UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

‘Wake Up to UND’ paints picture of thriving community

At annual community-focused event, President Andy Armacost explores UND’s achievements, commitment to region

Andy Armacost
UND President Andy Armacost on stage in the Memorial Union ballroom as he delivers opening remarks. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

More than 350 attendees were seated around tables in the Memorial Union ballroom, each with a UND-branded Rubik’s cube in front of them. The audience was full of members of the Grand Forks community, among them Mayor Brandon Bochenski, as well as UND students, faculty and staff.

After an introduction by Chamber Board Chair Russel Crary, UND President Andy Armacost took the stage to first talk about pointillism. He referenced Georges Seurat’s famous painting ‘A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,’ which is composed of hundreds of thousands of individually placed dots.

Think of that as a metaphor for UND and Grand Forks individuals playing integral roles in building a thriving community, and you’ll have the theme of “connectedness” for this year’s ‘Wake Up to UND’ event. The annual presentation showcases UND’s achievements and its commitment to the betterment of the Greater Grand Forks community.

“We see all the image of all these pictures coming together, and how we can manipulate the Rubik’s cube to get something bigger and to really represent what it means to be whole and connected across our community,” said Armacost.

In his opening remarks, Armacost laid out the goals for the University’s UND LEADS strategic plan: to inspire a sense of wonder, a love of discovery and a commitment to serve our communities.

president on deans on stage
President Andy Armacost (left) was joined by College of Nursing & Professional Disciplines Dean Maridee Shogren (center) and College of Education & Human Development Interim Dean Cheryl Hunter (right). Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

As the program progressed, a number of University deans, faculty, and students joined Armacost to show their efforts to make these ideals a reality at UND.

For example, Maridee Shogren, dean of the College of Nursing & Professional Disciplines (CNPD), and Cheryl Hunter, interim dean of the College of Education & Human Development (CEHD), joined Armacost to discuss their colleges’ plans to address teacher and nurse shortages across the region.

Shogren said the college’s investment in simulation has helped prepare students to enter the North Dakota workforce and strengthened CNPD’s mission to connect with hospitals in rural areas.

Hunter detailed how CEHD’s advanced graduate and doctoral programs are cultivating high-quality teachers for the region. She also cited programs such as the College’s learning garden, GRO.UND, which has given both hands-on gardening experience to students and 700 pounds of produce to the University’s food pantry since its inception.

These colleges are also part of a broader Behavioral Health Research Initiative, which encourages CNPD, CEHD and the College of Arts & Sciences faculty to collaborate on research and grants addressing statewide issues such as suicide, addiction and mental illness.

Armacost and College of Enigineering and Mines faculty
(from left to right) President Andy Armacost, Brian Tande, Dan Laudal and Sattar Dorafshan discuss College of Engineering & Mines research. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

Armacost also noted that UND’s research grants have grown by approximately $36 million over the past two years, now totaling $147 million. Additionally, the University has received $63 million in federal grant funds from the Institute for Health, the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy.

Dan Laudal, executive director and research professor in the College of Engineering & Mines (CEM), and the college’s dean, Brian Tande, joined Armacost to discuss their rare earth element research, which has been funded by an $8 million dollar grant from the Department of Energy.

The project, which has the potential to receive an additional $250 million in grant funding, would be not only an essential step towards eliminating the United States’ reliance on foreign supplies of elements crucial to manufacturing but also an important step forward in strengthening the nation’s national security.

The latter half of Wake Up to UND emphasized the University’s contributions and commitment to supporting the region. For example, the University has had an economic impact on the community of 1.47 billion dollars, Armacost said, citing a study.

And it doesn’t stop there. A video featuring representatives from UND and Nueta, Hidatsa, Sahnish College (NHS) revealed that the partnership between the University and the Three Affiliated Tribes has allowed for safe delivery of medications and medical supplies across tribal land. Organizers now are looking at other use cases for drones in the region.

Kacey Amber Murdock, a student at NHS, described how drones have the potential to help tribes research the growing and cultivation of Juneberry trees, the fruit of which is integral to the culture of NHS tribes. UND’s drones have allowed NHS students and staff to safely reach and study juneberry trees in areas that are hard to reach.

students on stage
(left to right) Andy Armacost, students Brooke Degerness. Gabe Randall and Laura Prussia talk local internships and UND education. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

Recently, UND released its fall enrollment figure, which is at a 10-year high. And now more than ever, UND students are also impacting the community through community service and contributing to the workforce.

For example, UND student athletes have been active in the community through mentorship programs and volunteering at the Northlands Rescue Mission, leading the University to being a top Division I program nationwide for generating such service work among athletes.

Armacost also invited three current students and recent graduates of UND to the stage. These students contributed to the Grand Forks community through internships in both the public and private sectors.

Gabe Randall, a UND marketing student who serves as a marketing and communications intern at Construction Engineers, a local construction company, said his commitment to UND stemmed from a simple reason.

“This is a place where opportunities are happening,” he said. “People are investing in UND, and I knew that’s the kind of place I wanted to take my talents. That’s where I wanted to invest in.”

In his closing remarks, Armacost pivoted back to Seurat and to Rubik’s cubes as he emphasized that together, we as individuals contribute to the betterment of both the University and region.

“That metaphor should stick with you. How we paint the picture, how we piece the dots together, how we coordinate and work together really matters,” he said. “We can create a beautiful painting together as long as we connect and really pay attention to the work that we’re all doing as one community and as a great University of North Dakota.”

Watch the full ‘Wake Up to UND’ livestream, including additional guests and the Pride of the North band featuring President Armacost on cowbell, on the YouTube livestream below.