Fresh chapter for UND leadership

First official meeting between President Wynne and student leaders represents start of key dialogue

In their first official meeting, held at the North Dakota Museum of Art, student body leaders Gracie Lian and Matthew Ternus brought Joshua Wynne, UND’s interim president, up to speed on important issues for UND’s students. Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today.

The new president met the new president for the first time, officially, on Tuesday.

Neither let their “newness” get in the way of tackling topics top of mind for UND’s students.

Lunching together at the North Dakota Museum of Art Café, University of North Dakota Study Body President Gracie Lian and Vice President Matthew Ternus met with Joshua Wynne, interim president of UND, to begin a fresh chapter of campus leadership.

The student body leaders brought the university’s top executive up to speed on issues the students had addressed on the campaign trail this spring, on their path to their April election as president and vice president.

Their meeting last week was an important first step, Wynne says, as some of the topics discussed were the first he’s heard of them. As permanent dean of UND’s School of Medicine & Health Sciences, his prior concerns had mostly been at the graduate level.

“It doesn’t mean these issues have easy solutions, but I can’t be working on them if I don’t have the awareness,” he said. Among the subjects discussed were campus internet, open educational resources, Game Day experiences and further connecting UND to the Grand Forks community.

Maintaining awareness among administrators is crucial, the student leaders say, as both parties gear up to lead campus through the coming semesters.

Top of mind topics

Ternus, after having conversations around campus, had some expectations of what he was walking into in meeting with President Wynne.

“You hear about someone who is dedicated to improving the quality of education and the quality of the student experience,” he said. “That’s exactly who we saw in this meeting.”

Lian’s impressions before lunching with the president were similarly positive, remarking, “people described how he listens first; how he’s a hard worker; and how he really cares. Our conversation made it obvious that he’ll be maintaining these qualities through his tenure.”

Ternus, a junior majoring in secondary education, says the president was attentive and supportive toward their platform.

“I thought it went really well,” he said, pointing to the discussion of campus internet as an example. “Specifically, that was something he was excited to hear about – that there is a need and want for stronger, more stable internet. It’s an example of something he wasn’t aware of as a big topic among everyday students that Gracie and I found during the campaign. Things like that can be eye-opening and show why it’s important to have this dialogue continue.”

Former Student Body Vice President Kaleb Dschaak, now a student representative on the State Board of Higher Education, also attended the lunch, but said he mostly listened to the exchange.

Dschaak said he wanted to hear what the two parties plan to pursue, as it may impact his role with the state board. In the future, he’ll be bringing topics of his own to the administration’s attention.

“It’s unique because you’re watching student leaders take over and President Wynne stepping in. You see the parallels,” Dschaak described, speaking from his experience in Ternus’ place. “I saw how quickly they were able to start brainstorming around the discussion, and it marks a positive start to the school year.”

Following their meeting, Ternus said Wynne was attentive and supportive toward their platform. Wynne, moving into a broader leadership role as interim president, appreciates the amount of awareness the pair are able to provide. Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today.

Creating “One Campus”

The conversations between Lian, Ternus and Wynne will continue on a monthly basis, the student body leaders told UND Today. Ternus says he’s hoping to follow through on what’s been established, as well as bring new ideas to the table as they arise.

Through their campaign slogan of “One Campus,” the pair are also aiming to keep students aware as conditions change around campus. The Memorial Union and University Avenue’s reconstruction are top of mind.

They want to establish a direct line to students through a student government newsletter and continue development of a UND app focused on student engagement: construction updates, events, easy access to Blackboard and Campus Connection, and so on.

“When you tell most people walking around campus that you work with student government, you’re greeted with, ‘What’s student government?’” Ternus said. “We want to provide them the opportunity to hear what we’re working on.”

Lian recognizes Wynne as potentially their biggest advocate when it comes to lifting the student voice. She says keeping him up to date on UND students’ needs can help him and his vice presidents shape the University’s agenda.

“You can’t be an effective leader and effective advocate for change if you don’t know what the average student is needing in their studies,” she explained. “So when he mentions ‘shifting’ from graduate to undergraduate, he’s working hard to understand the differences and needs.”