UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

Finding your own Northern Lights

Learning begins with a sense of wonder — and that’s what UND is all about, write the University’s provost and VP for Student Affairs

Vincent Ledvina earned his B.S. in Physics from UND in May 2022. Now a Space Physics Ph.D. student at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Ledvina also is a photographer who specializes in night sky and Aurora photography, such as his image above. Learn more at Ledvina’s shop and website, vincentledvinashop.com.

Editor’s note: The UND LEADS Strategic Plan is meant to be a compass for the community, a tool that points the way toward the University’s goals. With that in mind, UND Today will devote a special issue on the last Tuesday of each month to charting for readers the institution’s advance.

So, today’s special edition of UND Today focuses on the “Learning” core value. As readers will see, every story in today’s issue describes a UND program or activity that reflects the Learning objective, as it’s described in the UND LEADS Strategic Plan. And along those lines, our issue on Oct. 31 will be devoted to the “Equity” core value, Nov. 28 will highlight “Affinity,” and so on.

Comments or questions? Contact Tom Dennis, UND Today editor, at tom.dennis@und.edu. Thank you for reading!


By Eric Link and Art Malloy

When was the last time you were struck by a sense of wonder?

Twenty years ago, a young Vincent Ledvina was trick-or-treating when strange lights danced in the night sky. Those lights were Auroras in a display that became known as the Halloween Storms of 2003. That event awakened a sense of wonder in Vincent, who went on to study Physics and Astrophysics at UND.

Learning begins with a sense of wonder. As a philosophy of education, it doesn’t get simultaneously simpler or more profound: so long as each of us is struck with wonder at the world around us and with the mysterious depths of the human condition, we will be driven to learn. When wonder fades, so too does our intellectual curiosity and desire to engage with one another and with the world around us.

At the University of North Dakota, we seek to embody this educational philosophy in each aspect of the work we do. We measure the impact of this work in everything from individualized mentoring to inspirational teaching to a robust network of student engagement and success initiatives that support the very structures that give shape and significance to the student life experience on campus.

The partnership between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs at UND is built upon a framework that views the college experience as an academic endeavor that challenges students to learn in ways that benefit them in the classroom, outside the classroom, and eventually, in their professional careers. We work in concert to help foster a sense of wonder in all our students, aiming to inspire a lifelong passion for learning.

Pictured are Eric Link (left) and Art Malloy, the co-authors of this essay. Link is provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at UND; Malloy is UND’s vice president for Student Affairs.

When Ledvina was a student at UND, he engaged in undergraduate research starting as a freshman, studying solar flares and radio bursts. He also got involved in extracurricular activities with the Astronomy Club, the Northern Sky Astronomical Society and the North Dakota Space Grant Consortium.

The various opportunities Ledvina had while at UND demonstrate the important partnership between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs. It is a partnership designed to provide experiences that stimulate curiosity, foster new learning opportunities, and ultimately, prepare students to lead in areas they are passionate about.

UND has innovative faculty who encourage this sense of wonder in their teaching. Faculty such as Dr. Lavinia Iancu, director of the Forensic Science Program, who took her students to tour the North Dakota State Crime Lab, providing firsthand learning about how evidence analysis works. Or faculty like Kouhyar Tavakolian, director of the Biomedical Engineering Program, who provides opportunities for his students to apply their learning while working on real-world problems in a professional environment.

These are just two examples of ways in which our faculty work to provide experiential learning opportunities to our students. On Oct. 6, UND will be hosting the Grand Opening of our new Experiential Learning Center, which will serve as a hub for coordinating and assisting with opportunities such as this. Helping to expand undergraduate research, applied learning, and study abroad experiences.

Through speaker series and leadership opportunities, UND provides additional ways to learn such as:

Experiences such as these are possible due to the hard work of staff across Student Affairs and Academic Affairs and through the generous support of our UND alumni and friends. They soon will be captured in the new initiative, “Lead Your Own Way: The UND Student Experience,” which will highlight the various extracurricular learning opportunities available to our students.

At UND, we view a sense of wonder as being the hallmark of everything we do, and our desire is for the entire campus community to see the impact of this educational philosophy in every group, office, partnership, and in the eyes of each graduate as they walk across the commencement stage. For Vincent Ledvina, his sense of wonder can be traced back to that Halloween night and the Auroras. “Once you see it, it changes you forever. You get a whole new perspective on the universe. You feel humbled by the vastness of it all,” he commented.

So, when was the last time you discovered your sense of wonder? We hope you will find it at UND and that we can help nurture a lifelong passion to continue learning as you seek your own Northern Lights and prepare for a successful and rewarding future.

With wonder and appreciation,

Eric Link, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs

Art Malloy, vice president for Student Affairs


>> QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS about the UND LEADS Strategic Plan? Your thoughts are welcome! Please contact Angie Carpenter, UND’s director of Special Student Populations, and/or Ryan Zerr, associate vice president for Strategy & Implementation, the co-chairs of the UND LEADS Implementation Committee.

You also may offer your thoughts by visiting the UND LEADS Strategic Plan home page and clicking on the “Provide your feedback” link that you’ll find there.

Thank you for your support of the UND LEADS Strategic Plan!