State of University address advances UND LEADS Strategic Plan
Each member of campus community can play role in University’s success, President Armacost says
There is no doubt that the onset of a new academic year stirs excitement on the UND campus. With fall classes having just started, that excitement has come to a head. And just last week that growing, building sense of energy, of potential, was on display at the State of the University address, on Thursday. Aug. 17.
This year the address was separated from UND’s biannual University Council meeting to capitalize on the previously mentioned excitement that precedes the return of students to campus. The event was held in the Barry Auditorium of the Nistler College of Business & Public Administration, and guests spilled over from the auditorium itself to the adjoining common area.
“Wow, this place is packed,” remarked one attendee, after entering the auditorium and seeing some 250-plus people taking their seats.
Eventgoers had a lot to listen to, and a lot to be excited about, as President Andrew Armacost described the state of the campus, before discussing the UND LEADS Strategic Plan, and its forward-facing vision of the campus that encourages all students, faculty and staff members to discover ways to be leaders in their roles.
It was a point that Armacost illustrated by presenting a slide of the Georges Seurat painting, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” The work is a preeminent example of the pointillist style of painting, in which individual dots make up the larger picture.
“It’s the picture that we’re going for,” Armacost said. “You and your efforts, your programs and your spaces are all the individual dots that, when taken together, create this amazing picture that we call UND LEADS … That’s the analogy you should take away, that your role is important. Each of you leads, and together you create these graduating classes each year of people who are going to change the world. You should be proud of what you do, and you should be excited about what lies ahead of us. Let’s tackle all of these challenges together.”
Armacost enthusiastically updated attendees with the most recent data from a variety of metrics that are paramount to any university. Estimated enrollment, he said, is up nearly 2% from last year, and estimated student credit hours increased by just over 1%.
Armacost said enrollment since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic has increased each year by 1%, which culminated with a total of 13,876 students at the start of last fall. This bucked the national trend that saw a 7.4% decrease in enrollment during that same period.
And with the increase in students at UND comes an influx of new faculty and staff members. More than 90 new faculty members have joined the University’s educational ranks, as have 350 new benefitted staff members. They will be needed to help UND’s new freshmen class, which has increased by 4%, as well as other newcomers to campus. The number of graduate students has increased by 5.4%, while transfer students grew by nearly 20% and international students are up by a phenomenal 21%.
Armacost was quick to acknowledge a reason for the growth:
“It didn’t just happen,” he said. “It happens because of the outreach from our marketing group, from our faculty members and from our staff members who are taking active efforts to get the word out about how we are doing.”
Armacost referenced the grand vision of the UND LEADS plan, when speaking of donor support. Contributions from UND supporters have led to the creation of 59 endowed faculty positions, which are crucial to attracting and retaining top-level faculty members from across the nation. Those generous acts of giving that support endowed positions, as well as UND’s endowment for scholarships, truly reflect “a sense of wonder” on campus, he said.
Another bright spot on campus is growth in research. Grants for research and awards have increased, Armacost said, and research expenditures reached $147 million last year, up from $110 million just two years ago. That growth in research funding is likely to continue, he said.
Armacost then turned to the UND LEADS Strategic Plan, created by more than 700 people both on and off campus after a years’ worth of discussion and effort. He touched on the genesis of the plan, which resulted from the collaboration of so many, and what it means moving forward.
“You are the history,” he said. “I’m not the history, this is not my plan. This is the plan of the campus.”
The strategic plan is defined in part by the five pillars that make up its acronym, Learning, Equity, Affinity, Discovery and Service.
The plan is a roadmap toward creating educational opportunities across the campus (Learning) while doing so in a manner that creates opportunities for every person (Equity) as well. The plan encourages the campus community to deepen a sense of connection to each other, to different student groups and to UND (Affinity). It offers inspiration to promote the childlike quality of finding out something new (Discovery), while instilling in everyone commitment to one another, the local community, and the state, nation and world. (Service).
Still, how does one be a leader? Armacost said it is less about adhering to a single example of leadership than it is paying attention to the actions of people on the campus, and the innate leadership qualities they exhibit.
Those qualities are found across campus in individuals such as dedicated staff members helping to set up an event. They are found in groups such as the UND Women’s basketball program. Members of the team participate in activities in the greater community, and continuously share their support for other student athletes by attending games.
Those qualities are also found in the embodiment of a college at UND, such as in the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, which organized a mental health symposium following the death of an aviation student who was dealing with mental health issues. That symposium brought together leaders in education, policy and industry, and has had an immediate impact on support being offered to student pilots.
Armacost said that everyone on campus is empowered to be a leader; in other words, the initiative doesn’t remain in the hands of administration. All you have to do is pay attention to the myriad different examples of leadership across campus, which can inspire you to find your own leadership qualities.
“There’s a lot we can do. We just have to examine it, think about it, and then think about how to help others lead, because leadership it turns out is a team sport,” Armacost said. “The impact that you can have on others, and the example that you set really matters.”
And new initiatives on campus will offer plenty of opportunities to lead with the establishment of new programs on campus, including undergraduate studies in Biomedical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering and Digital journalism.
Editor’s note: A video of the complete State of the Union address is available on UND’s YouTube page.