UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

UND’s ‘Pink and Green Lady’ wins gold

Associate VP Cassie Gerhardt earns recognition from NASPA, the national professional association in Student Affairs

Cassie Gerhardt, associate vice president for student affairs, reacts as she hears she has been awarded the AVP/Senior-Level Student Affairs Professional Award by Region IV-West of NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. Friends and colleagues from across campus showed up to surprise Gerhardt with the news; the gathering took place in the Memorial Union on Oct. 6. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

When you hear a certain name at UND, you immediately think “school spirit,” “cares about students,” “actively present at all campus events and programs,” “highly invested in student success” and “No. 1 cheerleader for students and staff,” as a colleague wrote.

Then there’s the way this person leaves a lasting first impression on UND students: During the summer, she “presents the welcome sessions at our UND Orientation Days program,” the writer continued. “Every day, numerous students and parents thank her for her energy and passion, and they rave about how amazing she is their entire Orientation Day.”

“Once students get back to campus, they remember her as ‘the Pink and Green Lady’ exuding school spirit and care for students.”

One more clue: When the Fighting Hawks nickname was announced years ago, our mystery guest was the first to sport a custom license plate: UNDHWKS.

“I had plates picked out for each of the finalist names,” she said at the time, with a laugh. “The Fighting Hawks name was announced at 10:05, and I had the form in the mail by 10:25.”

Give up?

Probably not, because if you’re a UND student, faculty or staff member or alum, you already know the person described above could only be Cassie Gerhardt.

And now, UND’s associate vice president for student affairs has been recognized by the national association in her field. Gerhardt has been awarded the AVP/Senior-Level Student Affairs Professional Award by Region IV-West of NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

In this archival photo, Cassie Gerhardt (center), UND’s associate vice president for student affairs, talks with visitors during UND’S Welcome Weekend, August 2022. Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today.

‘Outstanding commitment to the profession’

The award honors a high-level student affairs professional “whose outstanding commitment to the profession includes development of programs that address the needs of students, creation of a campus environment that promotes student learning and development, and support of and active engagement in NASPA,” the association’s website notes.

Gerhardt will be presented with her award at the association’s regional conference next month in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Gerhardt holds two bachelor’s degrees and a doctorate from UND. She has worked in student affairs for more than 21 years, starting off as coordinator of Greek life – service for which she won a national distinguished service award from the Association of Fraternity and Sorority Advisors – and leading to her current AVP post, which she began in 2020.

And throughout her career, she has displayed an extraordinary passion for UND, a feeling she explains this way:

“When I came to campus as a student, I was lucky to be embraced by a lot of people who cared about me and pushed me to be better than I realized I could be,” Gerhardt said in a 2016 interview.

“I want to do the same for students. … I’ve gotten more from UND than I’ve given, and I’m trying to pay UND back.”

UND President Andy Armacost counts himself as one of Gerhardt’s fans.

“Congratulations to Cassie Gerhardt for receiving the NASPA Student Affairs award!” Armacost said.

“Cassie is one of the most enthusiastic contributors to the campus community that I have encountered in my time here. Her willingness to get involved and her dedication to making a positive impact not only on students and parents, but on staff members as well, is legendary.

“She is a true champion of the University of North Dakota.”

Cassie Gerhardt (third from left), UND’s associate vice president for student affairs, stands with UND colleagues (from left) Sara Kaiser, director of community standards and accessibility for students; Kristi Okerlund, director of student involvement & parent programs; and Chris Suriano, director of wellness and health promotion, at the Oct. 6 event in the Memorial Union where Gerhardt was told that she’d won a NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education award. Kaiser, Okerlund and Suriano all wrote letters to NASPA in support of Gerhardt’s nomination for the award. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

‘You simply ask Cassie’

Art Malloy, vice president for student affairs at UND, agreed.

“NASPA’s recognition of Dr. Cassie Gerhardt is no surprise to me,” Malloy said.

“She has earned this award through her hard work and dedication to the students and staff at UND.  I am extremely proud to celebrate with her on this wonderful milestone in her career.  I have no doubt that other accolades for the fine work she does as a student affairs practitioner will follow.”

Kristi Okerlund, UND’s director of student involvement and parent programs, is among those who wrote letters to NASPA earlier this year, nominating Gerhardt for the award. The quotes that opened this article came from Okerlund’s letter, and here’s more of what she had to say: Gerhardt “is passionate about the university experience, always looks for the best opportunities to develop staff, and thinks about what is best for our students every minute of every day. …

“Cassie has a true gift, and I am grateful every day for the opportunity to work with and learn from her.”

And as Chris Suriano, UND’s director of wellness and health promotion, noted in his nominating letter, Gerhardt “has a well-earned reputation as the University of North Dakota’s loudest cheerleader and institutional historian. If you want to know anything about UND, you simply ask Cassie.

“So, whether you are a new staff member on campus or a new student, every day Cassie exudes the pride of our campus, pulling you in and making you feel a part of something special,” Suriano continued.

Characteristically, Gerhardt herself credited UND and her colleagues for NASPA’s honor. “This award is recognition of the incredible students, staff and faculty at UND whom I get to work with every day, as awards like this are a reflection of great teams and colleagues,” she said.

Moreover, “over the years, I have been inspired by a number of UND staff, faculty and administrators who always put students first,” she continued. “This award is an acknowledgement of the many mentors who’ve invested their time and energy in me as I strive to serve students in the ways they taught me and role modeled for me.

“I have the very best job on campus, and to be recognized with an award for doing work that I love is humbling.” Gerhardt said.

And as President Armacost said in summation, “Great work, Cassie! This award is well deserved.”