Meet Eric Link

UND’s new provost is touring campus, visiting departments and preparing for fall semester

The University community welcomed Eric Link as provost and vice president for academic affairs on July 1.

Previously the provost and senior vice president for academic and student affairs at the University of Houston Downtown, Link has been getting acquainted with campus.

He sat down with UND Today for a quick visit.

Welcome to UND, Eric! What are your first impressions?

My first impressions confirm what I learned about the University initially. This is a dynamic University, with great people and a great sense of community. There is fantastic work going on across the University.

You’ve been touring campus and meeting members of the University community. Can you talk a bit about your visits?

It has been wonderful to get to know the faculty, staff, and administrators here at UND.  Since the search process was handled entirely remotely, this opportunity to connect with some of the faculty and staff and leadership across the University has been both enjoyable and educational. I’ve been extraordinarily impressed at every stop with just how professional the staff are, how knowledgeable folks are, and the quality of the work going on in each unit. The physical campus itself is a real asset, and with all of the construction on campus, the university’s landscape is only going to keep getting better. Still, it’s the people inside the buildings that make UND a world-class university, and I’ve met so many talented and dedicated people as I’ve toured campus.

How do you like Grand Forks?

I love Grand Forks! The whole Link family is truly enjoying all that the city has to offer. We’ve met so many welcoming and friendly people—and we are proud to call Grand Forks our home and to be a part of this community.

We’re so glad to have you! It’s early days, but what are some of your long-term and short-term goals as provost?

In the short term, we want to make sure we are well prepared for the fall semester, from our student support services to our faculty resources to our teaching, classroom preparation, and technology. That work started long before I arrived, it continues now, and will continue right up to what will assuredly be an exciting and productive fall. In my first few weeks here on campus I’ve been working with colleagues across the university to try to make sure that we provide an exceptional experience for students, faculty, and staff.

Long term, I would like the resources of the Office of the Provost to be geared toward the enhancement and elevation of the academic enterprise here at the University. That goal, broad as it may seem, speaks to just about every aspect of university life, and incorporates the support of students, faculty, and staff so that the entire university community can work collaboratively to continue to make the University of North Dakota the premier institution of higher education in the region, and an integral part of the higher education landscape across the United States and beyond.

I think that the University of North Dakota is a fantastic institution. There’s so much going on and so much to be proud of here. We want to keep that as a trajectory going forward. We want to continue to build the visibility of the University, enhance our academic reputation, and continue to attract and retain world class scholars and teachers. And most importantly, we want to ensure that the students who come here get a great education from faculty who are dedicated to their success. That’s part of the long-term strategy that I know is shared by administration, faculty and staff across the University. And that’s certainly the core of what we want to achieve here in the Office of the Provost.

One of the things that I think is really important, and I’ll certainly do what I can in my role to promote this, is that we want to be a university that not only the Grand Forks community is proud of and engaged with, but we want to serve as a primary resource across the state of North Dakota. We want to show leadership and engage with citizens across the state.  This vision is embodied in the very name of our university — we are the University of North Dakota — and it’s suggested by our University brand: leaders in action. I’d like students, parents, teachers, industry leaders, officials — all citizens of the state — to see the University of North Dakota as their university, and a partner in promoting the intellectual, cultural, and economic growth of the state.

How did your experience as a faculty member and researcher impact your approach to being provost?

I’ve always considered myself a faculty member first, an administrator second.  Like so many of my colleagues across the university, I pursued higher education not so that I could serve in one administrative role or another, but so that I could teach and do research side-by-side with great colleagues. My love for teaching and scholarship shapes my life as an administrator and leader, and to this day, I still try to stay as involved in the work of my discipline whenever and however possible. This is an important part of my identity, even though most of my work these days is administrative in nature. I look at that work through the eyes of a person who really wanted to be effective in the classroom, who loved teaching students, who really enjoyed doing research and publishing, who enjoyed serving on committees and working with colleagues at the departmental level, the college level and beyond to accomplish positive work for the University, and who has always valued the important connections between the University and the community in which it resides.

That’s really a part of who I am, and it shapes and give substance to the role that I play as provost. I’ve always served in some kind of administrative capacity, even from my first tenure-track job, when I was asked to serve as an assessment coordinator during my first semester as an assistant professor. That work as an assessment coordinator led in quick succession to subsequent service as a Faculty Senate officer, a department head, a graduate studies director, an internship coordinator, and so on. I count myself fortunate, for these administrative roles that I held early in my career allowed me to really get to know the profession from a variety of new perspectives, even when I was still building my teaching and research portfolios as an untenured assistant professor.  I got to see what it meant to be a citizen of the University. That really helped when I began to take on larger administrative roles as a department chair, associate dean, then dean, and as provost. It has truly been a great education, and its genesis is in my love of teaching, scholarship, and service to the university.

What drew you to study American literature and English?

I knew from a very young age that I wanted to get a terminal degree. I don’t know why, but I just knew. It’s seems like a strange goal for a pre-teen to adopt, I’ll admit. But I had no idea as a 10- or 11-year old what field I might like to pursue. When I finally did get to college, I eventually settled on a degree in communications, with an emphasis on speech and theater. So a lot of my undergraduate preparation was in acting, directing, play production, speech, forensics, debate team, and so forth. However, whenever I had room on my schedule for an elective, I always took literature classes. I simply liked to read novels, and enjoyed taking literature courses whenever I could. I never completed an English major as an undergraduate, but I did manage to accumulate about 30 or more elective hours in literature along the way. When it came time to go to graduate school, it was either theater or American literature, and it came down to a coin flip because I enjoyed them both.

Tell us about your family.

My wife Laura and I have four kids, two boys and two girls — and we couldn’t be prouder parents. Our oldest, Sarah, is about to make us grandparents for the second time. Our second-oldest, Nathaniel, is a data systems engineer for large company in South Carolina. Our younger two — Natalie and Nolan — moved with us here to Grand Forks. Natalie graduated from high school this past May. She moved with us to Grand Forks, but she’ll soon head to college in Indiana this fall. Our youngest, Nolan, will attend Red River High School as a sophomore.

We have a dog, Lexi, who is a rescue. She is half border collie and half hound, about 80 pounds, very smart, and sheds everywhere. It’s impossible to keep the house clean. But she’s definitely worth the daily vacuuming.

We like to travel when we can. We are a family that enjoys getting out on the road, seeing new places, and trying out new things together. We are eager for the border to open up to the north so we can get up to Winnipeg before winter, and we have plans to start exploring a few spots across North Dakota and Minnesota soon.

Laura is especially thrilled to be here in Grand Forks. She loves the Midwest for its genuine people and family-oriented focus, and Grand Forks delivers both and so much more. The entire Link family is really pleased to be here. We’ve only been here for a month, but it feels like home already.


About Eric Link

Eric Link earned his doctorate in American literature from Purdue University, a master’s degree in English language and literature from Southwest Missouri State University, and a bachelor’s in communications from Evangel University, Springfield, Mo.

He served as provost of the University of Houston Downtown from 2019 until moving to UND in July. His academic experience includes dean of arts and sciences at Purdue University Fort Wayne, English department chair and associate dean at the University of Memphis, professor and head of language and literature at North Georgia College and State University, and a variety of other administrative roles.

An award-winning teacher and scholar, he is widely published and has twice served as a Fulbright Senior Scholar at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland and in Lutsk, Ukraine.