Together, stronger

I promise you I will lead with conviction, openness and compassion,’ President Armacost says in First Day message

Editor’s note: To mark his first day in office, UND President Andy Armacost released this Video Message to the Campus Community. A transcript is below.

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Good afternoon. I’m Andy Armacost, the new President of the University of North Dakota. 

I’m excited to be here on my first day, stepping into this position after an announcement nearly six months ago that I would take this role, and a period of about 4 1/2 months of transition, working alongside President Josh Wynne.  

And let me offer my personal thanks to President Wynne and his wife, Susan Farkas, for their leadership. Josh now returns to his role as Vice President for Health Affairs and Dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences. And he’s adding a new element to his portfolio – that as the Chief Health Strategist supporting Gov. Doug Burgum. Again, let me thank Josh and Susan for their tremendous support during this time.  

But now as I take over, I do so in a very uncertain and, frankly, unstable time. We’re facing several difficult situations locally and nationally. The first was the shooting death last week of Officer Cody Holte from our Grand Forks Police Department, whom we’re honoring on Tuesday with a memorial service. His wife, Amanda, is actually a proud graduate of the University of North Dakota; and together, they were truly vital members of our community. We grieve for the entire Holte family.  

And second was also last week – the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. We grieve for his family and friends as well; and his death has certainly ignited protests across the nation, magnifying existing racial tensions within our country.    

There is a great desire for a sense of community and an outcry for justice. Peaceful protests can be productive, yet violence of any kind is simply unacceptable.  

And you know, universities have had a long history of creating space for differing points of view. It is essential for our universities to continue to foster discussions, to learn from each other, and to model respectful dialogue so that we may come together as a community to solve our deepest challenges.  

And we all have different perspectives, shaped by our own personal experiences. Yet we are connected together as fellow human beings. And from what I’ve seen in the state of North Dakota and at UND over the last few months, our state and our university are places where we take care of each other, and we lead by example. This gives me great hope that we will move through these tough times together, stronger. 

Making this tougher has been our separation because of the pandemic. I know that I’m eager to bring the campus together physically so that we can have these challenging discussions face to face.  

Speaking of returning to campus, just know that the UND leadership team is setting up a COVID-resistant campus to offer our programs safely, both on campus and online for the fall semester.  

We have a number of guiding principles that will lead us along the way. The most important is the health and well-being of all of our members, and really relying on a sense of community based in respect and empathy for one another. 

Working with the leadership teams from the University Senate, from the staff Senate, and from the student government, we started crafting plans. Those plans will roll out shortly, describing how we’re going to open the campus this fall safely. 

Working together with our deans and department chairs, we will inform you of our plans and to best understand your concerns so that we can incorporate those into the plans.  

And finally, we will offer Open Forums via Zoom over the summer, so we look forward to speaking with you then.  

And all the while we must keep our eyes on the strategic goals of UND. And we’ll launch a new initiative this fall to define what the state of higher education at UND looks like, for both the near- and the long-term future.  

So we have our challenges. We have our strategy. We have each other. And Kathy and I are excited to get to the campus to be part of the very fabric of UND, the Grand Forks community and the state of North Dakota.  

I promise you I will lead with conviction, openness and compassion – when times are good, and most important, when times are challenging. And let’s always remember that together, we are OneUND.