09 May UND has a bright future, say leaders at annual University Council meeting
UND has a bright future and is moving forward, said Paul Todhunter, geography professor and chair of the University Senate.
Todhunter emceed the annual University Council meeting May 6, highlighting Senate initiatives and encouraging faculty engagement.
It was the last University Council meeting for President Mark Kennedy, who has accepted a position as president of the University of Colorado System beginning June 15.
“Debbie and I enjoyed our time here,” said Kennedy. “There are great things happening.” Kennedy thanked the audience and said he was looking forward to seeing UND’s future success as it advances the One UND Strategic Plan.
Todhunter detailed University Senate projects, including the implementation of a new Essential Studies program goal, improving instructional quality, rolling out SELFI (Student Evaluation of Learning & Feedback for Instructors), and other progress.
“We’ve built a bold, aggressive Strategic Plan that is helping steer the University,” Todhunter said.
He thanked registrar Scott Correll for including second majors and certificates on student transcripts.
“Scott has taken our transcripts to the 21st century,” Todhunter said. Correll said later he was having a good week: he had just been awarded a Meritorious Service Award, the highest honor for staff, the day before.
Legislative, budget update
Jed Shivers, vice president for finance and chief operating officer, provided legislative and budget updates.
“The national trend is a constant drive to consolidate and cut costs,” Shivers said, adding that could also apply to higher education as more students take courses online. “UND must not only compete, but thrive.”
Shivers said UND is at an inflection point, and poised for success. Goals are to stabilize funding, expand enrollment, improve retention, increase research and address deferred maintenance.
UND received a need-based budget in line with the recommendation made by the North Dakota University System and the State Board of Higher Education prior to the start of the legislative session. Merit pay for faculty and staff, funding for the School of Medicine & Health Sciences Workforce Initiative to help pay for medical residents, and funding for the law school were highlights, Shivers said.
“The Legislature wants campuses to have skin in the game,” Shivers said. “They don’t want us to let buildings go and then seek funding for new buildings.” UND has $500 million in deferred maintenance, and received $30 million to begin addressing the issue.
Other legislative successes include approval of the $80 million Memorial Union, paid by student fees; approval to raise $35 million for the second phase of the High Performance Center; and approval of a new College of Business & Public Administration through a $20 million match with an anonymous donor. The educational challenge grant and $5 million in EERC funding were other successes, along with $28 million for UAS Beyond Line of Visual Sight funding.
Tom DiLorenzo, provost and vice president for academic affairs, thanked faculty, deans and staff for building UND, and said he’s looking ahead five to 10 years.
“We’re trying to smooth out the ups and downs,” he said, adding that they are working to increase enrollment.
“We have made progress on student success,” DiLorenzo said. “We’ve had record graduating classes, and an unprecedented 10-percent increase in graduation rates over the last three years.” He cited degree mapping software, advising, and other tools that have helped students finish degrees more quickly.
UND is recruiting more academically prepared students, but demographics are a challenge, he said. With fewer high school students nationwide, and Minnesota working to keep their students in state, there will still be an enrollment gap.
DiLorenzo said online enrollment can help, and UND needs to “go big” and grow strategically with rigorous, engaging, high quality courses and degrees.
“Faculty efforts over the last 10 years have positioned us to do this,” DiLorenzo said. “You have created 86 online degree or certificate programs, and we now have 3,580 online-only students, more than any other university in an eight-state region.”
The competition for students is fierce, said Meloney Linder, vice president for Marketing & Communications, who highlighted the challenges and work of the marketing team. “By 2025, there will be a sharp decrease in high school graduates.”
Linder said UND has launched the Leaders in Action brand, ensured that all marketing pieces have a consistent look and message, and is using other tools to recruit students and raise awareness of UND.
“The new website has increased inquiries five times,” Linder said. “It’s mobile ready, and we’ve had a 46 percent increase in mobile visitors. Our program finder has had growth every month.” She added that a new CRM (customer relationship management software) is a “game changer” that will enable personalized emails to prospective students as well as the ability to track what messages do and do not work.
UND has also adopted the common application, which allows students nationwide to apply at multiple universities at the same time.
“It’s the ‘easy button’ for prospective students,” Linder said. “It’s mobile friendly, and students don’t need to fill out multiple applications. All the flagship universities [in states] around North Dakota use it, and needed to add the common application to compete.”
Linder said UND has improved its media coverage and is working to pitch faculty experts to the media. Her area has been tracking media mentions, with 2,942 in the last two quarters alone, and nearly 900 national media mentions.
“We launched the Leaders in Action brand in 2017, and that effort is paying off,” Linder said. “We are moving the needle and showing positive movement. There are a lot of great things happening at UND. We will continue our efforts in marketing and stay competitive.”
Brian Larson, director of construction management, capped off the meeting with an update on campus construction, which includes the reconstruction of University Avenue, new Memorial Union, Chester Fritz Library renovations, and much more. A UND Today story details them here, and the Campus Renovation blog contains updates.