Winter Commencement: Hats off to you, Class of 2020

Earning a UND degree at this time ‘makes your class truly unique, exceptional and historic,’ president tells graduates

More than 800 University of North Dakota students graduated Friday, Dec. 18, in an online ceremony.

The graduates included 10 law students, 208 graduate students, and 650 undergraduates.

The online ceremony now is available above and on UND’s Commencement page. A transcript of the ceremony is below.

The ceremony features the conferring of degrees, an address from President Armacost; a performance by members of the UND Concert Choir, a message from academic deans, and a couple of surprises. It also features remarks by alumnus Nick Hacker, chair of the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education and CEO of Guaranty and Title Co., and greetings from DeAnna Carlson Zink, CEO of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation.

Students also will receive a graduation “Hawk Pack” with a diploma, diploma folder, printed program, honor medallion if appropriate, and commencement mementos. Graduates are also invited to return to campus to participate in a future commencement.

For more information, visit the UND Commencement page or contact the Office of Ceremonies & University Events.

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Transcript of UND’s Winter Commencement Ceremony, Dec. 18, 2020:

Narrator: Welcome, to the University of North Dakota’s 2020 Winter Commencement ceremony.

Eight times a year, the university conducts commencement ceremonies to celebrate the success of our students. Thank you for participating in today’s ceremony. This “virtual ceremony” is being conducted online. It contains all the elements of a regular in-person ceremony.

In addition, to honor each individual student, each graduate has a personalized graphic tile that’s searchable below. We encourage you to find your or your student’s tile at the end of this video and share it on social media with the hashtag, #UNDproud.

Thank you for your resilience, and congratulations Class of 2020.

President Armacost: Hi, I’m Andrew Armacost, President of the University of North Dakota. Welcome to our Winter Virtual Commencement Ceremony. This ceremony honors our graduates who are receiving their doctoral, master’s and undergraduate degrees.

I am pleased to be here today to celebrate your accomplishments. I wish we could hold this ceremony in person. I wish I could shake your hand as you walk across the stage to receive your degree. Watching this ceremony in the virtual world is different. It may not be the way you expected to graduate.

However, it still remains an important day. It’s a day we feel pride for you and your family.

You have worked hard to earn a degree. You were supported by faculty, staff and fellow students. Your family members encouraged you and gave you the tools you needed to make it this far. Today is your day to celebrate with all the people who helped you achieve this milestone. Find time today to thank those special people for being part of your journey.

Now, it’s my pleasure to introduce the Chair of the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education. Nick Hacker is the CEO of Guaranty and Title Co. He is a proud 2005 graduate of UND and served in the North Dakota Senate. Here is Mr. Hacker.

Nick Hacker: On behalf of the State Board of Higher Education, I’d like to congratulate you on a job well done. I’m especially pleased to be able to offer you some congratulatory sentiments today on behalf of the state as well as a 2005 alumnus.

This commencement ceremony marks the completion of your respective programs. Few other events will serve to spring you forward quite like it. I’m confident your education at the University of North Dakota will help you meet the new and emerging challenges of the day.

And, I know those graduating will take what they’ve learned here to help find future success.

Graduating class of 2020, you’ve made it. You should be extremely proud of every step it took to achieve this milestone, one of many more to come. Congratulations.

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President Armacost: I’m sure you’re all as ready as I am to be done with 2020 and a fall semester that will undoubtedly go down in University of North Dakota history as one of the most challenging and unusual ever. The important thing to remember is: We made it!

Back in August, when UND reopened for the fall semester, we had a plan in place on how to keep the campus open, keep people safe, maintain health standards and provide our students with the best education possible. It was challenging, and there were rough spots along the way, but – with your cooperation and willingness to adapt – we did it.

I applaud and commend all of you who have persevered through the year. Being a graduate of the University of North Dakota at this time makes your class truly unique, exceptional and historic.

Just as my first semester at the University was nothing like I envisioned it, I’m certain your last semester at UND was nothing like you envisioned it. But we got through it.

We changed. We adapted. We transformed. It’s safe to say that the entire experience has altered the course of higher education in ways we can see and other ways we can’t yet fully comprehend.

For example, the new Nistler College of Business & Public Administration currently under construction will be the first business school built in the COVID pandemic era. It will incorporate technologies that both enhance education and communication. Students can have a virtual cup of coffee with UND alumni and business leaders to advise them on their entrepreneurial ideas and potential startups.

Technology outreach will enable us to bring experts into the classroom to engage in more experiential learning, increasing opportunities for collaboration and interactive engagement.

It’s important to recognize that while the past nine months have been filled with stress and strain, we can be proud of what we’ve accomplished at UND under the most trying of circumstances.

We’ve had national leaders visit the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences to explore ways UND can assist with deep-space exploration and support the newly created U.S. Space Force, both in terms of research and workforce development. These leaders were impressed with the well-rounded graduates our University produces, graduates not only well versed in aerospace, but who also have expertise in law, policy, engineering, computer science, medicine and other fields.

It’s an area full of opportunities.

UND’s School of Medicine & Health Science, the School of Nursing, the Center for Rural Health and Department of Psychology were recognized for behavioral health services in rural areas during the COVID-19 pandemic. They developed a Behavioral Health Bridge to provide information and launch virtual behavioral health treatments to address community needs.

Two regional centers to address the issues of mental health and addiction were also created to serve North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.

In October, the state of North Dakota announced the launch of Vantis, a statewide network that will enable unmanned aircraft system – UAS – to operate beyond visual line of sight. Those who follow the UAS industry know that these types of operations are the key to integrating drones into the national airspace and unlocking their true potential of commercial UAS applications.

UND has played an integral role in the research, development and commercialization of UAS technologies that directly benefit the agricultural and energy sectors of our state. The University has been and will continue to be vital to the success of North Dakota’s UAS ecosystem.

Whatever the future holds, I can assure you that change will be part of it. The education you received at UND provides the basis for how you cope with change and respond to it.

I know this class has been tested. The Class of 2020 has risen to the challenge of dealing with unforeseen changes and adapting to its unpredictable consequences.

As former President John F. Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

UND has provided you with the educational foundation on which to build. As long as you look at it as the start of your education and never stop learning, you will never miss the future.

I have great confidence in the University of North Dakota’s Class of 2020. Congratulations! Now, go forward and be a force for positive change in the world.

Hats off to you, class of 2020.

Now, it’s my pleasure to introduce a special group of people. I am proud of the Deans who represent our Colleges and Schools. They have worked hard to help the University transition to online instruction during the pandemic.

I know you seldom interact with your Dean, but they have played an important role in your education. Here are the Deans, or their representatives, to welcome and congratulate you.

Brian Tande, Dean, College of Engineering & Mines: Today, we’re here to celebrate your success and pay tribute to your ability to change.

Under normal circumstances, getting a degree is not easy. Nationwide, nearly half of college students drop out – and that’s during normal times.

Gabriel Arntson, Dean’s Representative, College of Nursing & Professional Disciplines: We all had to change during the last few months. You had to be resilient – more than any other time in your college career. But you did it – and now, we acknowledge your fortitude and courage.

Cindy Juntunen, Dean, College of Education & Human Development: Use the power and privilege that comes from your degree. Create the kind of change that will make the world a better place.

Get involved with those issues that are close to your heart. You have the resources to make meaningful change. Your future is up to you. Be a Leader in Action.

Michael S. McGinniss, Dean, School of Law: During this time – more than ever – society needs new ideas. Your creativity – your diverse perspectives – your power of persuasion – and your ability to communicate effectively can be transformational.

Kenneth Ruit, Associate Dean, School of Medicine & Health Sciences: The late president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, said, “We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference.”

Chris Nelson, Associate Dean, School of Graduate Studies: During this challenging time, you’ve shown patience, persistence and perseverance. These elements will serve you well. Patience can help you become a leader, a director, or even a CEO. You may not step into these positions right out of college, but with patience, you can get there.

Paul Lindseth, Dean, Odegard School of Aerospace Studies: Persistence will keep you focused on your ambitions. It guides you as the world evolves, and sometimes it even forces you to change your goals.

Perseverance is the grit and determination to keep going. It gives you the ability to walk right up to the edge and have faith that you won’t fall off. Be patient. Be persistent – and persevere.

Bradley Rundquist, Dean, College of Arts & Sciences: As you turn the page on this chapter in your life, keep learning. That spark of knowledge that started here will continue to grow, but you have to be open to it.

Amy Henley, Dean, Nistler College of Business & Public Administration: Keep learning. Read – engage – debate – care – build trust, and stay connected to your alma mater. From all of us at the University of North Dakota:

All: Hats off to you, class of 2020.

President Armacost: I would like to thank the Deans and their representatives for being part of our program today. I know they will be proud to welcome you into our alumni family.

The next portion of our ceremony involves the conferring of degrees. Candidates for graduate and undergraduate degrees will be presented by Provost Debbie Storrs.

Debbie Storrs, Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs: President Armacost, these candidates have completed all the requirements for their graduate or undergraduate degrees. It is my honor to present them to you.

Candidates, please stand as President Armacost confers upon you the appropriate degrees awarded by your college or school. Congratulations!

President Armacost: Thank you, Provost Storrs.

Upon the recommendation of the faculty, and by the authority of the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education, I confer upon you the degrees granted by your college or school.

I have the honor of welcoming you into the ancient and universal society of scholars with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities pertaining thereto.

You may now be seated.

If you are an undergraduate student who is wearing a cap and gown, this is the appropriate time to move your tassel to the left side of your mortar board.

At the end of this video, you may search your name and hear our announcer officially recognize your degree. Congratulations to all of you.

It is now my pleasure to introduce you to DeAnna Carlson Zink, the CEO of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation.

DeAnna Carlson Zink, CEO of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation: It is my pleasure today to welcome you as the newest members of our alumni family.

This family you are now a part of cares deeply about this university and about each other. I can tell you the many alumni have asked how you are all doing during this difficult time. They have backed up their concerns with donations to the UND Angel Fund and Open Door Scholarship Program to help.

Each new alumnus of this great university stands on the shoulders of those who have come before them. Our alumni provide support through their generosity and also through their inspiration.

For example, Werner Nistler graduated with a degree in accounting from UND in 1968 and founded a company called Touchmark that runs senior retirement communities.

Werner says UND made him a better person. He says, a UND education will take you beyond your wildest expectations.

He knows that to be true, because it happened to him. And now, his name is on the College of Business and Public Administration as the generous lead donor of a new building.

Other members of the UND family quietly make a difference in their communities and the lives of others. They are pilots, teachers, nurses and entrepreneurs. They are engineers, journalists and accountants.

It is on the shoulders of these alumni that you now stand. And my wish is that you would be able to see a very bright future with your UND degree in hand.

In these times in which we are asked to distance ourselves from others, I want to ask you to stay connected to your alma mater. Join the alumni Facebook page or follow us on Twitter or Instagram.

These are ways you can bond with this new family you’ve joined. We are here to encourage you, inspire you and support you.

My sincere congratulations and best wishes. Remember, each of you is now a part of the fabric and personality of the great University of North Dakota.

Hats off to you, Class of 2020!

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President Armacost: Now, we present a special performance by students from our Department of Music.

The University of North Dakota Alma Mater is set to the Emperor’s Hymn by Josef Haydn. The lyrics were written by Professor John Macnie, who graced our campus from 1897 through 1909.

I spoke about the Alma Mater at my recent Inauguration Ceremony. It challenges us, especially as we transition into a new life.

It challenges us to maintain our sense of pride for our institution. It challenges us to be thankful. And, it challenges us to pass on our knowledge to new generations.

Here is the UND Alma Mater.


President Armacost: We’re going to close with one more greeting. We had to work very hard to arrange this special guest to appear at your Commencement Ceremony. I am thrilled that schedules were adjusted to make this happen.

On behalf of our special guest – and me – congratulations on becoming graduates of the University of North Dakota.