Charting UND’s future course

After two weeks as interim president, Dr. Joshua Wynne shares his vision for the University

Dr. Joshua Wynne, UND vice president for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine & Health Sciences, was named interim president of the University of North Dakota by a unanimous vote from the State Board of Higher Education.

Dr. Joshua Wynne, interim president of the University of North Dakota, understands the value of history, but he prefers to focus on the road ahead rather than the past.

“It’s okay to look in the rearview mirror; just don’t stare,” he explained. “Certainly, the past informs our thoughts and impressions of the future, but if we continue to focus on the past, then we miss the present and the opportunities for the future.”

On May 30, Wynne, who’s also the UND vice president for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine & Health Sciences, was named the University’s interim president while a permanent successor is sought for former UND President Mark Kennedy. After two weeks in his new role, Wynne outlined his approach to new responsibilities and how he’ll work with key University constituencies, including faculty and staff.

“Let’s join hands to start fully implementing the One UND Strategic Plan and then move forward with an understanding that our direction can be adjusted to some degree as things evolve,” he said. “We need to have open and honest communication that goes in both directions as we move forward – but let’s keep moving forward.”

Maintaining momentum

UND’s strategic plan enjoys broad support and provides a good blueprint for the University, Wynne noted, adding that maintaining momentum is one of his primary goals.

“The efforts to beautify the campus, to address issues of deferred maintenance, to work on improving student graduation rates, to be ever mindful of the issue of student debt and the cost of an education – I think all the initiatives that we’re working on to address those issues are the right initiatives. What I hope we’ll do under my tenure as interim president is continue to execute the plans that are in place to get good outcomes on all of those issues.”

One of the opportunities on which Wynne said UND must capitalize is more virtual education experiences – a larger online presence. But he also said it’s important to not lose sight of the on-campus student experience while finding the correct balance in an increasingly digital world.

“I’m glad that we are addressing those issues now,” Wynne said. “We need to continue to be a leader in this regard. I’m really focused on getting a better feeling for the depth and breadth of our online activities, and to continue this emphasis in the future. They will be an important part of how we deliver educational experience going forward. They’re already an important part, and I think the trend is clear that they will be increasingly important in the future.”

Dr. Wynne believes that building relationships with students, alumni, philanthropists, the community, the State Board of Higher Education and the North Dakota Legislature encourages communications – forming a basis for mutual respect. (above) Dr. Wynne, dean welcomes Dr. Don Warne (right) as the new director of Indians into Medicine (INMED). Image courtesy of Wanda Weber/School of Medicine & Health Sciences.

Relationships are key

Wynne believes that building relationships with students, alumni, philanthropists, the community, the State Board of Higher Education and the North Dakota Legislature encourages communications – forming a basis for mutual respect and doing what’s right for the people of North Dakota.

“The University of North Dakota is a public university, supported by generous public support through the North Dakota Legislature,” he said. “One of the things I’ve tried to do when I’ve represented the School of Medicine & Health Sciences is to be completely open and frank with the members of the legislature. They clearly value a relationship where they know that I’m providing information in as appropriate and accurate way as possible, and that’s what the term ‘a good faith effort’ really means.”

Wynne said he prefers to emphasize the presidential aspect of his new temporary title as UND’s interim president.

“I’m going to do my very best to do the right thing for the University and for the people of North Dakota,” Wynne explained. “I intend to act as president for whatever time I’m in the interim role. I am not going to put off decisions because they’re tough or awkward. Rather, I’m going to do what a sitting president would do, which is to solicit input, get advice and then make the very best decision I can under the circumstances. I intend to try to do the right thing, and to do the right thing in a timely fashion so that we don’t end up in a period of suspended animation.”

Dr. Joshua Wynne

(Above) Dr. Wynne seeks input during a UND SMHS Faculty Academic Council meeting. Dr. Wynne recently pointed out that, after serving as SMHS dean and as a UND vice president for Health Affairs  for 10 years, his knowledge of and familiarity with the University’s management and operations is strong. But now he’s experiencing them from a different perspective now as interim president. Photo by Tyler Ingham/UND Today.

New perspective

Wynne pointed out that after serving as SMHS dean and as a UND vice president for 10 years, his knowledge of and familiarity with the University’s management and operations is strong. But now he’s experiencing them from a different perspective.

“I’ve been well acclimated to university-wide issues prior to the past two weeks, but it certainly is even more cogent and interesting now that I’m in the office of the president,” Wynne said. “From everything I’ve been able to gather, my assessment is that the University is in a good position. What we need to do now is keep moving forward and striving for excellence.

“We as One UND – the faculty, staff and students, – have identified the right things to work on,” he continued, “And we now need to move ahead with those tasks.”