UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

President Kennedy: Open Letter to Aviation Department

UND President Mark Kennedy addresses a recent Aviation Department vote in an open letter.
UND President Mark Kennedy addresses a recent Aviation Department vote in an open letter.

James Higgins, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair
Aviation Department
John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, ND 58203


Dear Jim,

Re: Open Letter in Response to Recent Aviation Department Vote

To reiterate my initial response to your notification of the Aviation Department’s vote of no confidence in Provost Tom DiLorenzo, let me begin again by assuring you and your colleagues that we at UND are very proud of the Aviation Department and all it has accomplished over the last 50 years. The University leadership is committed to its continued success.

I remain perplexed as to why you or the leaders copied did not seek a meeting to bring these issues to me prior to the faculty deciding to take this action. Thank you for taking the time to discuss the faculty’s concern with me in person today.

The Aviation Department is a jewel. It is one of the areas of instruction of which we are most proud at UND. We have great faculty in our Aviation Department. They are under significant stress with the surge in demand for pilots. They deserve our support. They have legitimate concerns. The lack of addressing those concerns is a failure of leadership. The question before us is at what level did that failure of leadership occur.

To ensure that the college and department are getting the leadership they need to remain the premier aerospace school, I am asking Vice President of Finance and Operations Jed Shivers to join in weekly meetings for the next several months with Provost DiLorenzo and Dean Paul Lindseth to ensure that communications are fluid, decisions timely and that both sides are leading their respective sides closer together as OneUND. In addition, I look forward to gathering monthly with you and the small group of aviation faculty that gathered with me today.

If there was ever a confusion that the University is fully supportive of finding innovative ways to attract the talent necessary to meeting the peak instructional demand, I hope that is cleared up. Similarly, if there was ever a question that the university is supportive of providing the time for existing faculty to devote more of their time to constructive research, I hope we are clear on that as well.

As it relates to our incentive-based budgeting, so called MIRA, several Colleges no longer require subvention from the University and both Dean Lindseth and the University believe that the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences will no longer require subvention beginning next year. University executives, in conjunction with the Odegard School’s leadership, spent hours providing information to key board members of the State Board of Higher Education and made a persuasive case to permit differential tuition that provides extra funds needed to invest in continued leadership. The tuition proposal was formally approved which is creating the financial framework to enable the Odegard School to move forward with outlays for new technology as well as providing future funding for incremental faculty and market-based compensation increases when warranted.

Further, given the dynamic nature of aviation instruction with stresses related to compensation for instruction, etc., the Provost, Vice President for Finance and Operations, and his staff have engaged in an iterative business planning process with the  Odegard School to ensure that we consider compensation issues, physical infrastructure support, technology costs, etc. so that we are all involved in setting the School up for an even brighter future.

Given this degree of interactive involvement with the future success of the Odegard School as the clear goal, the notion that the Provost is indifferent, or hostile does not seem to be supported by these definitive actions. That said, my hope is that the expanded meeting schedule will allay any concerns you and the faculty have with the leadership of Provost DiLorenzo.

Looking forward to working together to raise high the banners of UND and our treasured John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences in unison.

Thanks for all you do for UND and our students.
Mark Kennedy

University of North Dakota