Crossing the finish line

Thousands of friends and family watch as their UND graduates cross the commencement stage on Saturday and Sunday

Taj Rich

Tajreed Rich, a Minneapolis native, celebrates his degree from UND at the school’s general commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 13, at the Alerus Center. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.

Thousands of family and friends packed the Chester Fritz Auditorium and the Alerus Center for three commencement ceremonies Saturday and Sunday.

About 2,000 candidates were eligible to walk across the stage this spring. General Commencement was split into two ceremonies on Saturday: one in the morning for graduate degrees, and an afternoon event for undergraduate students. The School of Law event was Saturday, May 6, and the School of Medicine & Health Sciences commencement was Sunday, May 14.

President Mark R. Kennedy granted the degrees at all ceremonies.

The graduate ceremony marked the debut of UND custom regalia for master’s and doctoral graduates. Featuring green piping and a UND logo, the new gowns were designed so that graduates who teach at other universities could wear the UND brand at their commencements. Hoods are lined in pink and green, UND’s official colors.

A procession of tribal and international flags at both ceremonies represented graduates from multiple tribes and 40 nations.

“AND” cubed

President Kennedy made remarks at the main commencement ceremonies, sharing the story of his grandfather, Charley Kennedy, who moved from St. Peter to Murdock, Minn., during pioneer days. The move, he said, took five days with a wagon and team; today you can drive between the towns in two and a half hours. Once settled in Murdock, Charley opened a livery stable, or as Kennedy said, a “hotel for horses.” The advent of the automobile, though, put Charley out of business.

Technological advances, Kennedy said, have always resulted in both benefits and disruption, and as the pace of technological progress has steadily increased, those benefits and penalties are more pronounced.

Mark Kennedy

UND President Mark Kennedy tells graduates to embrace technology and provide the human elements that will be needed to succeed in future economies at the Spring Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 13, at the Alerus Center. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.

His grandfather, Kennedy said, had some rules for success, which Kennedy called “AND cubed.”

“When faced with an either/or choice,” Kennedy said, “Charley would counsel you to reject that choice and instead choose ‘and’ three times in a row.”

Charley learned to drive an automobile and began a trucking business, applying the power of machines and humans. Today, Kennedy said, in the battle between humans and machines, we need to move beyond the choice of humans or machines. “’And’ is the path to the future,” Kennedy said. The trick is not to race against machines but to work with machines. A UND education, he said, prepares students to work in a technological world and to keep current.

You will need both hard and soft skills, Kennedy said. “Many people worry that computers and robots may make work obsolete,” he said, adding that that scenario is unlikely. “Machines cannot generate new ideas. Machines do what they’re told.” Computers, he added, cannot replicate large-frame pattern recognition, such as when humans combine memories to form complex patterns. And machines are not able to engage in complex communication. “Just try to get serious with Siri,” Kennedy said.

UND’s liberal arts core, which inspires critical thinking and hones communication skills, will also make this unlikely, Kennedy said.

The third rule, Kennedy said, is timeless: You and others. “Charley understood that for those who are given much, much is required.” During the 1918 flu epidemic, Charley delivered medicines and supplies to those who were sick, risking his own life.

In 1963, another Kennedy, President John F. Kennedy, visited campus, and said that UND is not meant to give graduates economic advantage but to graduate educated men and women who bear the burden of responsible citizenship.

At UND, Kennedy said, we are devoted to helping you reap the rewards of education. “Don’t choose either/or,” Kennedy said. “Choose ‘and.’ Give someone else a hand, and act in a way that makes us all UND Proud.”

Natalie Crawford

UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences graduate Natalie Crawford is hooded by Dr. Heidi Bittner and Dr. Susan Zelewski, during a commencement ceremony held Sunday, May 14, at the Chester Fritz Auditorium. Photo by Wanda Weber.

School of Medicine & Health Sciences

Dr. William Mann, physician with Altru Health System, assistant director of Altru Family Medicine Residency and clinical professor with the department of family and community medicine, gave the keynote address.

Titled “Reflection of a Half Century – The Meaning of Professionalism,” Mann retraced what worked and didn’t work for him in his 50 years of practice.  He also discussed the stress of being a physician with high demands on time and the need to recognize stressors and signs of burnout while also fulfilling obligations to patients.

Mann, who emigrated from Scotland, also discussed issues with health care systems.

“I thought I didn’t like the National Health Service,” Mann said. “The Canadian Health Care System is very close to that, and as I look back, there aren’t any health systems that work very well.”

For example, he said, he was at a professional meeting in San Diego and took a walk. “On the left were lovely yachts,” he said. “And on the opposite side were homeless people, a third of them talking to themselves.  We don’t know who requires help. We’re not sure how to solve these problems.”

However, Mann said, in uncertainty and doubt it is useful to fall back on the definition of a profession by Supreme Court Justice Brandeis:  First, it is an occupation in which the necessary preliminary training is intellectual in character involving knowledge and to some extent learning as distinguished from mere skill; second, it is an occupation