoid large groups of people. It’s a simple set of steps that can be difficult to practice.

You might wonder what your friends will think of your mask. Will they think you’re overly paranoid? Will they shun you? The truth is, they probably won’t think any less of you. In fact, they’ll likely follow your positive example. It’s relatively easy and simple to take these steps, but it’s more important than ever that we make the effort.

I was in an off-campus meeting the other day with seven UND members and another 25 community members. We were safely distanced. But the UND members followed our on-campus rules and wore masks. By the end of the meeting, there were an additional seven members of the crowd who followed our lead. This is the type of reaction you get when you take the steps to be safe.  Others will follow you, as they know these simple steps make a difference. The same can happen in your circles on campus.

A civic responsibility

Speaking of setting an example and individual actions, please be sure to exercise your right to vote in the upcoming election, at all levels of government. This is the opportunity to use your voice to determine how you wish to be represented in our republic. Not all nations give voice to the people, and our Constitution grants us the good fortune to have a say in our nation’s future. Please take advantage of this right.

To infinity and beyond

There are many areas of possible growth on our campus, and one is in outer space! We’ve hosted four key space leaders over the last year or so, and I know there’s an important role our University can play in the ever-increasing domain of space. This includes commercial and military uses of technology. Our space studies, UAS, and engineering programs are logical connectors, but so is our work in law, philosophy, business, and policy.

I’ve quipped that I’d like us to launch satellites from Grand Forks, but please don’t take that literally. A more practical goal is to design, build and control satellites after they’re launched into orbit elsewhere aboard a commercial space vehicle.

Consider all the work we can do at UND with our air-based autonomous systems to test technologies and procedures for future systems operating autonomously in space. There’s a promising frontier right in front of us. Let’s use the creative and scholarly talent of our faculty, students, and staff to make some magic happen.

To inclusivity and beyond

In my next letter, I will share my thoughts on the work being done by UND’s Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. More specifically, I want us to be prepared for the important conversations ahead. What I envision is a campus rooted in the highest possible levels of respect for each other, one that uses education and conversation as a way to defuse the growing polarization around social and political issues, and one that raises its song of gratitude for the contributions of each of its members.

Have a great week.

Andy Armacost