UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

Promoting equity through startup support and digital course packs? You bet

Broadly expanding access to academic and professional resources is key, say UND’s dean of Libraries and director of Center for Innovation

The Center for Innovation’s Runway Accelerator program supports any UND student who wants to turn their ideas into a potential business. Among the students, staff members and panelists who were part of the Runway Accelerator Program’s Pitch Day event on Dec. 5 were (from left) Anthony Maher, Jacques Junior Chapusette, Landon Walker, Micah Bruggeman, Koduah Amoako, Toyosi Olola, Oluchukwu Sunday, Mohammed Alsaadi, Center for Innovation Entrepreneurial Coach Sona Lesmeister and Justin Penney. Photo by Haylee Bjork/UND Center for Innovation.

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 is devoting 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 – the seventh in this series – focuses on the Equity core value. As readers will see, every story in today’s issue – some of which are new, and some of which were published over the past few months in UND Today – centers on a UND program or activity that reflects the Equity objective, as described in the Strategic Plan.

To continue the series, our issue on May 28 will be devoted to the “Affinity” core value, while June 25 will bring an issue devoted to “Discovery.”

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


By Rebecca Bichel and Amy Whitney

UND LEADS’ Equity core value shows our commitment to enhanced pathways for academic and professional success while embracing diverse perspectives, peoples and ideas. Our essay today highlights how these principles play key roles in two distinct UND programs: the Libraries and the Center for Innovation.

Together, Open Educational Resources (OER) and Open Access advance equity through free, global access to textbooks and scholarly publications.

Open Educational Resources

The College Board estimated that in 2022, university students spent $1,240 a year for books and supplies. At the same time, 65 percent of college students in a 2020 survey said they sometimes skipped buying a textbook because of the cost, while 90 percent of these students reported they were concerned about the impact of not purchasing a required text.

Students who face food insecurity are even more likely to skip purchasing a textbook.

In response, Open Educational Resources offer faculty no-cost textbook options. With generous support from the provost, the Chester Fritz Library manages an annual grant that offers UND faculty the option to adopt or create an OER for a class.

Open educational resources are educational materials that are available at no cost to students and allow faculty to freely use, share and build upon the textbook content. In addition, for courses in which there is no OER option or the OER option does not meet the faculty member’s learning goals, librarians can collaborate with faculty to develop digital course packs based on licensed articles and other resources at no cost to students.

Each of these initiatives increase affordable access for UND students.

At UND, Rebecca Bichel (left) is dean of Libraries and Amy Whitney is director of the Center for Innovation.

Open Access

Scholarly communication is an umbrella term referring to the processes by which research and scholarship are created, disseminated, read and incorporated in new research and scholarship, as well as the economic, legal and social structures that govern and impact the system. Evolving tools such as generative AI platforms add greater complexity to this system.

Traditionally, many of the publications – including articles and books – created by scholars were available only within the walls of university libraries. Digital technologies let libraries buy access to electronic journals and e-books, providing more convenient access to students and faculty.

But barriers can still block access to purchased content. For example, alumni and the broader community may have to visit campus to access the content or buy it themselves.

With that in mind, Open Access advances equity through broadening access to critical academic scholarship. Open Access is the “free, immediate, online availability of research articles combined with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment,” as SPARC – the nonprofit that supports such open and accessible academic systems – describes on its website.

Academic libraries have a variety of way they can help scholars develop conference presentations, articles, books, data and other forms of creativity so the scholars’ research and expertise are available for a global audience without barriers.

Equity and Innovation

Innovation is defined as creating something new or different that adds value. We live in an innovation economy characterized by the globalization of commerce, an acceleration of knowledge creation due to the democratization of information, and an explosion of technological growth impacting every sector of society and industry.

While the innovation economy rewards creativity, adaptability and the ability to meet the needs of a rapidly changing world, innovation is not limited to the technology sector. It impacts every member of society and industry.

It is a privilege to work at the UND Center for Innovation because every week, new ideas are brought forward by UND students, faculty and staff, as well as innovative game changers across North Dakota and the country.  The Center’s staff, training and resources equip and empower innovators to advance their ideas, products, services and businesses.

The Center intentionally cultivates a welcoming culture grounded in curiosity to ask questions and seek answers, opening a narrative about carving a pathway forward and acting to advance the entrepreneur’s idea.

For example, the Center’s Runway Accelerator program supports any UND student who wants to turn their ideas into a potential business. The NSF ICorps Program supports any UND faculty member interested in examining potential commercialization pathways for their research. The Innovation Studio facilitates creative thinking for anyone needing new solutions for professional or business challenges.

The Center’s team works every day to enable access to the tools, training and resources that advance ideas, create new markets and connect value networks.

Ideas are everywhere at UND! If you are a bit shy and not ready to stop by the Center for Innovation, feel free to check out www.und.edu/IDEA. The opportunities to advance your ideas at UND are limitless. Reach out, learn more and stay curious.

Let’s embrace and accelerate our commitment to shape a culture where anyone can be a scholar and innovator, and all scholars and innovator thrive and succeed.

>> 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:

At UND, Rebecca Bichel is dean of Libraries and Amy Whitney is director of the Center for Innovation.