Go big or go home

Bold plans for future will help UND thrive in challenging times, says Kennedy in annual address

President Mark Kennedy

Against a bleak national higher education picture, UND President Mark Kennedy gives an optimistic projection of UND’s future at Wednesday’s University Council gathering in Memorial Union. To thrive, he says, UND needs to be more nimble in how it conducts every aspect of its operations. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today.

UND has big plans, said President Mark Kennedy at the University Council meeting on Wednesday (Oct. 24).

The annual gathering included an update of University Senate activities by Paul Todhunter, professor of geography and Senate chair. He noted that the governing body has updated the faculty handbook, is working to launch a sixth Essential Studies goal (intercultural knowledge and skills), will roll out faculty evaluation summaries, and is working on Honors revisions and other issues.

“It’s a time of change,” Todhunter said.

Thrive over survive

Kennedy echoed the theme of change as he provided updates to the campus on University initiatives.

“We are in a challenging environment,” Kennedy said, noting that implementing the One UND Strategic Plan can help meet those challenges. “There is a lot of change, and we can thrive, not just survive.”

Higher education is facing a watershed moment.  Campus enrollments will continue to decline as typical college-age populations plummet, and half of colleges and universities are expected to be bankrupt in 10 to 15 years. More than 600 institutions have already closed.

Mid-career adults are a fast-growing segment that UND could serve online, said Kennedy, adding that as students attending on-campus shrink nationwide, online enrollments could help the University grow.

To thrive, UND needs to be more nimble, Kennedy said, adding that less than 25 percent of UND’s funding comes from the state. He said that UND and NDSU operate on a different scale than smaller institutions in the state, and should have more flexibility to develop their own services, rather than “scale up” shared services that work for others.

As UND looks forward to the legislative session, Kennedy said he supports the State Board of Higher Education requests for flat funding and a merit pool salary increase.

Together we shape the future

Kennedy congratulated UND Aerospace, which recently celebrated 50 years of excellence.

Priorities are supporting quality teaching and improving student retention and graduation rates, he said. The Teaching Transformation and Development Academy (TTaDA) is an investment in that goal, along with adding more professional advisors and implementing Starfish and a new degree planner. UND has removed barriers to graduation, allowing 350 students to graduate earlier than planned, by reducing the required credits to 120 from 125.

The new UND website – now platform aware – has increased student inquiries through the website by five times, Kennedy said, but applying for admission needs to be easier.

“Recruitment is a team effort,” Kennedy said, as he showed new advertisements that showcase the Leaders in Action theme.

Go big or go home

Kennedy said that UND has nearly as many students taking an online course as exclusively on-campus students, and that on-campus freshmen who take online classes have higher retention and graduation rates.

“The day of on-campus only students is going away,” Kennedy said. “We need to go big or go home with online programs.” He wants to grow online programs, thus ensuring that UND and North Dakota students will be served by an in-state university. And, he said, online enrollment could keep UND growing. He want to enhance current programs as well as build new ones, giving the University extra resources.

Diversification is key

“We have great stories to tell about the impact of research,” Kennedy said, adding that meeting UND’s five Grand Challenges will help the state by bringing in more federal and industry money.

“State investment in research could ignite the North Dakota economy,” he said as he talked about a UND-NDSU request to the governor and legislature for a $100 million investment in research over the next two biennia. “It will diversity the economy and grow new industry and technology.” It could also decrease dependence on energy and agriculture sectors.

Mark Kennedy at U Council 2018

As UND looks forward to the next legislative session, Kennedy said he supports the State Board of Higher Education requests for flat funding and a merit pool salary increase for employees. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today.

Remove to renew

UND has a beautiful campus, Kennedy said, but the space needs upgrading.

“Students decide whether to come here in the first seven minutes of a visit,” he said, adding that demolishing outdated buildings has freed up space for public-private partnerships. An example is a new steam plant, which will be constructed through a partnership with Johnson Controls, resulting in upgraded heating, air conditioning, lighting and lower emissions.

Other planned improvements include renovation of the Stone House, remodeling portions of the Chester Fritz Library, repurposing Babcock Hall, streetscaping University Ave., and upgraded parking lots. Fundraising is taking place now for a new College of Business & Public Administration, and High Performance Center addition. Students will likely vote on a new Memorial Union next month.

“We are transforming the campus,” Kennedy said. “Together we drive the future.”