UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

‘Leading with optimism through challenges’

President’s biweekly letter and video focus on future, scholarships, supporting campus community

To the members of the UND community,

Tuesday evening, I gave a talk to the Greater Grand Forks Young Professionals group about leading with optimism through challenges. It was an honor to be asked to speak on this topic, though I had never given a talk on “optimistic leadership.”

Over the course of several weeks, I reflected upon the leaders who struck me as optimistic. That is, those who seemed to have the propensity to be hopeful about the future or about achieving some positive outcome. You’ve been around people like this.

They might appear to be happy. Or they might be aloof. It is really tough to tell one’s optimism simply by appearance, but I’ll offer four characteristics that strike me as the basis of optimism: competence, confidence, patience, and hope.

There are some people who just know they’ll be able to achieve a positive outcome, and I believe it stems from characteristics such as the four I’ve listed. When I’ve worked alongside such people, I’ve felt a sense of peace, knowing that everything will work out just fine despite the chaotic and uncertain situation in which we might have found ourselves.

When I think about my first year on the UND campus, I think of the many people who have helped get us through some tough times. There are many who have competence in their areas of specialty, who confidently executed their responsibilities, who were willing to watch things unfold as if in slow-motion, and who held deep beliefs that things would work out. We relied on them – and each other – to make smart decisions on behalf of the university. For that, I am grateful.

I strive to do my best to offer this same sense of optimism. Further, I seek to find and develop that same sense in others, though it manifests itself differently in each of us. When we see a contrarian, we should really see someone who’s looking for a different solution. When we see an “angry” colleague, we should seek to understand the reason for that emotion. When we see a person who is disengaged, we should look for opportunities to support their re-engagement.

Further, we must pay attention to our friends and colleagues who might require support that goes beyond what we can provide. For those struggling with mental health issues, I have attached a list of resources available for students seeking help and for those looking to offer support. Help is also available for university employees through our wonderful Employee Assistance Program.

We are about to embark on the next phase of our pandemic journey – the reopening of our campus. This will be almost as uncertain as what we faced on the front end. How do we restore that sense of humanity and connectedness? How do we adjust to a campus environment that is different from that to which we have become accustomed? How do we break the old habits that were aligned with surviving and replace them with new (or “old old”) habits that allow us to thrive?

Your homework assignment is to reflect upon how you’ll contribute to the re-tuning of our campus to help bring us together after being so distant for more than a year. Our ideal campus is one where we all engage, on both the important and the silly. We must do so with respect for one another, along with a sense of empathy, openness, support, and, of course, optimism.

With respect and hope,


Information from the University Counseling Center

  • University Counseling Center is offering Tele-Mental Health services remotely through a secure platform to eligible, enrolled students located in North Dakota and Minnesota. We currently have staff who are Board Certified Tele-Mental Health (BC-TMH) providers.  Essentially, depending on the student requests below, time between a phone call to session can range from immediate to within a few days.
    • When a student calls and asks to set up an appointment to start meeting with a counselor at UCC, the student is scheduled for a new client appointment.
    • If a student needs an Emergency Counseling Session, a same day session is scheduled.
      • If someone is in need of an Emergency Counseling Session, please call UCC at  701-777-2127 so we can work to best assist the student immediately.
      • Note: All established clients at UCC are made aware that they can always access an Emergency Session should a mental health emergency arise between scheduled counseling appointments.
  • Case Management: The UCC Case Manager, Kristi Kuntz, can be reached directly at 701-777-4187
    • We understand that as the end of the semester is approaching, additional support outside of direct clinical services around the UND community is at times needed for students.  Kristi is available for students, faculty, staff and parents to work with to help students at UND.
  • Outreach Services
    • We offer general service overview presentations, as well as presentations focused on mental health prevention and intervention, for students, staff, and faculty. UCC is more than happy to Zoom into any classroom to provide further information about the services available at UCC.
    • UCC can also offer Mental Health First Aid to members of the University community upon request.
  • Future items
    • We are currently working to obtain licensure in four additional states to continue to expand the number of locations where we are able to provide tele-mental health services.
    • We are finalizing the details and will have available for students in the near future a mental health app.

Information from Student Health Services

  1. Student Health Services offers general medical and mental health services, including psychiatric services to students. Student Health Services can be reached at 701-777-4500.
  2. Student Health Services has a psychiatrist and a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner on staff and currently provides tele-health services for students.

General Information

  • If you are concerned about someone or yourself and are not sure where to go, what to do, or whom to ask, you can share a concern with Student Rights and Responsibilities (701-777-2664) or online at https://und.edu/student-life/student-rights-responsibilities/share-a-concern.html.
  • Faculty and Staff – if you are concerned about a student you can contact OSRR, raise a behavioral concern flag, or raise a student of concern referral in Starfish.
  • Guidance for faculty and staff regarding supporting and responding to challenging situations is also available online at https://und.edu/student-life/student-rights-responsibilities/pink-folder.html.
  • If someone is concerned about their immediate safety or the immediate safety of another person please contact the University Police Department (701-777-3491) or local law enforcement (9-1-1) immediately.