UND names communication director
Dedicated champion of University spirit, David Dodds, begins new career chapter
University of North Dakota’s new communication director, David Dodds, has five children; six if you count UND Today.
As senior editorial director at UND, a position he held for nearly three years prior to his promotion, Dodds nurtured the University‘s official news portal from its infancy in 2016 to its current status as the preeminent hub for campus stories.
The success of the publication, conceived by UND President Mark Kennedy when he arrived at UND, exalts Dodds, who previously led the research-focused UND Discovery magazine.
“When we started we had to explain what UND Today was and I don’t think we need to do that anymore,” he said. “I am quite proud of that.”
With Dodds at the helm, the outlet has more than doubled its subscribers, gaining renown across the region.
Yet, with a true North Dakota humility, Dodds, who was born on a farm outside of New Rockford and raised in Dickinson, shares the achievement with a slew of others.
The President, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Tom DiLorenzo, the UND Today staff, Vice President for Marketing & Communications Meloney Linder – all of them enrich the publication, he said.
But starting Feb. 19, Dodds, who has spent over a decade upholding UND’s public relations efforts, is to seize a role that augments the mission of UND Today, which he holds so dear. He will officially assume the role of UND communications director.
“My big goal is to amplify UND’s message and raise the prestige of the University by letting more people know about the great things that we are doing here,” Dodds said.
It may not be a job too foreign for Dodds, who took over external communication responsibilities when Meloney Linder joined UND as the vice president for marketing and communications.
Media outreach, content oversight, strategic planning – all, and more, comprise the duties of a communication director. To Linder, who led the candidate search, Dodds possesses the expertise and experience to tackle them.
“I am thrilled to have David step into the communications director role,” she said. “During my time at UND, David has already begun to help us advance our efforts to proactively tell our UND stories locally, regionally, and nationally.”
Strengthening the bench
Dodds’ promotion to communication director is part of a series of recent moves to strengthen the University’s administrative team with strategic thinkers who have the vision and energy to lead UND to even greater success. As communication director, he bolsters an already strong bench of new and established administrators at UND that include Provost Tom DiLorenzo and Senior Vice Provost Debbie Storrs in Academic Affairs; Jed Shivers in Finance & Operations; Cara Halgren in Student Affairs; Peter Johnson, on a part-time basis in support of Shivers’ public affairs functions; and Meloney Linder in Marketing and Communications, to name a few.
These leaders already are taking on even larger roles than before as University spokespeople, conveying UND’s messages of enhanced student experiences, campus renewal and discovery to important external audiences and stakeholders.
Life of reward
Dodds’ insights and service to UND, where he also obtained his bachelor’s degree in communication, are hardly the sole facets of his career.
Prior to coming to UND in a professional setting, Dodds covered mostly higher education for The Grand Forks Herald, where he honed his aptitude for journalism, a craft that appears a natural embrace for his love for literature and composition.
“I really learned a lot actually working among the veteran reporters at the Herald,” said Dodds, who spent 10 years at the paper. “UND helped me get my foot in the door with a student internship at the Herald. I would have never had that experiential opportunity had it not been for UND.”
In 2006, Dodds deployed to the Middle East as a military journalist with the Army National Guard, in which he enlisted as a junior in high school. He lived and served alongside other U.S. soldiers. But he also listened to their tales, snapped their photos and relayed their stories to the small towns across America that raised them.
Dodds also escorted national and international civilian reporters and helped them embed with troops who serving overseas.
“[Young American men and women] were making a difference for something, whether it would be for our allied initiatives or the humanitarian side of what we were doing over there, rebuilding schools, building children’s cancer centers amid war-torn cities,” Dodds said.
After roughly two years back in North Dakota, a time when he transitioned from the Herald to UND, he deployed again – to Kosovo, a tiny country in the western Balkans grasping for sovereignty.
Dodds worked with the local press there, instilling democratic principles and values in a region where the yoke of totalitarianism was lifted a mere decade or so ago.
“It was the most rewarding experience in my life – these overseas deployment opportunities but it was also the hardest time in my life being away from my family,” Dodds said.
And still, Dodds’ work overseas chiseled an appreciation for international media and local cultures that polished and deepened his craft as a communicator, relationship builder and emphatic leader – traits vital for the post of UND’s communication director.
“It has been fun to work with [Dave] at UND for more than a decade,” said Johnson, the University’s long-time public affairs executive and spokesperson, who hired Dodds at UND. “He has continued to grow into a consummate media relations professional. Dave will do an absolutely excellent job in his new role.”
Dodds is married to Jennifer, an elementary teacher in Grand Forks, where they have chosen to settle and raise their children: Emma, Eliza, Josephine, Amelia and Lydia.