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Campus-wide gratitude: UND students show their appreciation for donors making an impact

The UND Student Senate took gratitude to a new level by passing two resolutions thanking recent donors to the University.Photo by Shawna Noel SchillPhoto by Shawna Noel Schill
The UND Student Senate recently took its gratitude to a new level by passing two resolutions thanking recent donors who have given to the University. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today

The UND Student Senate took gratitude to a new level by passing two resolutions thanking recent donors for their generous gifts to the University.

“In my 29 years with this organization, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this,” said DeAnna Carlson Zink, CEO of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation (UNDAAF). “For the student senators to take it upon themselves to pass these resolutions in support of our donors is remarkable. It shows the caliber of students we get at UND and how their time here on campus creates leaders in action.”

Student body Vice President, Kaleb Dschaak, said Student Government wanted to show not only its gratitude for these gifts, but the gratefulness of the student body as a whole.

“As students, we don’t often get the opportunity to express our gratitude to these individuals,” said Dschaak. “They really do make an enormous difference. They are making noticeable impacts on campus for our students. We passed these resolutions to show them how grateful we are.”

College of Business
Early in the fall semester, the UND Accounting Department, housed in the Gamble Hall (above), the headquarters of the UND College of Business & Public Administration, received an anonymous $1 million gift to to fund graduate student stipends and set up an endowed chair for the department.

Enhancing Accounting

The first resolution, “Support for Anonymous Accounting Department Donor,” recognizes and thanks the anonymous donor who gave $1 million to the Accounting Department within the College of Business & Public Administration, supporting graduate student stipends and creating the Kulas Koppenhaver Endowed Chair of
the department.

“For this donor to make this substantial gift to a department that had such an influence on their own career shows you just how much our alumni think of the education they received at UND. They want others to benefit from the same quality education. We are so thankful,” said Carlson Zink.

An endowed chair is a position permanently funded by the revenue from an endowment fund set up for that

purpose. This allows for continuous support of research and publishing and rewards faculty for quality teaching. As said in the resolution, these funds “provide graduate students and faculty with the resources to better serve their department.”

“The Kulas Koppenhaver Endowed Chair offers us the opportunity to further build on a tradition of excellence in our Department of Accountancy by supporting experiential learning for our students, putting them ahead of the curve when starting their professional careers,” said Amy Henley, Dean of the College of Business & Public Administration.

Dschaak said they passed the resolution to thank the anonymous donor because they may never get the chance to meet the benefactor. “We thought we’d make it very public and let everyone know how grateful we are. It not only alerts our alumni and
this donor, but it also alerts the community to what these great people are doing for our campus.”

Hal and Kathleen Gershman
With a $3 million gift from Hal and Kathy Gershman (above), the University hopes to transform UND’s original president’s home on campus into an engagement center for graduate and international students. Image courtesy of Korrie Wenzel.

New space, new mission

The second resolution honors a $3 million gift from Hal, ’66, and Kathy Gershman, which will transform the original president’s home on campus for use as an engagement center for graduate and international students. As said in the resolution, titled, “Support and Gratitude for Hal and Kathy Gershman Donation,” graduate and international students currently lack a dedicated space to gather, study, collaborate
and form relationships.

Kathy Gershman said she saw this first hand not only as a faculty member, but also when she was a graduate student herself. She retired in 2015 as professor and former chair of the UND Educational Foundations and Research Department. She had been a member of UND’s faculty since 1984.

“Graduate students need to work together because they do a lot of class projects together,” she said. “That’s where my heart was, that was where my professional life was.”

Built in 1903, the Oxford House was home to the University’s fourth president, Webster Merrifield. Described as one of the most fashionable homes in the Midwest, the residence later served as a dormitory, then as the location for the Art Department and, after a 1981 renovation, became the home of UNDAAF. It has seen limited use since the UNDAAF moved to the Gorecki Alumni Center six years ago. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

They plan to upgrade the building to make it state-of-the-art and workable for the modern student with high capacity for technology and collaboration while maintaining its original grace.

“Hal and Kathy have always been such great supporters of the University of North Dakota and its students, but this gift is just extraordinary,” said Carlson Zink. “We are so grateful for their vision for this beautiful and historic building.”

This act of generosity from the Gershmans didn’t go unnoticed by the students.

“The Student Senate formally thanks and acknowledges Hal and Kathy Gershman for their generous contribution to graduate and international students,” read the resolution.

“We really wanted to show our appreciation for this gift. This group of students can sometimes get disconnected from campus, but the engagement center will help them develop a community and make them feel like they belong here. I’m really hoping the Oxford House becomes their home,” said Dschaak.

And this act of gratitude didn’t go unnoticed by the Gershmans.

“We were flabbergasted to get this news about the resolution, but we were also thrilled. It tells me that the students are happy about it and that they will use the space,” shared Kathy. “I’m delighted that they are so happy about it. From the donor’s perspective, its one of the sweetest moments. It’s dedicated to student use, so to have the students come back and say thank you is so great.”

The resolutions were the first to be passed by Student Government this year. “It was a great way to start off the year,” said Dschaak. “Everyone was on board with these two resolutions, and everyone was excited. There was a lot of passion behind them, and that just shows how grateful students are for the support of alumni and friends of the University.”

In other UND student news:

Undergrads take top honors for study on food accessibility in rural North Dakota

: (Left to right) Zachary Seeger, Roseville, Minn.; David Kaplan, vice president of the American Association of Geographers; and Phoebe Eichhorst, Kearny, Neb.
(Left to right) Zachary Seeger, Roseville, Minn.; David Kaplan, vice president of the American Association of Geographers; and Phoebe Eichhorst, Kearny, Neb.

Two undergraduate researchers at UND took home first-place honors for a geography-based study on food accessibility in rural North Dakota.

Phoebe Eichhorst, originally from Kearny, Neb.; and Zachary Seeger, Roseville Minn., received the top prize in the undergraduate student category for their research poster, titled “Identifying Food Deserts in Rural North Dakota:  A GIS-Based Analysis of Food Accessibility” at the annual meeting of the Great Plains-Rocky Mountain Division of the American Association of Geographers. The gathering took place Oct. 5-6 at Kansas State University in Manhattan.

Eichhorst, who is majoring in geography, interdisciplinary studies and Honors; and Seeger, a geography major, are collaborating with UND Associate Professor of Geography Enru Wang on their research project.

The research being done by Eichhorst and Seeger is indicative of the opportunities that are available to undergrads at UND. UND has a stated strategic research goal enhance discovery among students and faculty to a level consistent with Carnegie Foundation “R-1” institutions, the highest-research-activity schools in the nation.

The research is funded in part by a grant from the UND College of Arts & Sciences. — David Dodds

Space Studies team wins free out of this world ride for their science project

A team of student researchers from UND won the 2018 Ken Souza Memorial Student Spaceflight Research Competition, and  for its efforts has been awarded $1,000 grant and a free ride into space for its science project aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket.

The competition, which began in 2016, is hosted by the American Society for Gravitational and Space Research (ASGSR) and encourages student investigators to develop and compete original research proposals in the fields of space life and physical sciences.

The UND team, called the “Dinonauts,” was formally announced as the winning team at the ASGSR Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 3.

Co-team leader James Stoffel was there to accept the award. The Dinonauts also comprises co-team leader Lauren Banken and fellow student researchers Sophie Orr, Terry Rector, Marissa Saad, Dario Schor, Feraidoon Bourbour and Eryn Beisner, along with their faculty mentor UND Space Studies Professor Michael Dodge.

UND’s 2018 winning proposal is titled “Dinoflagellates (Bioluminescent Phytoplankton): A Study of Enzyme Kinetics in Microgravity.” The experiment uses bioluminescent algae, called Dinoflagellates, to study the influence of microgravity on biochemical reactions at the cellular level. The knowledge gained from the experiment will complement ongoing research efforts on the effects of microgravity on the human body— specifically skeletal, muscular and cardiac systems, which need to be better understood for long duration manned spaceflight.

Earlier this year, the Dinonauts tested their experiment prototype through UND’s High-altitude Balloon Program, which launches science payloads into Earth’s upper atmosphere using specialized balloons. The prototype achieved a height of more than 90,000 feet and demonstrated the experiment’s baseline capabilities. Using the information from this first test flight, the team will continue to develop their experiment for their project’s upcoming spaceflight aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket.  — David Dodds

About the Main Author:Lauren Vetter

Lauren Vetter, ’18, is a Content Specialist at the University of North Dakota Alumni Association and Foundation. The recent graduate of UND and native of Fargo, double majored in Communication and Public Affairs, with a minor in Nonprofit Leadership.