Making the case

In case you missed it: University well-positioned for future, says President Kennedy in U-Council address

Mark Kennedy

UND President Mark Kennedy , last week, spoke to a packed room, making the case that UND delivers quality education and is aligned with state priorities. His comments came during the president’s annual University Council address. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today.

UND and its students are doing wonderful things, said President Mark Kennedy at his University Council address May 2.

He spoke to a packed room, making the case that UND delivers quality education and is aligned with state priorities. Slides and statistics helped him make his points about budget, the Strategic Plan and its progress, and goals for the future.

“Our graduates succeed because of your hard work,” Kennedy said, adding that when his mother was recently hospitalized, one of her nurses was a UND graduate. As he and First Lady Debbie Kennedy took a selfie with her, other UND grads at the hospital – the pharmacist and marketing manager – asked to be included. The end result? A large group photo!

“The region and nation are better off because of UND, and that’s one of many reasons I’m happy to be here,” he said.

Kennedy announced that Peter Johnson, longtime UND spokesman and part-time interim vice president for university & public affairs, who “retired” last July, will stay on half-time to assist during the upcoming Legislative session.

“Peter has the longest-running retirement in UND history,” Kennedy said to laughter from the audience.

He is seeking the perfect fit for vice president of university relations, and will wait until there is more certainty with the budget to fill the post.

University Council address 2018

Kennedy told his University Council audience that, besides state funding, there are other state decisions that could impact UND, including pay increases, health care, the funding formula, tuition flexibility, research investments to diversify North Dakota’s economy, governance, capital requests and more. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today.

Budget questions

There are reasons to be concerned about the budget, said Kennedy, especially after N.D. Gov. Doug Burgum called for a 10 percent reduction for most state agencies, including higher education, in his budget guideline.

“There is a long road with many turns before the budget process concludes,” Kennedy said. The State Board of Higher Education will require budgets from NDUS institutions, the governor will finalize his budget in December and the State Legislature will determine the final budget next spring.

Kennedy said UND is less reliant on the state than any other public college or university in the state with 26 percent of its funding coming from the state. By contrast, Dickinson State receives 56 percent of its funding from the state. “If you put it in context, that would be 10 percent of the 26 percent,” Kennedy observed.

Besides funding, there are other state decisions that could impact UND, including pay increases, health care, the funding formula, tuition flexibility, research investments to diversify North Dakota’s economy, governance, capital requests and more.

“We will make our case,” Kennedy said. “The number two oil-producing state in the nation can afford a premier university.”

Strategic positioning

Kennedy said UND is positioned to handle nearly any storms coming its way.

“We have the ability to move forward, even though it may be tough,” he said. “The answer to our challenges is the Strategic Plan.”

Boosting online programs, which Gov. Burgum has championed, and the recent contract with Pearson Online Learning Services, will help UND grow, Kennedy said. UND has 3,346 online-only students, with the capacity for many more.

UND’s scale is a particularly a benefit online, Kennedy said, noting that in an eight-state region, UND has the most students who are online-only of any other public university. Given that, Kennedy noted that UND’s closest substantive online compeititors are Arizona State University and Purdue.

New marketing plans for prospective students will also raise enrollment, especially as the Leaders in Action campaign moves forward, Kennedy said. A mobile-friendly web site, which rolls out May 21, should also help recruit students.

New addidas Fighting Hawks apparel and the new mascot are signs that UND is moving beyond the logo controversy. This and efforts to improve campus ambience, including by replacing the steam plant though a public/private partnership, will also help UND’s student recruitment.

New programs, certificates and degrees, for example in cybersecurity, will offer opportunity to more students and research expenditures have topped $100 million for the first time, he noted.

And UND has been named one of the Top 25 most innovative universities by US News.

University Council 2018

During questions from the audience, the President emphasized the continued importance of the liberal arts foundation to UND’s academic programs, among other topics. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today.

A path for growth

“Add it all together, and we are on a path for growth even without accelerating online programs,” Kennedy said, adding that more online and on campus students can deliver even better opportunities.

During Gov. Burgum’s campus visit last month, Kennedy said the governor was pleased and excited about the five Grand Challenges, for which UND is requesting seed money. With a relatively small investment, these new initiatives could yield increased revenues from other sources.

There are many reasons to feel good about the future, Kennedy said as he ended his talk.

During questions from the audience, the President emphasized the continued importance of the liberal arts foundation to UND’s academic programs, the focus on underserved fields of study where UND can leverage its flagship status when selecting degrees offered through its partnership with Pearson, the Univerity’s intent to return to a stand alone instance of Blackboard next spring, and the ability of all departments to find a way to participate in Grand Challenges research.