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Perfect pairs

One UND Strategic Plan goal captains and project managers prep for partnerships

Angelique Foster
Angelique Foster, executive assistant to the UND president, kicks off an initial meeting of goal captains and project managers for implementation of the new One UND Strategic Plan on June 20. Photo by Richard Larson.

Angelique Foster took her place at the front of the long conference table of Twamley 305, occupied by One UND Strategic Plan goal captains and their freshly appointed project managers. As Strategic Plan implementation lead, Foster was ready to get everyone in the same boat for the first time.

“Has anyone been canoeing before?” she asked, pointing the snapshot of the watersport on the screen behind her. “Who knows what the person behind everyone does?”

The group collectively responded, “Steers!”

“And the people in the front?” Foster inquired.

Someone yelled, “They’re the muscle!”

Foster smiled. “Now, let’s look at this metaphorically,” she said. “The person behind everyone, our captains, are the steerers of the canoe, symbolizing the One UND Strategic Plan.  The people in the front are paddling like crazy to keep up with the directions and ideas that our captains come up with. They also make sure that we’re staying on time, staying on target and staying on budget.”

This June 20 initial meeting between all of the goal captains and project managers was the next step in a summer process that will set the main navigators of the Strategic Plan up for success. The gathering began with each individual describing what they had planned so far with their counterpart, and where they hoped to move their projects next.

“We are lucky because we already had some groundwork laid by a committee that had come up with some things that we could do to help our military and veteran community,” said Goal Six project manager and Director of Administrative Services Technology Sherry Lawdermilt.  “So we’ve actually started going through that list.”

UND Research Specialist and Goal Four (enhancing research) project manager Evan Boucher also expressed momentum. “I’ve met with a number of Grand Challenge participants and leaders, and I’ve been meeting with folks about advancing our research capabilities,” he said.

One UND strategic plan implementation team
UND’s One UND Strategic Plan goal captains and project managers convene on June 20 as part of the next step in a summer process intended to set the main navigators of the Strategic Plan up for success. Photo by Richard Larson.

Trained managers

Although some teams have already made progress on their goals, this meeting outlined what would happen now that implementation teams had been named and formal project management training had been scheduled.

One of the tasks the duos will tackle together in the coming weeks is developing the scope, project plan and project charter for their goals. Strategic Plan Project Management Coordinator Dirk Huggett, also the Director of IT Planning, Procurement and Project Management for Core Technology Services (CTS), explained that the project charter is a foundational contract between the project manager and the captain detailing the requirements and expectations of the project.

“If you look through this project charter and you say that you’ve accomplished all of the things that were identified in the charter, then you’ve been successful as a project manager,” Huggett said.

The June 27-29 training will familiarize the project managers with their roles and how to use the TeamDynamix management platform to keep their goals advancing and in alignment with the other goals. Huggett and his CTS team will also offer separate specialized training and mentorship for those who are new to this kind of work.

“Our goal is to help you with project management. We aren’t going to do anything in the work – you’ll have to do all that for yourself. We’re not going to get involved with the decision-making process,” Huggett said. “It’s a support role, so that you don’t feel like you’re lost in how to handle this.”

Strong teams

Strategic Plan project managers will meet as a group once a week to reflect on their progress and work out any sticking points between goals. But the one-on-one relationships with their captains will be the most essential, which is why captains put a lot of thought into their picks.

“I wanted two qualities in my project manager. I wanted someone who is a veteran, and I wanted someone who’s passionate about this kind of work,” said UND Provost and Goal Six (meeting military needs) captain Tom DiLorenzo, who chose Lawdermilt as his teammate. “She fit them both.”

“I’m excited to have the opportunity to help meet the educational goals of the men and women that serve our country,” Lawdermilt added. “The Provost has excellent thoughts on how we can make this goal a reality, and my job will be to work with our implementation team to carry out his ideas.”

The pair piloting Goal Five (fostering an inclusive campus) share the devotion to their undertaking. Interim Vice President for Student Affairs and Diversity and Dean of Students, Cara Halgren, said her project manager, Sara Kaiser, came to mind right away.

“I’m grateful she was willing to take on this role and I have already seen her make it her own,” Halgren said. “I know that Sara will keep us on track and help us maximize our time and talents together as a team.”

Kaiser, who serves as UND assistant director of Student Rights & Responsibilities, shared her captain’s optimism. “Dr. Halgren and I will be a strong and efficient team because of our shared commitment to foster a welcoming, safe and inclusive campus climate,” she said, adding, “I couldn’t have asked for a better goal captain.”

With a long journey of hard work, unplanned setbacks and celebrated successes ahead, Foster reminded the group that they would eventually become more than professional partners.

“This endeavor is going to be going on for a while. So, eventually, we will become something like a family,” she said. “So look at the person to your right, and look at the person to your left – and hug it out,” she concluded to the chuckles of the group.