Brighter skies ahead

UND’s innovative spirit and working together will ensure success, said President Kennedy at annual ‘Wake Up’ talk

Mark Kennedy

UND President Mark Kennedy told a crowd of community and campus leaders at his annual Wake Up to UND talk that, with its strong strategic plan and marketing, UND can succeed and grow, despite the ever-growing challenges facing higher education. Photo by Shawna Schill.

A capacity crowd of Chamber and community members learned about UND’s strategic and marketing plans, saw a presidential medal awarded, and were fired up by the UND Pride of the North Marching Band at the Chamber’s annual Wake Up to UND breakfast Tuesday.

Chamber Board chair Matt Walkowiak welcomed the group and thanked sponsors.

“This is the business community working together and strongly supporting One UND and Leaders in Action,” Walkowiak said.

Higher education is facing a competitive environment, Kennedy said, noting that enrollment at universities across the nation has been declining since 2013 and that support for higher education is also waning. But with its strong strategic plan and marketing, UND can succeed and grow.

“People tell me our Leaders in Action tagline fits,” Kennedy said.

Mark Kennedy and Sarah Nissen

President Kennedy presented a surprised Sarah Nissen, executive director of marketing & creative services, with the President’s Medal, the highest award on campus, citing Nissen’s transformational leadership and marketing achievements. It’s been awarded a little more than 20 times since 1971. Photo by Shawna Schill.

President’s Medal

“There has been no bigger transformation at UND than our marketing,” Kennedy said as he called Sarah Nissen, executive director of marketing & creative services, to the stage. “Sarah has shown the kind of leadership it takes to graduate Leaders in Action.”

Kennedy presented a surprised Nissen with the President’s Medal, the highest award on campus, citing her transformational leadership and marketing achievements. It’s been awarded a little more than 20 times since 1971.

Innovative spirit

Keeping an innovative spirit is what UND needs to do to win in a competitive environment, Kennedy said. “We have a winning team.”

He is pleased with a new U.S. News ranking, which names UND one of the 25 most innovative universities in the nation and cited areas in curriculum and campus life where UND clearly ranks in the top 25 to justify such a rare distinction – aerospace, unmanned, family / rural medicine, energy research, petroleum engineering, wellness center and hockey at the Ralph.

Mark Kennedy

President Kennedy, during his latest Wake Up to UND address, took time to detail the seven goals of the University’s new One UND Strategic Plan, which sets UND on the path to be the premier flagship in the Northern Plains. Photo by Shawna Schill.

Strategic planning

The strategic plan is focused on One UND and becoming the chief opportunity engine for North Dakota and students. Kennedy detailed its seven goals, which sets UND on the path to be the premier flagship in the Northern Plains.

A strong liberal arts foundation begins with great professors, Kennedy said, citing Mark Trahant, a communication faculty member who was recently inducted into the Academy of Arts and Sciences as one of several examples. It includes faculty increasingly adapting active learning and high impact practices.

Increasing retention and graduation rates seeks to deliver value for students by doing all we can to help them enter the world with a degree that leads to a rewarding career. “We want to help them to the finish line,” he said, praising new initiatives to help students graduate in four years.

Delivering more educational opportunity online and on campus will help UND increase enrollment through intensified marketing and stellar online programs will drive that “help people toward graduation wherever they are.”

He also focused on high growth programs, noting that technology is changing quickly and there is a need to graduate students with in-demand skills such as UAS, cybersecurity, and analytics.

On campus, a key draw is the campus itself, and the University is conducting a master planning process that will chart its course over the next six years. He encouraged the audience to provide input at und.faciltiesplanning@und.edu.

“Students decide within the first four to seven minutes if they want to come here,” Kennedy said.

He detailed proposed campus improvements, including the Coulee to Columbia project, keeping the Collegiate Gothic architectural style, keeping sections of campus compact, ensuring cohesiveness, connecting buildings, and offering a more captivating campus by removing some buildings, contracting for steam to allow the removal of the steam plant, and upgrading facilities.

Athletics is key to attracting people and helping fans become students, serving as the “front porch” to the University. UND earned the Big Sky President’s Cup for the first time, recognizing both academic and athletic achievement, and student-athletes had the league’s highest academic progress rate for the fifth year.

Enhancing discovery: Research is vital to the success part of the University, Kennedy said, and UND will continue to focus on developing innovations focused on its five grand challenges to help diversify the state’s economy.

An inclusive campus climate helps students engage with and welcome diverse populations and sets them on the path to success.

UND will continue to meet the needs of military and offer more educational opportunities for them in North Dakota and around the world, including an online aviation technology management degree.

Phenomenal alumni support helps UND move forward, Kennedy said. They provide scholarships and faculty support, and the University will launch campaigns to remodel the Chester Fritz Library, replace Gamble Hall.

Working together

These goals take effort and working together, Kennedy said as the Pride of the North Marching Band filed in to play and he thanked the Chamber and sponsors for hosting the event.

“Working together as One UND, One Grand Forks, and One North Dakota, we will continue to deliver grand results for our University and community.”