Hawks on the highway

Fighting Hawks plates get license to fly to support UND Alumni Association & Foundation’s mission to serve students

Alyssa Konickson

Alyssa Konickson, UND Alumni Association & Foundation director of communications, shows off an example of one of the new North Dakota license plates, marked with the Fighting Hawks logo. Image courtesy of Sam Melquist, AA&F.

If you run into Derick Stoulil on the University of North Dakota campus, you’ll probably find him sporting the latest North Dakota Athletics polo or pullover fleece.

The assistant athletics director for marketing fashionably wears his Fighting Hawks fervor on his sleeve – and now on his ride.

Stoulil was one of the first in the state to grab a Fighting Hawks-logoed North Dakota license plate, imagined by the UND Alumni Association & Foundation (AA&F) and distributed by the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT).

“A great way to spread the brand is to have it on your vehicle and drive it around Grand Forks, North Dakota, and the United States, and be able to show off that Fighting Hawks fandom,” Stoulil said.

For a $25 fee, North Dakota drivers can order the plates with either a random string of five numbers or, for a few dollars more, five characters of their choice.

What makes this offer even sweeter is the fact that $15 from every plate order is returned to the AA&F.

“We are always looking for ways to help our alumni feel connected to the University of North Dakota,” said Alumni Association & Foundation CEO DeAnna Carlson Zink. “In this case, not only do they get to show off their UND pride, but, as the sponsoring organization, the UND Alumni Association & Foundation gets a portion of the plate fee to assist us in the work we do – creating opportunities for students at this great University.”

“That’s a great part of it, too, to be able to know that a part of your fee comes back to the University to help with scholarships and help students get their education and degree,” Stoulil said. “Ultimately, that’s why we’re all here.”

Alyssa Konickson

Konickson says many nonprofit organizations have had logo-emblazoned license plates for a while now, however, the knowledge of an approaching, potentially multiyear transition between North Dakota Athletics logos slowed the process at UND. Image courtesy of Sam Melquist, AA&F.

Rally the base

The launch of the plates was a long time coming.

Alyssa Konickson, AA&F director of communications, says many alumni foundations and non-profit organizations have had logo-emblazoned license plates for a while now.  But the knowledge of an approaching, potentially multiyear transition between Athletics logos slowed the process.

“Once we had the new logo in place, we really wanted it to be a rallying point for our alumni and those who really back our teams and student-athletes,” Konickson said. “There are so many people – not just alumni, but around North Dakota – who are proud to support UND.”

Before the UND plates could become a fixture on the NDDOT website, the AA&F needed 50 initial applicants. The team hit that mark within a couple of months, and the first wave of Fighting Hawks plates started showing up on the streets this March.

Now, the number of plates registered has grown to more than 114.

“It just makes me so happy to see them driving around,” Konickson said, “partially because we’ve been working on this for a while, and I know that people have wanted them. As an alumni association, these are kinds of things we want to be doing – giving alumni, and anyone else loyal to the University, a chance to express their pride.”

The plates are currently only available to North Dakota drivers – a detail Konickson has to deal with for the time being.

“I’m a Minnesota resident!” the 2006 UND grad exclaimed with a note of despair. “Otherwise I definitely would have one. I’ve had a lot of people say we should look into having these available for Minnesotans. So now that this is off the ground, maybe we can do something about that,” she added with a grin.

Stoking that fan fire is what Stoulil was hired to do. And, as more supporters continue to embrace the new logo, he feels the license plates are just one more way to not just “push the brand,” but create a Fighting Hawks community.

“I hope people get excited about these,” he said. “People spend a lot of time in their cars going from work, to home, to soccer practice with their kids, to vacations and all of that. It just continues to spread that message and get that logo out there.”