VIDEO: State of the University, remarks from provost and president

University Council shares updates from six deans, staff and student governance as well as feedback from provost and president

On Tuesday, May 3, UND’s University Council hosted its spring meeting via Zoom. The embedded YouTube video shows the meeting in its entirety, which includes updates from six of the University’s nine colleges and schools, as well as updates from the Staff Senate and Student Government. Provost Eric Link and President Andy Armacost also participated and offered extended remarks, which have been transcribed below. In the video, Link begins speaking at the 56:41 timestamp; Armacost then takes over at about 1:14:40.

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Provost Eric Link

I’ll start us off, take us through a few minutes and then hand things off to President Armacost. I know that we’re just a few minutes behind, I’ll try to move things along here.

Eric Link

I do want to start by pointing out that we had the honor to receive a really nice award recently. WICHE, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, gave UND its 2022 Colleagues’ Choice Innovation Award to celebrate our all of our work across campus on OER efforts. Maybe some of you saw the press release that went out about this, the news stories. This is a very nice recognition of all of your work, frankly, because this was an institutional commitment across faculty, staff and administration with the help of the library, faculty, designers, TTaDA – you name it, folks who are involved in this work. So thank you for helping to make this happen. And we are pleased to be recognized for this work here at UND.

I’m so glad that we heard from six deans today because there’s so much great stuff going on across all of our Colleges here at the University. We could pause here and spend the rest of our time drilling down on all of the wonderful things that have been happening across campus. Unfortunately, we can’t take the time to do that right now. But every college has so much emotion, so many achievements, so much good work that has happened in the past year. And as you saw in the presentations today, so much forthcoming in the coming year.

Of course, in the Odegard School, the signing of the partnership with Space Force and all of their work at a national level on student mental health and wellness; the thousands that we brought here with Aerospace Community Day. In the College of Arts & Sciences, you see the picture here on the screen – we had the opportunity to establish the very first historical literary landmark in the state of North Dakota, right here on our campus, honoring the playwright Maxwell Anderson.

Of course, you heard from Dean Henley today about all the great stuff going on in the Nistler College. I know everyone’s aware of this, but this year we were able to celebrate the naming of the Middleton School. It’s a tremendous opportunity and achievement for UND, a great partnership with Tom and Konnie Middleton. And we’re so pleased for all the work that’s going on there. Of course, we’re looking forward to opening the new Nistler College in the coming months.

The College of Education & Human Development has really – aside from everything else that they’re working on – is really working hard to try to help make sure that the state of North Dakota is meeting the needs in terms of teacher education and preparation. And they’ve done a great deal of work recently to try to put some pieces in place to really make a difference at the state level, in terms of making sure that children across the state get access to great teachers and a quality education.

You heard from Dean Tande, today, from the College of Engineering & Mines – so much going on there. So much ambition for the future. I do want to highlight, of course, the Petroleum Engineering programs receiving the Outstanding Achievement award and recognition for the Drilling and Completion Lab. We have now, I believe, over 180 graduates from that program working in the oil and gas industry in the state right now.

The Graduate School – we heard from Chris Nelson today, their work opening the Gershman Center and establishing the Accelerate to Industry program, and so many other things.

The School of Law – so many of our graduates from the School of Law have made headlines in great ways this past year. You see the picture on the screen there of Erica Thunder, who was named one of the USA, Today’s Women of the Year, and so many others who have achieved recognition coming out of our School of Law.

We heard, of course, from Vice President Wynne today about so much great stuff happening in the School of Medicine & Health Sciences. All of their work establishing not only the first doctoral program in indigenous health, but announcing the Indigenous Trauma and Resilience Research Center, the new practice-based research network known as the American Indian Collaborative Research Network, and on and on, so much great stuff happening in the medical school.

Our College of Nursing & Professional Disciplines – we heard from Dean Shogren today, so much great work going on there. And, again, really doubling down on our efforts to try to meet the health needs of our state and our region through nursing education, dietetics, nutrition, social work – outstanding stuff happening across the University. And I did want to take a moment just to highlight some of that today.

It’s an exciting time to be here at UND, for sure. There’s a lot of program development going on across campus. You heard earlier from Dean Tande about the biomedical engineering program. I can’t mention all of the new things that we’ve welcomed into our catalogue just in this past year. But you’ve heard, no doubt, about the new BS in esports coming out of the Department of Kinesiology, a new Master’s of Science in applied statistics. You might have heard about the reconfiguration of the cybersecurity program using the concept of stackable certificates – one of the first of its kind at the University. In this past year alone, I think we had over 14 different certificate programs approved across the Colleges. Lots of great stuff going on.

Let me talk for a moment about shared governance. As you all know, President Armacost and I share a common commitment to making sure that shared governance is not just something that we talk about on campus, but it’s something that we practice, and that we put into operation. And we’ve certainly tried to do that this year. I can’t name all of the things that have happened across campus that speak to shared governance, including this very meeting itself, of course, but a couple of things just to highlight some of the ways in which campus culture and climate is being transformed through shared governance.

I’ll start by mentioning the revised charge for the Senate Budget Committee. That was a great deal of effort and time and thought this year that had a very positive outcome. And now, under its new charge, which was approved by the University Senate for the first time in the MIRA era, this particular shared governance committee is playing an integral role and a meaningful one in our strategic budget building and allocation process.

The Merrifield and Twamley project – we have made sure that as this project moves forward that faculty and staff stakeholders have a voice in the process. We have kind of rebooted that process to make sure that the programming for those renovations are going to really meet the needs of the departments that will be housed within both Merrifield and Twamley Halls.

As you all know, we have conducted a number of executive searches across the University this year. And we have done so, of course, in a way that allows for everyone who wants to participate and to know about those searches – we’ve made that information available. We’ve had faculty and staff representation on those committees. And I think that we are bearing the fruit in a positive way of that commitment to executive leadership hiring.

And the last thing I’ll mention, because I know the president is going to mention this, as well, is the strategic planning process itself. This is an outstanding opportunity for every stakeholder on campus – faculty, staff, students – to be able to participate in the creation of the next set of goals, targets and ambitions that we have for our outstanding institution. So, please take advantage of the opportunity this year to participate in that process whenever you can.

Esports – let’s talk about this for a moment. Again, I’ll try to be brief here but we are excited that we are about to break ground on the construction, in the garden level of Swanson Hall, of a brand new esports varsity competitive space. Without going into too much detail, this is going to set the standard in the state of North Dakota, and we think the upper plains, in quality of varsity competitive esports competition. It’s going to be an outstanding facility. We are really excited about this. We are already seeing, even before this facility is underway, our recruitment efforts have a real impact. Students are choosing to come now to UND in order to participate as varsity esport athletes on campus. So, we’re looking forward to that ribbon cutting soon.

Underway right now is the MyUND app. I don’t know how much everyone has heard about this, but this is an exciting opportunity for our students, staff and faculty here on campus. This will be an app that will be, I’m told, largely available to everyone this fall – fingers crossed – in time for Welcome Week in August. But this will be an app that will give us a chance to allow a single portal through which students can not only check out books from the library, drop and add classes, make appointments, find out what events are happening on campus, and on and on and on. So, we’re really excited about this project. And stay tuned when you come back, faculty, in the fall. This should be up and running.

A few academic updates – just a few projects that we are working on and have been working on this year, in the office. First, I want to talk you may have heard about COIL. This is the Collaborative Online International Learning Group run out of the SUNY system. We have joined that collaboration, that global network, with 130 other universities. This partnership allows a faculty, within their individual classes, to set up cooperative learning experiences with students taking similar courses in countries all around the world. So, this is an exciting opportunity for faculty and students, if they wish to participate, to build into each class’s curriculum opportunities for engagement at a global level. I will say, just as a plug: faculty, if you are interested in participating in this, send an email to Jeff Holm and he’ll give you more details about how to be an early adopter in the COIL network.

I’m also very proud to announce that UND has recently signed an MOU that establishes our relationship with the new University in Exile Consortium. Without going into too much detail, this is a group of a number of outstanding institutions, many here in the United States but several abroad as well, that are committed to providing support for exiled and displaced scholars around the world; scholars who are displaced or under threat because of warfare or other conditions. This is a network of universities that can provide them a temporary home during that time. So, we have joined this consortium, I’m proud to announce, and expect that we will likely host a displaced scholar in the coming years.

Finally, Riipen – I know you’ve heard much about this from Jeff Holm and others, but we are starting to see real results from this particular program. I’ve got a few statistics that you might find of interest. From summer of ’21 through today, 1,005 students have participated in a work integrated learning experience in one of the Riipen-enhanced courses. These experiences have involved UND partnering with 34 different employers. They have created over 37,000 individual experiential learning and high-impact practice hours for our students, etc., etc., etc. So, great things happening through this particular collaboration. And thanks to everybody who has helped bring this opportunity to our campus.

Policies – again, this is a topic we could spend a great deal of time on. But I do want everyone to know that we have lots of stuff going on in the Office of the Provost related to policy revisions, upgrades, reviews, audits, the list is quite long. I’m sure that Heather Wages is listening to this right now. She has a long list on her desk of all the different policy documents that she and I, and the other Vice Provosts and the rest of the team, are working on just in the past year. To highlight a few things, you may know that we’ve done some updating to the Faculty Handbook. Of course, that happened through the shared governance process. We have worked on some new policies related to endowed faculty chairs, political activities policy. We’ve done some work on indigenous artifacts, arts and archiving policies. And, again, on and on. So, please, when you get notices about new policies, or if you have any questions about policies that we might be working on, you can always reach out to my office and we’ll get you the answer that you might be looking for.

Two things that we have talked about at great length this year are the HLC accreditation and the strategic planning process. I will save any thoughts on the strategic planning for the president’s remarks. But, I do want everyone to know that we are on target and on time right now with our HLC re-accreditation work. The criterion teams are working hard, they are either on time or in some cases even ahead of schedule. So, lots of good things happening there. And I certainly want to thank the executive committee in charge of the HLC reaffirmation process. And, of course, Tim Burrows for their hard work on that effort.

Looking ahead, I’ll merely say that we are working really hard in the enrollment management side of the house and in the advising and retention sides of the operation, to make sure that we are able to continue to capitalize and encourage on student success – keeping our students on track for a great graduation. And, of course, attracting new classes of students at both the graduate and undergraduate level that hopefully will lead us up to commencement and graduation. You can see some pictures here from commencement exercises. So, looking forward to the exercises, the spring exercises in the next week or two. I do hope if you get an opportunity to participate, that you take advantage of that so that we can wish all of our graduates a successful journey in their next adventure.

So I’ll end here with simply a note of how thankful I am to have been able to spend this past year with all of you. It’s a fantastic institution, so much good stuff going on. And it truly is an honor to be able to play a role in the leadership of this institution and work with all of the faculty, staff and students on enhancing the work that we do. So with that, thank you so much. And I’ll hand it off to President Armacost.

YouTube screenshot.

President Andy Armacost

Thank you, Provost Link. Eric, I really appreciate the update. And let me begin just by thanking the leaders of the Senate, Cristina Oancea, Brian Schill and Kaelan Reedy, your excellent work this year was really appreciated by all of your constituents. And congratulations to Bob, to Paula and to Faith for coming in and taking over the reins, and exciting times during that transition.

Andy Armacost

I appreciate everything that everybody’s done across this campus this year, just the hard work, and the opportunity to create great experiences for our students and for our faculty and staff has been truly extraordinary. And we’re hitting the end of the year. This is the last week of classes. And we go into commencement week following final exams next week. And this is a chance for each of us to relish in the success of our students and to really appreciate what they’ve done, the hard work and their accomplishments. And then just knowing that we’ve each spent an extraordinary amount of time getting them ready for this point. So, congratulations to each of you for making that happen.

I too, have a few slides that I will share. And you’ve heard some of the themes already from our colleagues, and I really appreciated what the deans offered. And hopefully you see a big giant green screen, Cristina, give me a nod. Okay, good. And what I wanted to do is actually, at the highest level, provide some key indicators of kind of where we are. And it will begin with just a few financial highlights. And I wanted to give you a sense of where our revenue comes from, just so each of you has an appreciation – this is kind of finance 101.

I’ll throw some numbers on here in a minute. But if you think about certain areas of support, we have the support from the state, which is derived from what we know is the funding formula. This is based on how many credit hours our students take. We have the tuition that our students pay, we have a whole bunch of grants, federal, state and non-government grants. We have sales and services, and then auxiliaries, like dining and housing. And then what we’ll do is also look at the total revenue, and then the total revenue plus the general fund allocation.

So I’ve just made a mess of the screen, of course, but just to give you a highlight – these are the big areas that that we track in terms of money coming into the University. So, if we look at fiscal year ’16 through ’21, as well as our projections down in green for the entire fiscal year – the current fiscal year which we haven’t completed yet, which is why they’re projections – what you’ll see are just over recent years kind of a marginal increase in in the state support, which again, is tied to credit hours. If you look at the last two years of tuition and fees, so the 179 to 183, you see a marginal increase, but recall that we had increased tuition by 4 percent. And if you do quick math, you’ll see that the amount of tuition and fees, that increase is less than 4 percent. So, if we had held even, we would have expected a 4 percent increase. I’ll get more to that in a minute.

You’ll notice though, that over the last few years, we’ve seen tremendous growth in contracts. And the bulk of that is research contracts. I’ll give you a bottom line number on the next slide. So, those are some areas that we have to pay attention to. There’s some great news and the contracts or the grants and some worry in terms of how our tuition is growing, and also the state support. So, with that in mind, let me go to just a track of the enrollment. These are the total student credit hours by year taken by our students, and you’ll see a gentle decline. Now, of course, this looks more dramatic because of the scale. But you’ll see roughly from ’18 to ’21, you’ll see a reduction of about 30,000 credit hours. So, this is about 1/12 of where we were in 2018. So, about 8% reduction in student credit hours. This should get our attention. But what this is representative of is an increase in the number of online students which has doubled over the last six years, and then a gentle decline in the number of on-campus students. Online students are more likely to take fewer courses than our on-campus folks. So, we have to pay very close attention to this.

The good news is deans and vice presidents have done a very nice job in terms of planning for the future. And so, when we look at the reserves that we have on campus, we see a growth in the total reserves. This is for academic units, and so that $110 million in reserves is spread across our Colleges and Schools. Some Colleges and Schools have, you know, $2 to $3 million in reserves. Our largest is our School of Medicine & Health Science, which has close to $60 million in reserves. And that might shock you, but don’t be shocked. Those reserves at the medical school are really to back up research projects that they need to make sure they have money committed to federally funded projects, which have a required match by the school.

So, anyhow, the point here is that our reserves are healthy. They exceed the state benchmark. And it gives us some flexibility to do things like consider how do we adjust for inflation? Because inflation, of course, can have very bad results on college campuses. And then, in addition, these reserves allow us to look at strategic initiatives. And you heard Dean Tande talk about looking forward to funding faculty positions or research projects within the School. So, having a healthy set of reserves gives deans as well as the president a chance to look at strategic initiatives and make some positive changes for the campus.

And I realized I’ve got two minutes left. The great news on research funding is we see a growth just in the last year from $110 million to $143 million. This is pretty darn significant. And we’ll see what the fiscal year ’22 results are, as we close out this fiscal year and do the accounting. So, the research funding is an important piece and that money, the indirect benefits that come out of research funding, goes straight to the colleges that own those projects. So, research funding is a great thing for us to look at.

Moving ahead to the strategic plan, as we think about how to strategically allocate our funding, the strategic plan will have a key impact on this. I appreciate the work of Jim Mochoruk, of Lynette Krenelka and the entire team that’s been doing great work. This is just a snapshot of where they stand. You see here, in front of you, the names of the seven work groups that are continuing to do great work to identify initiatives that we can follow on our campus to achieve great things.

In addition, Eric had talked about a big award from WICHE, we also received a national award from the American Council on Education for institutional transformation. So, there’s a great story about how it started with a pothole – how the campus and the local community came together over renovations or repairs to University Avenue. And that blossomed into a series of partnerships between us and the City of Grand Forks, and other local units, to do great things. So, whether it’s the adoption of the Space Force Partnership, which again, was the result of the great connection we have across the campus, with the local community, to other physical projects that had benefited the campus and the City of Grand Forks.

It’s all about the people that are here. And from our chemical engineering courses, and Professor Beth Klemetsrud, to the pride we feel in the performance of our student athletes, to the opportunities for us to gather and do things that are good for our mind, body and spirit, and, ultimately, to our graduating students. This is just a tremendous time to celebrate who we are as a community and what we bring to one another.

And with that spirit of togetherness, I just wanted to close by saying, I am committed to the people of this campus, and to make sure that we do the things necessary to allow people to have that full sense of belonging, and to really achieve great things. So, I have committed to funding two key positions that have been unfunded, recently, and that is restoring the director position for our Pride Center, and restoring the director position for the American Indian Center and American Indian Student Services. These are two important areas that our campus has tremendous need for, and we need to make sure that our campus fully commits to supporting not just those two groups, our LGBTQ+ and our American Indian students, but to support our entire campus richly and fully, and to come together as one.