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UND celebrates launch of new strategic plan

‘UND LEADS’ calls for campuswide commitment to Learning, Equity, Affinity, Discovery and Service

After an 11-month process involving dozens of focus groups, hundreds of completed surveys and thousands of comments and suggestions, UND launched its new UND LEADS strategic plan on Friday, setting the stage for a future devoted to the goals described by the LEADS acronym: Learning, Equity, Affinity, Discovery and Service.

In front of more than 250 people in the University’s Memorial Union, plus hundreds more viewers online, UND President Andrew Armacost led a lineup of faculty, staff and students in describing the new plan. “At our kick-off meeting 11 months ago, I shared my hope that this plan would reflect the rich history of UND and the local community, and reflect the aspiration of what we may become,” Armacost said.

“That is exactly what the planning team has delivered,” he continued. “Each of us can build upon the central pillars of UND LEADS to find new ways – large and small – to incorporate them into our everyday work and habits. There are no limits to what we can achieve individually and as a group when we work toward common goals.”

At a lunch earlier on Friday to thank and honor the plan’s developers, Eric Link, UND’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, echoed the president’s sentiments. “The vision that has emerged from our strategic-planning process is something that can inspire all of us,” Link said. “It’s something that will give shape and significance to the work of this university for years and years to come.”

“UND LEADS was transparent. It was inclusive. And the plan that has been created is inspirational. We have a document that we can really look to, in order to help shape the work that we do; encourage conversations both within individual units and across units; and get faculty, staff and students aligned along a common set of goals, all with the aspiration to build the greatest UND that we can,” Link added.

A forward-focused vision for UND

According to the Society for College and University Planning, strategic planning is “a deliberate, disciplined effort to produce fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an institution is, what it does, and why it does it.”

Moreover, “the world that higher education serves today is vastly different than 10 or 20 years ago,” the Society continues on its website. “Higher education institutions are asked to prove their worth, redefine their purpose and respond more quickly to society’s needs.”

And as a result, “higher education strategic planning is no longer an empty exercise or a leadership vanity project. It is imperative for each institution to survive – and thrive.”

At UND, that’s the spirit that animated the development of the UND LEADS plan over the past year. Notably, the University was just finishing up with a successful five-year plan: The One UND Strategic Plan, which helped guide institutional decision-making from 2017 through 2022.

The One UND Plan yielded a number of accomplishments, especially in areas such as student retention and success, online education and improving the campus’ physical environment, Armacost said at Friday’s launch.

With the adoption of the new plan, “we are building on the success found under One UND,” Armacost said. “And UND LEADS will also build on the University’s history and legacy of serving the needs of North Dakota and its citizens.”

Raising the Pillars

In February of last year, UND’s Strategic Planning Committee got to work. Charged by Armacost with developing a clear strategic vision and mission that will serve UND students and the greater community, the committee – co-chaired by Lynette Krenelka, executive director of the Teaching Transformation and Development Academy, and Jim Mochoruk, Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor of History – began by inviting the University community to share insights and ideas about UND’s future.

Those insights arrived via workgroups, Town Hall meetings and campuswide surveys, among other means. Comments were further considered as the plan evolved through multiple drafts.

The plan that resulted is meant to bring to life UND’s Mission “to provide exceptional educational experiences that enrich the lives of North Dakotans and the global community through excellence in teaching, innovative research, and meaningful engagement,” and Vision “to inspire a sense of wonder, a love of discovery, and a commitment to serve.”

The plan does this by describing the five Strategic Pillars of Learning, Equity, Affinity, Discovery and Service as UND’s foundation for years to come.

Examples from campus life

At Friday’s launch, faculty, staff and student speakers described how those Pillars already are serving as guideposts. These days, for example, Learning at UND goes far beyond the old-fashioned model of students sitting in classrooms listening to lectures, said Joonghwa Lee, associate professor in the UND Department of Communication.

Lee recalled how last year, his students worked with the Grand Forks Fire Department to create logos, banners and promotional materials for the fire department. They also organized a campuswide event with firefighters called “Fire Safety Fest,” thereby learning both marketing and event planning through real-world experience.

Among many other events, a national workshop to make STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — more accessible for all students, including those who may be blind or deaf, was prompted by UND’s commitment to Equity. Affinity underlies the sense of belonging that Head UND Football Coach Bubba Schweigert is describing when he tells prospects, “At UND, we don’t recruit you for four years. We recruit you for the next 40-plus years.”

Discovery is furthering research on campus at the nanotechnology level, the spaceship-communications level and virtually every other level in between.

And under the category of Service, Master of Public Administration Student Anna Roaldson described her work with the Special Olympics College Club at UND. Thanks to the club’s many events and activities, UND was honored earlier this month as an ESPN Top 5 Special Olympics National Unified Champion Banner School, Roaldson said.

The University is the first school in North Dakota history to receive this honor.

“Service is a commitment to people and communities,” Roaldson noted. “Thus, by embracing collaboration and civic engagement, we can continue to build better tomorrows at the University of North Dakota and throughout the world.”

Living the plan

For the new UND LEADS plan, the next step will be the development of an Integrated Planning Team, Armacost said at the event. That group will recommend ways for the institution invest resources, set priorities and measure progress to implement the plan.

But throughout that process and beyond, members of the UND community should “think about how the five pillars of the plan relate to your job and what you can do to lead in your own way,” Armacost said.

“No matter what position you hold at UND, individually, you can make a difference,” he told his audience. “Please join me in realizing the vision and accomplishing the mission that the members of our campus have created: UND LEADS – today, tomorrow, and forever.”