New hires, new Task Force, new COVID numbers

The UND community is invited to take part in the task-force and hiring processes, both of which are vital, President Armacost declares

Please watch my video, which is above, and the transcript of which is below this letter.

Let’s end the week with some good news on the COVID-19 front. As I write this, UND’s number of positive cases have declined and – so far – have not returned to anywhere near the levels we saw from mid-August to early September. The number of people in quarantine and isolation is less than half what it was a week ago. This tells us that all the planning and hard work everyone at the University put into keeping the campus open is having a positive impact. Yet, this is an ongoing battle we must continue to fight if UND’s campus is to remain open.

Our goal is a safe September that leads to better days ahead. Let’s keep it up and not let our guard down!

As focused as we’ve been on COVID-19 since UND reopened for the fall semester, there are other important topics I want to cover. For example, we’ve recently established a Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, which is chaired by Cara Halgren, Vice President of Student Affairs, and Tamba-Kuii Bailey, Assistant Professor of Education, Health & Behavior. This task force will help lay the vital foundation for updating UND’s strategic plan to focus squarely on goals and initiatives that achieve a stronger sense of belongingness and equity. I strongly encourage our campus community to participate in work that’s critical in defining who we are as a University.

In addition, UND has begun searches to fill two significant, high-profile positions that are key to our strategic future. On Sept. 4, we launched the search for dean of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences. The person who fills this position will have the opportunity to not only run our renowned aviation program, but also to impact our world-class education and research programs in atmospheric science, space innovation, unmanned aircraft systems, and Earth system science and policy.

This week, we also we began the search for a new Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Because Academic Affairs is responsible for creating, implementing and supporting UND’s academic priorities, I want the entire campus to be involved in the search process.

Beth Bjerke, Associate Dean of the Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, and David Flynn, Professor of Economics and Finance in the Nistler College of Business & Public Administration, will co-chair the search committee. A series of campus listening sessions will be held next week (Sept. 14-18) to gain a broad perspective about what the members of our community wish to see in their next provost.

Finally, please also take time today and this weekend to reflect upon the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York City, DC, and Shanksville, Pa. As we honor those who lost their lives, we continue to mourn alongside their families and friends, and we condemn these acts of hatred. Additionally, we must always honor the brave first responders who courageously acted without regard to their own personal safety. Let me ask you to take a moment after reading this note to reflect upon the sacrifices that were made that day.

Andy Armacost
University of North Dakota




Transcript of President Andy Armacost’s video message to campus – Sept. 11, 2020


Hi, this is Andy Armacost. Thanks for tuning in on this Friday.

I just wanted to start by saying thanks to the campus for all your work on fighting COVID. We need to redouble our efforts though.

Think about this: we came back to begin the fall semester and our cases went up to just over 330 cases, active cases of COVID. Through your hard work and your battle against the disease, taking the steps you need to prevent the spread, we’ve driven it down to just over 80 cases. That’s what was reported on the dashboard this morning.

This required concerted effort from many, many people on the campus. But we need again to redouble our efforts to make sure those case counts don’t rise again.

So take the steps that you need to for prevention. Wash your hands, wear face coverings, keep your distance from others, and avoid large groups.

And by all means, take advantage of the testing that’s going to happen on campus next Tuesday.

Identifying the virus is the most important step we can take so that we can knock it down and keep it from spreading to others.

At the same time that we’re fighting these daily battles with COVID, we are looking to the future strategically about where our campus will be over the next decade. There are two important leadership hires that are happening. The first is with our provost and vice president for academic affairs.

We’ve just launched that search, and my thanks to Professor David Flynn and associate dean Beth Bjerke for their work in co-chairing that search committee.

Next week (Sept. 14-18), we will have listening sessions, where faculty, staff, students and other campus members can come together and discuss the characteristics that they would like to see in our next provost.

So please take advantage of those opportunities. We’ll keep you posted how the whole search process progresses.

The second search I’d like to mention is with our search for the dean of the Odegaard School of Aerospace Sciences. There again we’re looking for a creative, innovative person to lead that school, which has a rich history of pushing the boundaries of aerospace and aviation education.

So please pay attention to that search, contribute where you can and we’ll keep you posted on the progress of that search as well.

A third activity I wanted to make sure you were aware of is the work of our Task Force on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Our two co-chairs, Dr Cara Halgren and Professor Tamba-Kuii Bailey, have been active with the committee for the last few weeks.

I’m really looking forward to the initiatives that they suggest that we as a campus take to improve our sense of diversity, equity and inclusion to make sure that everybody on our campus feels a sense of belonging and feels like they get a fair shake at getting a great UND education. So pay attention to the results from that committee as well.

And as I step off the camera today, I wanted to make sure that we take the time to remember what day this is. This is 9/11, the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York City, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.

So as you have a moment today, think about the impact of that event on your life, but in particular on the lives of those who passed away and their family and their friends.

Please do that today, and at the same time make sure you reflect upon the rich possibilities that await UND, both with our work on diversity, equity and inclusion and our search for two great leaders that will support our campus.

Until next time, have a great weekend, and we’ll see you soon.