Update and video message from President Armacost

‘Let’s look out for each other. Let’s keep the campus safe. And let’s keep this pandemic in check!’



Dear UND Campus Members,

Please watch my video (which is above, and a transcript of which is below this letter).

Recent national trends with the COVID-19 pandemic show a marked increase in the number of new cases. Although North Dakota still has a low infection rate, we have also seen a significant increase in the number of cases over the last week.

The North Dakota State Board of Higher Education, in its May meeting, took a position to ensure each of our 11 member schools returned to on-campus classes this fall, and to do so with your safety as our #1 priority. In five short weeks, we welcome back to campus 13,000 students, faculty, and staff, and our collective efforts and individual behaviors will drive how our campus will be impacted by the virus.

UND has been well-prepared to implement a return-to-campus plan, as our Pandemic Working Group has been in full swing since March 11. This group has met daily under the leadership of Jed Shivers, Vice President for Finance & Operations; Jen Berger, Emergency Operations Director; and Eric Plummer, Associate Vice President for Public Safety and Chief of Police.

The team has broad representation across campus, and our faculty, staff, and Student Senate leaders join the working group once a week for input, questions, and updates. Together, this team has developed a comprehensive set of guidelines that should reduce the risk of disease transmission on our campus.

We will continue to monitor both national and local trends in COVID-19 spread, to test aggressively, and to adjust our campus risk level according to key leading indicators, as shown on our Healthy Hawks restart site. Our campus protection measures have been more aggressive than what we have seen across the state, and that will continue.

When we universally practice physical distancing, wear face coverings, avoid crowds, and practice good hand hygiene, we keep each other safe and protect the most vulnerable among us. This relies upon your actions and encouraging your peers and colleagues to do the same.

As we prepare for these physical changes to our campus life, we must fully recognize the emotional and mental impact of what we’ve been through.

We have had limited social interactions with our friends and families for four months. Many are trying your very best to balance work or school life with family life. Those with school-aged kids have somehow managed this balance, serving both as a UND team member and as a full-time educator to one or more children. Those with aging or sick family members in their homes have had to live under extreme caution as they try their very best to keep their homes free from COVID-19.

For many families, the long-term financial uncertainty heightens stress levels.

For those seeking additional support during this time, a general list of resources can be found within our Healthy Hawks resources page. For faculty and staff, let me draw your attention to our Employee Assistance Program, a great avenue for support. Our students should reach out to Student Health Services, to One Stop Student Services, or to the University Counseling Center, depending on your needs.

Together, we must look out for each other. Let me encourage supervisors to work closely with each of your members to address their concerns and to check on their well-being during this tough time. If you haven’t already done so, make sure your team members take well-deserved leave, as the pace will start picking up in the days leading up to the start of the fall semester.

Our students will be returning to campus after a significant break, so let me call on faculty and staff to pay close attention to their needs.

Finally, in the wake of recent policy changes impacting our international students, you must know how important you are to our UND community. The International Center is a great resource for you, and they will continue to keep you updated on news we hear from around the country.

Your homework assignment this week is to call a colleague whom you haven’t seen since March, just to see how they are doing. The support we give each other is critical. Let’s work hard to keep each other safe while we learn and discover.

Andy Armacost
UND President


The following is a transcript of President Armacost’s video message.

Hi. This is Andy Armacost. I’m putting together this short video to bring you up to date on what’s happening with our COVID-19 preparations.

Undoubtedly, you’ve seen what’s happening across the nation with growing rates of infection in both the South and the West. Here, locally, we’ve seen an uptick as well, but I wanted to assure you that we have great preparations here on campus to minimize the risk to you and to the entire campus community.

Our pandemic working group has been working diligently since the middle of March to make sure that the steps we’re taking to prepare – the actions that we’re going to take – will minimize the risk of the spread of the infection here on campus.

That working group has put together a great package. It’s called the Healthy Hawks initiative, which outlines a lot of the steps that we’re taking. You can find information about Healthy Hawks on the COVID blog, which is found at blogs.UND.edu/coronavirus.

Please check it out. There’s great information there for you.

As we talk about our health – our physical health – I want to also talk about our mental health and our emotional well-being. I don’t know about you, but I found that over the last four months, I felt a peculiar sense of isolation. It’s been unnerving.

I know that whether it was in Colorado Springs or here in Grand Forks, the distance I felt from others – from friends, from family, from colleagues – really had a negative impact on me.

For you, if you need additional help or resources to talk through your mental health or emotional well-being, just know that there are resources available on campus. For faculty and staff members. we have our Employee Assistance Program, the top-notch program that’s available all the time. For our students, we have our University Counseling Center, Student Health Services, as well as, our One-Stop Student Services that can help you with any number of questions that you might have.

We want to make sure that you’re taken care of during this tough time. Look out for others as well. Make sure that your colleagues and if you’re in a supervisory position that your supervisees are well taken care of.

I want to make sure that we also focus on how to prevent this pandemic from spreading across our campus. Some simple steps. Maintaining our distance from each other, wearing face coverings, being sure that we take advantage of testing protocols that are being generously offered here on campus, and then in addition, avoiding large groups of people.

These are easy steps that you can take, and that you can convince others to take.

So let’s look out for each other. Let’s keep the campus safe. And let’s keep this pandemic in check. I look forward to seeing you in the fall semester. Until then, be well.