President’s letter: Waking up to vital developments at UND

Wake Up to UND, NASA recognizes Pablo De Leon, and Suicide Prevention Awareness Month are among topics on president’s mind

UND archival image.

This morning, we concluded another successful Wake Up to UND with our partners at the Grand Forks and East Grand Forks Chamber of Commerce. I understand this event has been going on for about 20 years, but for me, it was the first time I’ve been able to participate live and in person. And if that sounds like the intro to a TV talk show, it’s because we used a similar format this year. Those unable to attend can watch it online here.

Andrew Armacost

The theme was “New Faces, New Places,” which provided the opportunity to showcase one of UND’s new places – the Memorial Union. – along with the renovated Chester Fritz Library and Gershman Graduate Center. Wake Up to UND was held in the ballroom of the Union, giving business leaders an inside-look at how the Memorial Union benefits the greater Grand Forks community. It was a terrific way to show what the University has to offer. I couldn’t be more pleased with the venue and the professionalism displayed by our faculty and staff.

I was proud to introduce some new faces to our community and help people get to know them through on-stage interviews. They are Provost Eric Link, UND Student Body President Kaelan Reedy, and UND Women’s Basketball Coach Mallory Bernhard. These key campus leaders shared their visions in the important areas of academics, student government, and athletics.

After all these years, Wake Up to UND remains an important event with which to bolster and maintain the University’s town-and-gown partnerships and collaborations with the community, as well as the surrounding region. One-on-one, face-to-face communications are still the best way to develop relationships that lead to new opportunities that benefit North Dakota, its communities, and rural areas.

On another subject, National Hispanic Heritage Month began Sept. 15 and goes through Oct. 15 to recognize and celebrate the contributions of the American Latino community. In an article and a video, NASA is using the occasion to highlight the work of Pablo De Leon, professor and chair of the Department of Space Studies in UND Aerospace.

Growing up in a small agricultural town in Argentina, De Leon’s passion for space exploration was inspired by the Apollo space program and 1969 moon landing. His rocketry hobby led to a post-graduate degree in space studies and a Ph.D. science and technology history. He started working as a NASA contractor in the early 1990s and is now, according to NASA, “one of the few Hispanics who collaborates with the agency as an investigator of spacesuits and human flights into space.”

Throughout his 17-year career at UND, De Leon has conducted research for NASA and helped imbue students with the same curiosity, passion, and interest in space exploration that he experienced more than 50 years ago. It’s a marvelous example of our core principle of discovery in action. If you see Pablo around campus, congratulate him for being recognized by NASA and please join me in thanking him for all he does for our University and our students.

Finally, on a very serious note, September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Mental health and suicide are topics sometimes considered taboo for discussion and stigmatizing to those in need of help. However, it is extremely important for anyone wrestling with depression or struggling with the pressures and challenges life throws at us to know that help is available at UND. The University Counseling Center, Student Health Services, and the Northern Prairie Community Clinic stand ready to assist students, faculty, and staff experiencing mental health issues.

So, please, talk to someone. Make a call. Get the help you need. Your health and wellbeing is important to us.

With respect,

Andy Armacost, President