UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

Affinity at UND: A sense of belonging

Through its core value of Affinity, UND strives to improve the quality of University life, write campus leaders DeAnna Carlson Zink and Bill Chaves

At UND, ‘we will promote an environment in which students, employees, alumni, communities, and external partners can connect, collaborate, be supported and know they belong,’ the Affinity core value of the UND Strategic Plan declares. UND archival photo.

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 (save December) to charting for readers the institution’s advance.

So, today’s special edition of UND Today – the third in this series – focuses on the “Affinity” core value. As readers will see, every story in today’s issue – several of which were published over the past few months in UND Today – centers on a UND program or activity that reflects the Affinity objective, as it’s described in the UND LEADS Strategic Plan.

Along those lines, our issue on Jan. 30 will be devoted to the “Discovery” core value, and the Feb. 27 issue will highlight “Service.” After that, the Learning-Equity-Affinity-Discovery-Service cycle of UND Today Special Issues will begin again.

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


By DeAnna Carlson Zink and Bill Chaves

When it comes to celebrating the core value of Affinity – the element in the UND LEADS Strategic Plan that describes the upbeat campus culture and lifelong sense of belonging that the University wants to foster – the worlds of Athletics and Alumni Relations are a great place to start!

Our graduates leave UND with a great affinity for the campus, and that affection for their alma mater only grows with time. One of the hallmarks of that affinity comes in the form of cheering for UND’s athletics teams.

A great example of the way Athletics can bring our students and alumni together occurred on Oct. 14. Not only did the UND Football game against North Dakota State University draw a huge crowd, but also that evening, our hockey team hosted the University of Wisconsin at Ralph Engelstad Arena – another sellout, and another victory for the green and white!

And while you might think that home games against our biggest rivals are too easy an example, let’s talk about what we often see on the road when our teams travel. Just about everywhere our teams play, a pregame party will bring out dozens – if not hundreds – of UND fans. In September, we were so excited to have the Pride of the North Band at a football game at Boise State to help pump up the many UND fans in attendance. In early November, UND was well represented by fans as the hockey team took on Boston University in Massachusetts.

The same scene plays out whether we’re in Denver, the Twin Cities, or Las Vegas: our fans travel!

The Affinity core value in the Strategic Plan also calls on UND to “cultivate physical and online campus environments that are welcoming, safe, healthy and inclusive.” We are proud that our alumni have joined students and local and state leadership in the creation of outstanding physical spaces.

In just the past few years, alumni contributions have helped create the Nistler College of Business & Public Administration building, a renovation of the Chester Fritz Library, and the complete renovation of the old president’s home into the Gershman Graduate Center. Those projects come on top of the student-funded Memorial Union project and the building of new residence halls and a new steam plant.

This remarkable facelift is a testament to the power of our students, our alumni and friends, private developers, and local and state lawmakers.

And the construction projects keep coming. In the last few months, we broke ground on a donor-funded addition to the Fritz Pollard Jr. Athletic Center. The Nodak Insurance Company Sports Performance Center touches on another goal of the strategic plan, which calls for strengthening athletic excellence “by supporting our student athletes and enhancing our athletic facilities.”

Bill Chaves and DeAnna Carlson-Zink
UND Today thanks UND Athletics Director Bill Chaves and DeAnna Carlson Zink, CEO of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation, for co-authoring this article.

The most recent groundbreaking – for an on-campus softball complex – not only contributes to that goal, but also will promote a sense of belonging by moving softball games to campus for the first time in the history of the program.

In addition, this project is a wonderful example of the connections that bind UND students to the community at large. The softball complex comes thanks to a lead gift from Dave and Alexa Albrecht. Meanwhile, the Memorial Village II project next door is a public/private partnership between UND Athletics and the Memorial Village Development Group.

Added to the mix are the city, the Grand Forks Park District and the Grand Forks School District, all of which will benefit from the use of the complex.

As President Armacost has proclaimed, 2023 is truly “the year of connection.”

Last but not least, let’s talk about the most impactful way in which our alumni show their affinity for their alma mater – through the donation of their time, talent and treasure.

This Homecoming, UND and the UND Alumni Association & Foundation launched the public phase of Forever UND: The Campaign for the University of North Dakota. We have set an ambitious goal of raising $500 million from our alumni and friends for the benefit of UND’s outstanding students, faculty and programs.

If not for the affinity our alumni feel for their alma mater, there is no way we’d be able to set the goal that high. But time and time again, we have witnessed that our alumni want those who follow in their footsteps at UND to succeed.

Three simple, yet powerful, statements drive this campaign, which has its roots in the strategic plan:

We do.

We lead.

We are Forever UND.

The concept of forever – that the dreams of our first eight graduates in 1889 are not that different from the dreams of today’s students – is the logical outcome of a campus that promotes affinity as one of its strategic goals.

We are proud to be part of the forever that is the University of North Dakota, along with all of you. Together, we can create a future in which this great University thrives as a place that inspires a sense of wonder, a love of discovery and a commitment to serve.


>> 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!

About the authors:

DeAnna Carlson Zink is CEO of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation. Bill Chaves is athletics director at UND.