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Challenges met: UND wins national award for innovation

Award from American Council on Education and Fidelity Investments honors UND’s creativity, commitment and responses to change

UND President Andrew Armacost stands with ACE President Ted Mitchell (left) and Patrick Vaughn, Senior Vice President and Tax Exempt Practice Lead for Fidelity Investments, in accepting the 2022 ACE Award for Institutional Transformation. Photo courtesy of American Council on Education.

The University of North Dakota has won the 2022 American Council on Education/Fidelity Investments Award for Institutional Transformation, a recognition of UND’s commitment to North Dakota, Grand Forks and student success.

The award recognizes institutions that have responded to higher education challenges in innovative and creative ways and achieved dramatic changes in a relatively brief period. It includes a $10,000 prize.

UND is one of only two U.S. colleges and universities to win the 2022 award, and the only one in its category of schools with 12,001 or more students. MassBay Community College in Wellesley, Mass., won the award for institutions with student populations of up to 12,000.

“UND is older than the state it resides in, yet it has regularly strived to find new and innovative ways to make its community a better place to live, learn, work, and play,” ACE and Fidelity Investments state in their announcement of the award.

It started with potholes

As evidence of UND’s commitment, the announcement points first to the campaign that the University undertook with Grand Forks, “Our Town & Gown Story: Two Communities. One Vision. Endless Opportunity.”

What began as a cooperative project between the city and the university to fix potholes morphed into a shared vision for a better community, the announcement notes. Moreover, the campaign also led to ongoing widespread engagement and spirited buy-in from individuals, businesses, and other organizations in the Grand Forks area.

Now home to 60,000 people, Grand Forks has experienced a relatively stable population with one key exception: its recent 48 percent leap in residents ages 25 to 39, the announcement reports. This boom has been largely attributed to UND’s strategies focused on incorporating work-integrated learning in the classroom, as well as adding new and robust internship programs, creating a workforce pipeline that’s proving vital to the city and surrounding region.

Some examples of these partnerships include collaborating on a major renovation and development of University Avenue, the main thoroughfare through the heart of campus and the city; pairing student interns in city departments and cost-sharing internships at early-stage companies; and creating a Workforce Development Initiative to align coursework, curricula, and labs to meet the needs of students and employers.

In May, UND and Grand Forks were recognized with one of America’s highest awards for outstanding town/gown relations. The city and university won the Larry Abernathy Award from the International Town & Gown Association, an award given annually to a city and university that together show a clear desire to collaborate for the betterment of their campus and community.

And in August, in another development cited by the Institutional Transformation Award announcement from ACE and Fidelity Investments, UND became the first university to join the U.S. Space Force’s University Partnership Program.

The University dedicated $8 million to faculty recruitment and space initiatives and is partnering with the state of North Dakota, which has given $14 million.

​The ACE/Fidelity Investments Award for Institutional Transformation recognizes colleges or universities that, in a period of great change in higher education, have responded to challenges in innovative and creative ways that allow the institution to thrive. Photo courtesy American Council on Education.

‘Truly honored’

“The University of North Dakota is truly honored and grateful to be recognized as an institution of higher education responding to the difficult challenges of our times through innovation and creativity,” said UND President Andrew Armacost.

“We approach our mission with a commitment to serve the needs not only of our students and the surrounding community, but also of North Dakota, the Upper Midwest region, and our nation.”

The Institutional Transformation Award was presented on Sunday at ACE2022, ACE’s Annual Meeting in San Diego.

“The University of North Dakota and MassBay Community College should serve as examples of the types of innovation and transformation that benefits not just their own students but the communities they serve,” said ACE President Ted Mitchell. “These awards are well-deserved.”

“Fidelity is proud to team with ACE to recognize the University of North Dakota and MassBay Community College for the creative and innovative ways they addressed important issues facing their institutions,” said Sangeeta Moorjani, head of Tax Exempt and Retirement Solutions, Fidelity Investments.

“In the midst of an extremely challenging environment for colleges and universities, these are great examples of higher education institutions who extended their focus beyond academics to find ways to positively impact their communities.”