University Council gets ‘Year of Gratitude’ recap
Fall 2022 meeting features strategic plan update, roundup of past year’s events
Thanksgiving came early during UND’s biannual University Council on Thursday.
For President Andy Armacost’s State of the University Address, which was held last Thursday or a week before the national holiday, the council meeting was a chance for him to celebrate what he’s been calling “the Year of Gratitude.”
His speech followed annual updates from several UND colleges and schools taking part in the fall 2022 meeting, all of which carried similar tidings of thankfulness and gratitude.
“It’s important for us to focus in our own, individual way about how we can express that sense of gratitude to one another and share it with our students and colleagues,” Armacost said.
“I have such gratitude for all the vice presidents and members of the executive council who do so much for this University, as well as all of the deans, directors and people who have come together in this post-COVID world and done amazing things across the campus,” he continued.
Armacost used the spotlight of the State of the University Address to deliver highlights and updates from his executive council, the group of vice presidents and division leaders who execute the president’s vision on a day-to-day basis.
The deans who spoke before him expressed their own sources of gratitude, leading the Nistler College of Business & Public Administration, John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, College of Education & Human Development and College of Arts & Sciences, respectively.
This fall’s meeting also featured Strategic Planning Committee Co-Chairs Lynette Krenelka and Jim Mochuruk providing a recap of the work behind UND’s newest strategic plan, now known as UND LEADS. The launch date for the 2023-28 plan is Jan. 20, they said.
The full, 90-minute-plus University Council is available to watch on UND’s YouTube channel.
A few throughlines emerged for the group as the president recapped what has been a busy fall at UND between new facilities, new people and new plans developed with the help of the broader campus community.
The University is at a five-year high for enrollment, Armacost shared, and UND has a higher number of Presidential Scholars enrolled than it’s ever had, at 1,157 – including 477 first-year Presidential Scholars. Incoming GPA figures also increased from 3.47 to 3.58, on average, in fall 2022.
Accreditation activities have been happening across campus, with site visits completed for degrees in 14 academic areas, as well as Student Health Services. Armacost remarked that UND is steadily meeting national standards through its hundreds of program offerings.
On that note, 15 new academic programs were added in the past academic year, he said, including a degree program for esports that has garnered attention across the region. Work also is underway on a new facility under Swanson Hall that will provide state-of-the-art space for UND Varsity Esports activities.
Research expenditures have jumped considerably, and the expectation is for that increase to be maintained, Armacost said. According to recent surveys provided by the Division of Research & Economic Development, UND’s total research-and-development spending increased by 30 percent in FY21, now totaling $143 million.
On the part of the College of Education & Human Development, Dean Cindy Juntunen characterized their bolstered research figures as the harvest of past seeds sown in the college’s strategy. Grant expenditures have doubled in five years for the CEHD, she said, and research productivity has met that increase.
“We must remain committed to scholarship across all academic disciplines,” Armacost remarked. “We have a vital role in creating new knowledge, not just in the areas known as the Grand Challenges.
“However, we’re going to continue focusing on those Grand Challenges and inviting participation from across campus in those challenges, as well as welcoming opportunities for new Grand Challenges.”
Diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at UND also shared a spotlight among University Council speakers.
Armacost held DEI as key to the strategic plan, as well as everyday activity on campus, during his remarks. Several presidential advisory committees with DEI focus have been established or reinstated this year. And Tamba-Kuii Bailey, special assistant to the president for diversity and inclusion, has been instrumental in supporting such efforts, Armacost said, including UND hosting its first-ever DEI conference. The October conference drew hundreds to campus to discuss DEI issues in academia.
Armacost also brought up UND’s ongoing commitment to the repatriation of Indigenous ancestors and sacred items. He said the “technical work” of the effort is underway as of this past month, and he further offered apologies for the University’s past mistakes – adding that his commitment is strong in seeing the process through to the end.
On supporting Native American students, staff and faculty, Armacost mentioned that a new director for UND’s American Indian Center will soon be hired, and the Native American Coordinating Committee has been reinstated after a decade or so of inactivity.
Another first in recent days was the First-Gen Day Celebration held in the Memorial Union, which is anticipated to be an annual event recognizing those who are the first in their families to complete a four-year college education. The Nov. 8 event celebrated UND’s Office of TRIO Programs, which supports several federally funded programs that help first-gen students earn degrees.
Mental and behavioral health has come into focus for UND as everyone emerges from the shared trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic and as the state suffers workforce shortages in these areas. The Green Bandana Project – a peer support program originating in UND Athletics – now involves more than 350 students on campus who can direct fellow students to available help and resources. At the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, the Uplift Program has a similar aim and also was launched this fall.
Dean Robert Kraus also reported that student groups within UND Aerospace have made conscious DEI strides with their “Faces of the Industry” events in the past year, which brings all UND aviators together to talk about DEI in their industry. And Kraus spoke to the council just as his college finished hosting its second Aviation Mental Health Summit, which drew “great representation” from government, industry and professional organizations in aviation, as well as six other flight schools. A forthcoming story from UND Today will provide coverage of that event.
Armacost finished his speech with a substantial list of focus areas for the coming year, including the launch of the strategic plan and the 2023 North Dakota Legislative Session.
He also listed topics such as faculty and staff recruitment; pay equity; inflation; academic and research growth; behavioral health needs; preserving free speech and academic freedom; DEI efforts that eliminate barriers to student success and growth; the future of Division I athletics; and further opportunities to “come together as a campus.”
“We should all take the opportunity to say ‘thanks’ to one another,” Armacost said. “Together, you create the sense of wonder, discovery, belonging and community that makes the University great.”